Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Punta Arenas (pronounced as one word: puntarenas,) or Sandy Point in English, is the southernmost city of Chile, and the capital of Magellanes. It sits on the Brunswick Peninsula, and is separated from Tierra del Fuego by the Strait of Magellan.The city has about 100,000 permanent residents plus double that of military personnel, from the army, navy and air forces of Chile. Punta Arenas’ location, halfway between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans makes it strategic for the national defense.
Before the Panama Canal was built, Punta Arenas was an important port city for ships sailing around Cape Horn. Major industries include oil and natural gas and sheep ranches. In fact, our tour guide said that there are about 3 million sheep in the region, about 10 sheep per every human living here. Indigenous peoples have been here for centuries, long before the first Europeans arrived. Punta Arenas was established in 1848 as a penal colony and to assert Chilean sovereignty over the area.
There are significant populations of Russians and Croatians who settled here in the 1800’s, some lured by the prospect of gold, some to work the sheep farms.
Shortly after the ship docked here this morning, we took a bus to Club Andino (The Andean Club,) then rode a chair lift to the top of the ski hill where we had beautiful views of the ocean and Argentina.
Fortunately, we had another beautiful day for outdoor activity. Our guide, Catarina, told us that it can often be very windy here, and we saw plenty of windfall in the area. It was cloudy, but that meant we didn’t have to worry about sunburn.
The path down was about 1.5 miles, and sometimes a bit challenging, as it had rained the night before. Besides mud, we had to be careful of horse apples that littered the trail in many places. We crisscrossed a brook on rickety wooden bridges, but we were never more than a foot over the shallow water, so there wasn’t any danger of getting hurt, just wet or muddy. With the uneven terrain, we got a great workout as well as being able to enjoy the woods that surrounded us.
We enjoyed a show by some folkloric singers and dancers from Punta Arenas before dinner tonight. Why didn’t I bring my camera? At the end of the show, we were informed that our Antarctica Excursion was cancelled for tomorrow. Boo boo! We spent time today getting all of our gear ready for this visit, and now I have to repack the down jackets, sorrel boots, etc. once again. Bummer!
After dinner, we stopped at the excursion desk to see what we can do tomorrow now that the Antarctica excursion is cancelled. Surprise! It’s back on, but at a later time. Who can argue about getting to sleep until 7am instead of 4am – not me! So…get us to bed…asap!
Hopefully, we’ll have exciting news from tomorrow’s excursion – to our 7th continent!