SOUTH AMERICA BLOG 9 PART 1

Friday Feb 11, 2011

The Veendam tied up this morning alongside what used to be a penal colony, before being pioneered by Yugoslav settlers and sheep ranchers. Punta Arenas promised us a somewhat different experience – and it began with a two-hour drive in one of the colourful coaches that met our ship.

Our destination (over mostly unpaved roads, across endless scrubby grazing) was Isla Riesco, a family-run sheep farm on Otway Bay – where we enjoyed a typical, mouth-watering, Patagonian lamb barbecue. (I hate to think what’s happening to our waistlines?)

Then, a return ferry-ride, a further short drive, and 20 minutes on foot along wooden walkways brought us to a beach where Magellan penguins live and breed. Black of beak and feet, they’re less colourful and smaller than the Gentoo and King penguins we met on the Falklands … but just as cute.

To be honest, this trip is turning out to be a WILDLIFE BONANZA. Take this afternoon, for example. Along with the penguins, we also saw some guanacos (South American cousins of llamas and alpacas) … a puma (admittedly in captivity on the farm) … and oodles of birds. In fact, as each sighting has occurred, we’ve been ticking them off in our little book – and, with the help of today’s young-lady guide (a self-confessed bird-nut), we can now claim to have spotted the:

Andean Condor … Antarctic Shag … Bar-Winged Cinclodes … Black Faced Ibis … Black Necked Swan … Crested Caracara … Dolphin Gull … Great Grebe … Kelp Goose … King Cormorant … Magellanic Oyster Catcher … Pink Flamingo … Polar Skua … Rhea … Rock Cormorant … South American Tern … Southern Lapwing … Striated Caracara … Upland Goose … with more to come!

Not all of them were close enough to get good photos – but we’re not doing half-bad for amateur ornithologists, don’t you agree? (Check out the slideshow in our next post … and eat your heart out, you nature-lovers!)

TOMORROW: We’re cruising through the Strait of Magellan where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans converge – with the promised of more glaciers and glorious scenery. So go make yourself a cup of tea, then come back …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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