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

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our Mad Midlife group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) beside the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from … (oh, you know the rules by now)!