Wednesday Feb 27, 2013

We left Chile last night, and we left Argentina tonight – but we’ll be coming back. In the meantime, if you’re trying to find us, we’re cruising the Atlantic, en route to the Falkland Islands. But more of that later. Right now, it’s time for some more brilliant photos, and Wayne’s turn for some more impressions of Punta Arenas and Ushuaia …

Two days ago we found ourselves in the Strait of Magellan (Chile) – a 560km passage from the Pacific to Atlantic Ocean. (Editor’s note: this Strait is not straight, by any stretch of the imagination; it’s twisty-turny and easy to get lost in; so don’t try this in your own boat.) On arrival at Punta Arenas (poon-ta uh-RAY-nus) we boarded a small bus and headed out through some vast sheep farms bordering Otway Bay. A brisk walk to some viewing platforms and we got to see our first penguins – plump, well-fed Magellan (jackass) penguins, with a character all of their own.

We also spotted a red breasted sturnelle. And, while driving to our next destination, Fitzroy Farm, we also snapped shots of upland geese (caiquen) … crested caracaras … nandus (a small native ostrich)… black necked swans … and a black chested buzzard eagle.

We saw the odd gaucho (cowboy) on his horse checking the fences, but they don’t count as wildlife.

At Fitroy Farm (located on an island which we accessed via car ferry, flat tyre included) we were greeted with the wafting smells of a lamb barbeque … eyeballed a grumpy mountain lion … checked out a family chapel and a shearing-shed-cum-museum … and a scattered collection of old farm machinery.

Somewhat weary (phew, this is tough work!) we shook-rattled-&-rolled our way back to the ship …

Today, we woke to the glorious sight of more mountains, fjords, and frozen icy rivers. We were in Chile’s famous Glacier Alley – spectacular stuff! I lost count of the glaciers after 10, all of them spilling over from the massive ice-sheet that covers this region, some of them emptying out into the cold green water in front of our eyes.

We docked early afternoon at the Argentinian port city of Ushuaia – the southernmost city in the world (pop. 65,000). It was a perfect day, and the city looked gorgeous with its backdrop of high mountain ranges.

We joined the throngs off other cruise-ships, and drove out into the Tierra del Fuego National Park where more wilderness and wildlife awaited us: several stunning lakes (very like NZ’s alpine regions), a red fox, and a variety of hawks. (John was hanging out for a sighting of the Red Woodpeckers that are found here, but this wasn’t his lucky day.) At a well-placed Info Centre we got a chance for more food and drink – plus some background on the indigenous Yahgan & Alacalufes Indians (Canoe Indians), who despite the inclement weather (down to a windswept minus-15 degrees in winter) wore little or no clothing, relying on fires to keep them warm.

(John and I were tempted to put a challenge to Brian and Judy at that point, but felt it inappropriate with so many other tourist groups around. We had the Kiwi reputation to uphold ya know!)

Our return trip to Ushuaia and the ms Veendam was aboard a large catamaran, with photo stops at several large rocks smothered in seal-lions, cormorants and seals.

Another fantastic day in paradise? You bet!


PEOPLE NEWS: Nominations continue to be received for our hotly-contested quacky yellow ducks:

  • Julian takes home the ‘Border Control Award’ – for forgetting to hand in his Chilean customs declaration form and risking an early arrest.
  • Julie gets the ‘Harley Davidson Award’ – for joining Wayne on an antique motorcycle (Fitzroy Farm) and demanding that they ride away into the sunset (photo to come).
  • Bruce wins the ‘Greedy Liqueur Award’ – for emptying a bottle of Kahlua (the last one on the ship) all over his ice-cream, and causing 1200 other passengers to miss out, much to their disgust.

TOMORROW: We’re off again – not around Cape Horn (weather and wind spoiled those plans) but to the tough yet beautiful, rugged yet full of character, Falklands – on the edge of the known universe. So don’t change channels!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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