Trip Start Jan 15, 2009
16Trip End Feb 03, 2009
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We worked our way through the Beagle Channel to the Straights of Magellan overnight. We awoke in Punta Arenas, Chile this morning.
Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal, Punta Arenas was a major port. All ships stopped here for provisioning before or after rounding Cape Horn. Almost overnight, most of this business went away, as it was safer and less expensive to cross from Atlantic to Pacific, or vice versa, via the Panama Canal. Punta Arenas has never fully recovered from this. They have other industry, such as oil, methanol, tourism and wool, but the city has a decidedly run down feel to it.
We visited the Argentine Navel Museum this morning. Evan especially enjoyed the torpedoes and submarine section and the weapons (of course). We used an authentic Morris code machine to spell out our names.
We walked to the town square, the Plaza Munoz Gamero, with a large bronze statue of Magellan in the center. There is a native tribesman flanking the bottom of the statue. Those who hold or kiss his toe will be back to Punta Arenas someday, according to local legend. Around the square were many craft vendors, which we shopped at in the pouring rain. This was the first rain we've had during our trip. It went away around noon and we had sunny skies throughout the rest of the day.
We had lunch at a local restaurant and, as is common when you can't speak the language, received an odd combination of food. A corn, mayonnaise and ham tortilla with something like a potato chips? Tammy tried the local pisco sour drink for Veronique back home. It's very similar to a margarita, although made with egg and a Chilean specialty called pisco.
In the afternoon, we drove out of the city about an hour to a costal bay called Otway that is home to a large colony of penguins. Yes, we've seen lots of penguins and many different setting on this trip, but they are just so sweet that we couldn't pass up one last opportunity to observe them. It is mating season for the penguins and we saw that up close and personal today. These were Magellanic penguins and they build their nests in burrows in the dirt near the beach. To avoid disturbing their natural habitat, we stayed on a boardwalk path. At one point, a couple of these little creatures were playing right under Evan's feet on the boardwalk. One poked his head out to look at Evan, as if to ask "Aren't you going to play to?" and Evan caught a great picture of it. These little creatures are so sweet and playful. It's striking how kind to each other they are. The newsletter from our ship summed it up best: "Penguins are one of life's special pleasures."
We saw much of Punta Arenas and sheep, llamas, ostrich, flamingos, and a huge condor along the way.
This evening was spent enjoying the beauty of the Straights of Magellan from the top deck spa for Tammy and playing video games with the only other eleven year old boy on the ship for Evan. Noah is from California and is being home schooled for a year with his three sisters while their parents take them around the world. What an education!
We haven't mentioned the interesting food we've eaten during this trip. We've had several uncommon dishes including snails (escargot), frog legs, rabbit (no offense Blue Jeans), anchovies, squid, fish eggs (caviar), mussels and duck. Some of these we've had multiple times. Not bad for a former hard core vegetarian and an eleven year old! J
We also haven't mentioned how intense the sun is. Tammy got sunburn on the left half of her face on the second day on the boat. Her face has peeled twice. This happened in just an hour or so of sitting on deck wearing a hat. Even Evan's nose has peeled and he was outside an even shorter period of time. We're told the ozone layer is so much thinner here that a lot more of the sun's harmful rays get through. Combined with the reflection off the snow and ice, it's a recipe for intense sun damage. Note to self...