Idiots at the End of the Earth Ep. 10 On to Punta Arenas

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Idiots at the End of the Earth Ep. 10 On to Punta Arenas

Postby jgh » Mar 04, 2019 1:54 am

Idiots at the End of the Earth Ep. 10 On to Punta Arenas and Puerto del Hambre

Santiago was great – but it was really just a prequel to the main event – three weeks of wandering southern Patagonia in a rental car.

In the early stages, the Idiots thought they'd fly into Santiago, then rent a car and drive. Then the reality of the immense distances north to south in Chile and Argentina became evident. To drive from Santiago Chile to Punta Arenas – kind of the gateway to southern Patagonia - is almost 1900 miles and takes something like 36 hours! It would have been a little like deciding to tour California and renting a car in Detroit to do it.

Time for plan B – flying the local Chilean airline, LATAM, to Punta Arenas and renting the car there. So... after 4 days in Santiago... the Idiots dedicated one day to flying. They got into Punta Arenas – Sandy Point – on the Straits of Magellan in early evening. It was a gray, rainy afternoon... but that meant they were greeted by a rainbow – always a good omen!


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Good omens continued. At the last minute, the hotel the Idiots had booked for four nights cancelled due to water problems, so they scrambled the night before flying to find an alternative. They landed upon Hostal Akainik. It's a quirky small hotel with comfy seating areas, rustic rooms, and a homey atmosphere. Quirky suits the Idiots.


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More good omens – outside their room, an old fashioned poster encouraged early morning horseback rides near “The horns of Paine” reminding them of their friend Don's horse, which he named Caballo. (For those who don't know, that is the equivalent of naming your dog Dog...) And the horns of Parque Torres de Paine were the primary objective of their trip to Patagonia.


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And then they learned that the hotel's name, Akainik, is the indigenous Yamana people's word for – Rainbow! So... they were welcomed to their rainbow lodging by a rainbow, by quirky, by cowboys, and by the Horns of Paine - can't go wrong with that!

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The following day, the Idiots took delivery of their rental car. They headed south along the Straits of Magellan... to the end of the road. The scenery along the way was often stark. It is clear from the weathered structures and deteriorating boats that the climate of Patagonia is harsh. In the middle of summer it can be cold and rainy. Winters can be brutal. And the wind... always the wind. The climate seems to eat structures and only very hardy folks can live there. But there is also beauty. The mid-summer display of lupine was remarkable. The contrast of the flowers with the windswept landscapes presented endless photo ops.


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The environment does not support a highly complex web of animal life. There are many sea and land birds, but only a few species are represented.

The dominant bird along the Straits is the Imperial Cormorant. With their contrasting black and white, it is easy to see how people can mistake them for penguins from a distance..


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Flightless Steamer Ducks mix in with the cormorants.


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Two more lovely birds... the Southern Lapwing and a striking falcon, the Crested Caracara.


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Further south, the forest starts to converge with the coastal waters and meadows...


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The road could be challenging... as this sign suggests!


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About 40 miles south of Punta Arenas on highway 9, the pavement ends. This is the southernmost segment of highway on the American mainland. This area has a sad history.

Magellan was the first European to explore the straits in 1520 – less than 30 years after Columbus first voyage to the Americas. In 1584, the Spanish attempted to establish their dominion over the area by planting Cuidad del Rey Don Felipe, a colony of over 300 settlers on a desolate location on the northern shore of the Straits.

In 1587, a British pirate ship landed to take on wood and water and found a macabre scene. The neatly laid out settlement was deserted and in ruins. Even worse, there were many unburied bodies laying about. There was some evidence of cannibalism. Eventually two survivors were found and the stories they told were of terrible privations, freezing to death, and starvation. The British renamed the place Port Famine... and the name in translation has stuck – Puerto del Hambre.

The port continued to be visited by travelers through the following centuries. The British survey ship The Beagle carrying Charles Darwin visited the site a number of times etween 1832 and 1834. In 1843, Chile decided to re-establish a settlement there and built a fort, Fuerto Bulnes. After a few years the settlement was once again abandoned. Today it is a a little-visited national historic site.


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Driving the gravel past the end of the pavement, visitors come across a remote preserve protecting the breeding grounds of the endangered Ruddy-headed Goose. Since the endangered birds mix freely with the more common Upland Geese, the Idiots are not sure what geese they saw – but they sure saw a lot of them!


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The Idiots spent the whole afternoon wandering and wondering at the exotic beauty of region.


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In spite of snacking along the way, hunger awareness drove the Idiots to head back to PA to find some great seafood. They found La Luna... a place that combines good food with fun décor... like an upside down table and chairs on the ceiling. The Idiots had a leisurely 2 hour dinner... a good bottle of Chilean malbec and a seafood combination including ceviche, shrimp in parmesan sauce, calamari, spicy shrimp, and chupe de centolla (king crab). The Idiots can't remember what the dessert was – but it was delicious! A successful first day of exploring Patagonia!


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jgh
 
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Idiots at the End of the Earth Ep. 10 On to Punta Arenas

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Re: Idiots at the End of the Earth Ep. 10 On to Punta Ar

Postby Haricotsv2 » Mar 04, 2019 10:07 am

As always, I’m loving these reports!
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