Idiots at the End of the Earth Ep 12 More hanging out in PA

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Idiots at the End of the Earth Ep 12 More hanging out in PA

Postby jgh » Mar 09, 2019 3:30 pm

Idiots at the End of the World Ep 12 More hanging around in Punta Arenas

A few words about Idiot Travel. People who have followed the Idiots for a while know that they chose this moniker based on experience. They have always traveled, and for many years they strove to be “smart travelers”. They researched and planned because they had limited time and limited budgets and wanted to see and do “the best” and as much as possible.

And they failed. Not always, but consistently... they failed. Inevitably, striking train workers or a broken water main or a change in museum hours... some unanticipated and often minor problem... would throw off their carefully planned itineraries.

This all came to a head one night in China. The Idiots were traveling “rough” - meaning on their own with just a guidebook and their wits and on a tight budget. They got a tip on a good restaurant and were feeling pretty smug about their savvy traveler status...

And found they were the only Westerners in a very traditional Chinese restaurant. There were no menus in English and, in fact, most people did not even look at menus. None of the staff spoke English... and even though the place was crowded, none of the patrons spoke English. The Idiots had options. They could leave. They could struggle through the menu and make the best of it. They could get frustrated or angry or sad that this experience was not working according to plan.

But something momentous occurred. Both of them were struck at the same moment by how funny this all was! They started to laugh and said “We are such idiots!”

They smiled at their friendly waiter and made it clear that they were clueless as to how to order food. They would point at food other people were having and the waiter would shake his head 'no'... or look dubious... and when they landed on something the waiter thought they would enjoy, he enthusiastically took the order. They had good food and they had a good time. By the end, many of the other patrons were also enjoying suggesting unidentifiable food and watching a couple of idiots experiencing with wonder what was to them commonplace.

Thus was born The Idiots Abroad.

They developed a new philosophy and style of travel. Idiot travel requires one to embrace their inner Idiot. One must accept that no matter how much research one does and how much one thinks they understand, they are still going to be a stranger in a strange land. They will bumble and blunder their way through settings and situations and will never truly understand what is going on.

And there is great joy in that!

Idiot travelers throw themselves into situations. They allow extra time for serendipity. They allow extra time for the surprise experiences with people that often outweigh the joys of museums and landscapes. Idiot travelers shrug expressively to indicate to the locals that they are idiots and will appreciate help. Idiot travelers smile a lot and don't worry too much about looking foolish. Idiot travelers are grateful... and they tip well!

Back to Idiots as the End of the World...
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There is a fine museum in the heart of PA, created from the mansions Sara Braun and her brother built on the main plaza. The Idiots planned to go... but ended up just driving along the coast looking at “stuff” instead.

In Magallanes... if there is a pier, there will be imperial cormorants... lots of imperial cormorants. The adults are a striking contrasting black and white... the young are gray.

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Found Item Art with a distinctly nautical bent along the coast...


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A street planting near the waterfront give a sense of the effect of wind on life in Patagonia.


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Punta Arenas has many monuments. Ferdinand Magellan presides over the Plaza de Armas and tourists are told that if they kiss his toe – or maybe just rub it – they will return to PA. The Idiots saw the statue... but didn't get a picture. They also didn't get pictures of a striking installation celebrating the joyful claiming of southern Patagonia by Chile in 1843 but also hinting at the virtual annihilation of the indigenous peoples... and a monument to the south wind... and sculptures of native totems... so many monuments – no photos...

But they took this one. They have no idea who this guy was. They suspect few people in PA know either. Readers can probably make up better stories for him than what is likely the truth - that he was a stodgy military officer who presided over the naval base in the 19th century. Knowing that a posting in Punta Arenas... about as far away from the capital as one could get in Chile... would not have been a plum job, the Idiots like to wonder who this guy pissed off to get that job! Today he stands looking out over the Straits and the only enemies he faces are the disrespectful pigeons.

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It can be a fine line between a healthy hobby and an obsession... but sometimes it is pretty obvious! What kind of person would decide to build an exact replica of the sixteenth-century ship Nao Victoria... not at the behest of a government or foundation – but just because he thought it was a good idea? Who goes on to build 3 more replica ships and to maintain it as a privately-owned museum?

Juan Luis Mattassi Alonso is who. He has lots of help – but the project is all about him and his vision.

The Estrechos de Magallanes (Straits of Magellan) have a pivotal place in maritime history. Only 27 years after Columbus made his first voyage, the king of Spain commissioned a Portuguese seaman, Fernando de Magallanes (Ferdinand Magellan) to explore a route to “The Indies” sailing west rather than south and east around Africa. This was not driven by curiosity – it was all about the money.

In 1494, Pope Alexander was enlisted to arbitrate a conflict between Spain and Portugal. Both were engaged in explorations and there were frequent conflicts. The pope's decision to draw a north-south line, granting all discoveries west of it to the Spanish and all east of it to the Portuguese seems, in retrospect, to be a big win for the Spanish. Of the Americas, Portugal got Brazil and Spain got all the rest!

( It is no surprise that folks like Sir Francis Drake got actual certification from monarchs in Europe who were left out of this agreement entirely to be privateers - “Pirates with Papers.” Drake played his own role in the story of Patagonia... stay tuned!)

But initially, the advantage went to Portugal. They claimed many of the spice islands and controlled the trade routes around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. The Spanish king was seeking an alternative route to tap into the fantastic wealth of the spice trade. At that time, black pepper was as valuable as gold.

In 1519, five ships and 255 men set off on the expedition. It was not a pleasant experience. Three years later, one ship with a skeleton crew – a macabre phrase! - of 18 returned to Spain. Three of the ships had been destroyed and one deserted and returned to Spain early in the voyage. Magellan himself was killed in a battle with natives in the Philippines after he meddled in a squabble between tribes. His sticking his nose in resulted in death from a poisoned arrow. Only the Nao Victoria made the whole voyage.

Fast forward to 2006. Matassi, a cartographer, decided it would be a good idea to build a full-size replica of the Nao Victoria. Three years of research and two years of building led to the opening of the museum and ship in 2011. Since that time, three other ships have been added – the nineteenth century Chilean ship, the Ancud; The HMS Beagle, the research ship that introduced Charles Darwin to Patagonia and the Gallapagos; and the James Caird, a modified lifeboat that made one of the most amazing voyages in history – Shackleton's 800 mile voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia to arrange rescue for his crew after the sinking of the Endurance and being stranded on a deteriorating ice floe.

The Idiots did not feel up to climbing around on ship replicas, so they grabbed a couple photos from the road. Probably the most common comment about the Nao Victoria is “It's so small!” The first ship to circumnavigate the world was only about 80' long and housed a crew of 45. One is reminded of the old Breton sailor's prayer:

Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small.
It cannot be that any happy fate
Will me befall
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.

Today, the replicas stand as memorials to great maritime explorers – and the vision/obsession of Juan Luis Mattassi Alonso.


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Wandering along the coast... the fishing fleet at anchor and on land...


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The gray naval warships looked ominous to the Idiots, but they decided the gull was saying “yeah... whatever... we were here before you... we'll be here when you're gone...”

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First they saw the fake owl... then they saw the fake Canada goose... then they realized the goose was real... what in the heck were a pair of Canada geese doing in southern Patagonia?

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Speaking of what the heck... off a side road that is off a side road... a house with a spaceman waving out to sea and a strange little spaceship...

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and more what the heck – huge rusting wire spheres... maybe 12' in diameter... maybe fish traps?

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More cormorants – they just kept posing...


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The Idiots call this photo of a cormorant and a gull "Taxi Driver." If that reference is not familiar, check out this clip on Youtube...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQkpes3dgzg

"You talkin' to me?!"


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After all the talk about sheep, it only seemed logical to sample Patagonian lamb. If you want a steak in cattle country in the US, you look for a place named Stockman's - if there are cowboys, there is usually a Stockman's nearby speciallizing in big slabs of beef.

In Patagonia, they have good beef and seafood, but lamb is a Patagonian specialty. The Idiots dined at Parilla los Ganaderos... which translates pretty much as “Stockman's”. Parilla – meat cooked over wood or charcoal fire – is a staple of Chilean and Argentinian cooking. The lamb entree' was lamb – just lamb. It was served in three courses - 3 different cuts of lamb. Crispy skin, succulent meat. To round out the meal they ordered hand made ravioli in shrimp sauce. It was way too much food... one of the few meals after which Idiot She could not manage a dessert.

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jgh
 
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Joined: Oct 14, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: Plymouth, Minnesota zone 4

Idiots at the End of the Earth Ep 12 More hanging out in PA

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