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Published: January 22nd 2019
It seems our good luck with the weather has come to an end. Today, we were supposed to be flying down to King George Island to begin the Antarctic cruise, but the ship has encountered a couple of storms since leaving Rio and will be arriving two days late. So, before we head back up to Puerto Natales for a substitute itinerary, I need to update the blog with details of Punta Arenas.
Saturday morning, we packed up our gear, had breakfast and hopped in a van for the long drive to Punta Arenas. Dad and I were the only guests transferring but we had a staff member coming off shift being dropped off in Puerto Natales on the way. The drive was uneventful, but about 4 ½ hours long. The scenery was flat and rugged but mostly the same after we left Puerto Natales.
We arrived in Punta Arenas about 2pm and were dropped off at our hotel. Our rooms were ready, so we checked in. However, neither of us had been particularly inspired during our drive into town so we just relaxed in our respective rooms. Dad went looking for a coffee during the afternoon, but I
had a nap and just watched some tv.
At 7pm we headed out for dinner. We’d not eaten lunch so were reasonably hungry. We had no idea where to go so we just chose a direction at random and walked. Just over a block away I saw a sign for a restaurant, and we went to check it out. It wasn’t overly inspiring from the outside, but we gave it a go. We were the only customers at that point (7pm is an early dinner here) but the interior had a nice homely feel. The food was great (entrée of King crab and mayonnaise served in an avocado was the highlight) and we resolved to come back again.
On Sunday we had a half-day city tour in the morning. From memory, I think my travel agent said it was complimentary because I certainly didn’t request it. I’m sure I paid for it somehow though. Anyway, our tour guide picked us up at 9:30 and we started with a walk around the park opposite the hotel. In the centre is a statue of Ferdinand Magellan, with a mermaid and a couple of Patagons (which translates roughly to big-foot and
was an early name for the native inhabitants of the area because of their supposedly big feet – apparently it was actually just their footwear that was big).
Around the square were some nice buildings including the Sara Braun Palace. Sara Braun was an important figure in the early days of Punta Arenas, contributing much to the civic development after her husband died at an early age.
Next, we tried to head to the nearby museum. Even though it was supposed to be open, it was not. Our guide apologised profusely and said we would do other things to make up for it. We did have a walk around the grounds of the museum, however. There was a replica of a native canoe, but that was really about it.
So we hopped into the van and headed down to the waterfront. There were some really nice murals painted on some of the buildings, as well as some interesting statues. However, this isn’t the most picturesque waterfront in the world so there wasn’t a great deal going on.
We then headed back to the van and went for a bit of a tour of the city. There’s
nothing overly special about the city, to be honest. Our next stop were two lookout points on a hill slightly above the city. It gave us a good view of the layout of the city but again, wasn’t really anything special.
Our final destination was another museum, but this one was open. The first floor had some displays about the area in pre-history, as well as some taxidermy samples of local fauna. Dad and I were vaguely interested in seeing the pumas but that was about it. The second floor was more interesting, being about the indigenous inhabitants. They had some really good displays showing how they lived. The third floor was about colonisation and was dominated by missionary stuff.
With that done, so was our tour. Dad and I had lunch at the hotel bar and while I was keen to have a look around, Dad was feeling pretty tired so he stayed at the hotel for the afternoon. I headed back down to the waterfront to take photos of the murals. With that done, I decided to just go for a walk along the waterfront. I’m not sure exactly how far I went but it was
a few kilometres all up. There was nothing special to see, but it was a nice Sunday afternoon walk and many locals were out doing the same – taking their dogs for a walk or having a family bike ride. It was quite a nice way to spend the afternoon. For dinner that night we were planning to return to the restaurant we had found but unfortunately, they were shut. So, we just ate at the hotel.
On Monday we decided to head to the Sara Braun Municipal Cemetery. When I was planning for the trip, I was trying to determine how long we should stay in Punta Arenas so I searched Trip Advisor for what to do. The cemetery came up #1. I laughed at the time, but it probably is! That’s not to say it’s exciting or anything, but there’s not a lot to do here.
We walked up to the cemetery and walked around, taking a couple of photos. It was nice, for a cemetery. We walked up the road a little to a statue of a shepherd that we’d seen from the van on Sunday. By this time, it had started to rain a
bit and with the wind it was not pleasant being outside. We walked back to the hotel, stopping for a little souvenir shopping and again had lunch at the bar. Dad was keen to stay at the hotel for the afternoon but at 3pm I headed out to check out the museum that was closed. Unfortunately, it closes at 2:30pm so I headed back to the hotel as well.
Fortunately, our restaurant was open again on Monday night so we headed there for an early dinner. We had to eat early because we had a briefing for the Antarctica cruise at 9pm. We headed down to the conference room at 9 and there was an air of excitement from everyone as we waited for the briefing to begin.
When it did begin, the atmosphere changed dramatically as they announced the 2-day delay. Dad and I found it quite amusing how worked up people were getting. There’s not much you can do about the weather, particularly in the Antarctic, but some people seemed to think the cruise company were incompetent for causing the delay! Once the main part of the briefing was over, we left along with other people
who were taking the news reasonably. The poor staff had to remain there while the complaining passengers vented their anger. I’m not sure what those people expect to happen, but we just accepted it and headed to bed.
So, as I mentioned, we are heading back up to Puerto Natales this afternoon. We will be visiting the Torres del Paine tomorrow and while some of the places we are visiting we went to previously, some of them are new. Dad doesn’t seem interested in visiting the park again, mostly because we will be spending a lot of time on the bus. He may end up staying to look around Puerto Natales, but I will definitely be heading back to the park. Even when visiting the same places, I’m sure the weather will not be the same, so I am looking forward to taking more photos. Of course, I would have preferred to be in Antarctica, but Torres del Paine will be a pretty good substitute for the day!
We should be flying down to King George Island from Puerto Natales on Thursday. The cruise will be 2 days shorter than originally planned, but at least we should still
be able to visit most of the places we were planning on. Here’s hoping this is the only hiccough!
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