We went to South America Feb-Mar 2009 for about three weeks. I have posted reports under the cities we visited: Iguazu, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, and El Calafate. These were originally written on the fly. Thanks to all the posters who helped me plan this trip.
OK; now to Wednesday. Another smooth on time flight Lan, Santiago to Punta Arenas, though the early morning wake up (6am) is not cool. We had window seats on the left side, and saw some wonderful landscape, but cloudy and hazy most of the way so no dynamic scenery. The quick glimpse of Torres de Paine was partially obscured by clouds, and glare from looking directly into the sun. NOTE: Sit on the right side. On this trip, both sides had heavy cloud cover, so we didn’t miss anything.
Landed on time, caught a cab to downtown (7.000 pesos) to Hotel Jose Nogueiro, where we found our icebreaker son sitting in the restaurant waiting for us. Great reunion.
Had my first lomitas equesa for lunch. Outstanding. Lomit Restaurant. Recommend.
He had to go back to the boat, but we´re set up for a great Chilean dinner tonight, and tomorrow will tour the ice breaker and go out to Isla Magdalena and commune with 120,000 or so penguins.
After seeing our son at the Hotel Jose Nogueira, we had lunch and he went back to work on the ship. We got oriented and walked a bit. The square, half a block away, has a statue of Magellan and on one side is a native. The deal is you touch his toe and you will return to Punta Arenas. We saw this once on those Samantha Brown travel shows. So yeah, we touched the toe. Son says before each sailing, all the crew comes to touch the toe, to make sure they DO come back from their voyage!!!! Mom (DW) felt better then.
We then walked up the street to the top of the hill, which is quite a little jaunt, but were rewarded with great panorama of the city and the ocean beyond. The wind was calm (a rarity), it wasn´t too cold, maybe in the low 50´s.
That night we dined at La Marmita, not in the guide books, but Son´s favorite place. DW wants fish, yes, and tonight she is faced with the offering of an appetizer: Congria. Now DW is an avid snorkeler, and she is terrified of only one thing; eels. She swims with sharks, rays, etc., but show her an eel, especially a big green Moray eel with his head and large teeth sticking out of a coral, and she basically freaks. OK, so son orders the congria, and she finally screws up the courage for a little taste. Well, how ´bout that. She loves it. Better than the salmon. Could it have been the pisco sour with berries? Nah, couldn´t have been. The berries were the barra berry, red and sweet. My first pisco sour was very good. Need to learn the recipe.
Thursday: Next day the winds were howling. Were to meet son on the boat at 11, so walked some more around town. Bought stamps at the post office next door for a post card or two.
Un sello de correo, por favor.
I thought I was doing alright. The clerk laughed a little.
sesho, she says, not seyoo.
See up in California, we learn a little Mexican Spanish, and two LL´s together is pronounced like a Y. But here in South America, two LL´s are pronounced like a ´sh´as in shoe.
So: sello de correo (stamp) is pronounced sesho
LLuvia (rain) is Shuvia
Collar (necklace) is coshar.
OK, class enough Spanish for today.
Went to the LAN office nearby, checked on a couple of reservations (they are so friendly and helpful), then continued our walk-about.
Turismo Comapa is on the corner by the Plaza with the toe. They have all kinds of info and book lots of different excursions and cruises. We had booked a trip to Isla Magdelena for 4:30 to go out and see 120,000 penguins or so.
At 11 we went to Son´s Ice Breaker Research Vessel, the Nathaniel B Palmer, and got a tour. They are changing crews, some coming off like Son, and others going on and getting organized. Met several of the scientists at breakfast at the hotel that morning, saw them again on the boat. Studying ice bergs and why the glaciers on Western Antarctica are calving at vastly increased rates. Disturbing, some of the facts they relayed to us. Very interesting conversations.
Of course the tour was incredibly interesting. Instruments on board had the winds at 30 to 35 mph. Walking later in the afternoon, DW was almost lifted off her feet as we rounded the corner of a building. While not that cold, maybe high 40´s. wind chill was definately an issue.
Later checked in with Turismo Comapa, and the ferry to Isla Magdelena is cancelled due to high winds. Dissappointed, but maybe a little relieved. Instead, booked a van ride out to Seno Otway and went back to Lomita for Lomitas and beer.
Seno Otway is about an hour´s ride in a van and there were several hundred penguins. We had an English speaking guide who was informative on the way out.
There is a 1.5 km loop trail with three observation posts. But the little critters are all around as you walk out on the boardwalk. The first stop is the best, with several on a rocky beach, some just coming in from feeding at sea. It was incredibly windy, so after the first stop, DW returned to the little cafe for a coke. Son and I continued on the walk, and saw several more little Magellanic penguins in their burrows. DW thought it was a lot to go through for a few penguins. Too bad about Magdalena.
After about an hour, we drove back to Punta Arenas, getting back about 8 and having a great dinner at the hotel. During the ride out, saw several Rhea´s grazing, stopped the van and took some pics.
Tomorrow on to Ashuaia, the three of us.