Saturday, 10 March: Thousands of years in the making, this afternoon we navigated through Chile’s narrow fiords where we were excited to see the unparalleled beauty of the Amalia Glacier. I was surprised by its’ size – it covers a huge area. Seas were very smooth and only a little patchy rain as we caught sight of the glazier’s magnificent blue ice – made when the ice absorbs all the other colours in the spectrum and reflects primarily blue. We also saw a couple of dolphins, but they disappeared after a few minutes.
The captain had announced that we would be at the glacier at 4.00pm and sure enough, we arrived right on schedule. The ship came to a stop and turned from starboard to port to that everyone had plenty of time to take photos and to appreciate this amazing spectacle.
Friday, 9 March: Our introduction to Chile – Punta Arenas is the world’s southern-most city, just 26 miles from the Strait of Magellan and it’s a lively mix of shopping, scenic wonders and intriguing history. Our tour took to La Cruz hill which had beautiful views over the town and the Straits of Magellan, then to the Salesian Museum, a testimony to the life of the four tribes of indigenous inhabitants, all extinct now.
An interesting stop on the way back was to the City Cemetery, where we walked along the avenues lined with cypress trees and magnificent mausoleums. Our guide, who had been keeping us entertained talking about the friendly rivalry that exists between Argentina and Chile, asked if we had been to the Recoleta Cemetery in Bueno Aires and was very keen to get our impressions of this cemetery; of course, he insisted that this one must be just a little better!
Far from being a lonely little outpost down the bottom of the planet, we were impressed to discover that Punta Arenas is the third-largest city in the Patagonia region; a flourishing city rich in attractions, from the colonial streets to its’ proximity to the icy southern continent of Antarctica.
Our last Argentinian port of call, today, 8 March, we disembarked in Ushuaia – remote and rugged, it’s the land of fire and referred to as The End of the World! During his famous circumnavigation around the tip of the continent, Ferdinand Magellan saw huge bonfires that lit up the sky, hence his name for the island, Tierra del Fuego.
We set off through the town and made our way to the Andes Mountains beyond, where we went as far as the Garibaldi Pass to Lago Escondido “Hidden Lake”. We enjoyed the comfort of the coach as we made our way through lush forests and spectacular mountain scenery.
Population of approx. 60,000, it’s a safe place to live. No crime, we were told! Plenty of jobs available as many of the big companies set up offices there; they pay no tax.
I thought it was a lovely little picture postcard city, although I may not like it so much in the depths of winter! Its’ beginnings go back to when it was a penal colony and, on that note, we stopped at the Ushuaia Jail and Military Prison which housed prisoners from 1902 to 1947. It’s now a museum housing lots of interesting photos and information detailing the harsh conditions of the unfortunate convicts.
Last stop was a break for some food in the island’s winter sports area, Las Cottoras where we enjoyed empanadas, pastries, sandwiches as well as local wines, chocolate and coffee.
A last walk around this lovely town completed our day and gave us many happy memories to take away.
Wednesday, 7 March: Woke up early this morning feeling excited about our scenic cruise of Cape Horn, expecting furious winds and fearsome waves!
Yes, we got some very strong winds at 80mph for a short while, but the outside decks were quickly placed off limits until the ship moved into the shelter of the land. You can see how changeable the weather was though, even in such good conditions; alternating from rainy and foggy to sunny and blue sky.
Lighthouse and Memorial for Lost Sailors
The captain kept up some commentary along the way and was so happy with the smooth conditions, that after obtaining permission from the Chilean authorities, took us past Puerto Williams which he had only been to once before, himself, so it was quite a treat. Very scenic.
The Horn is on most people’s bucket lists and we were no exception, so it was a nice achievement, once reserved for 19th century gold seekers en route to the gold fields in California.
Even though we didn’t get the rough waters that I was expecting, it was still an amazing experience.
Yesterday was a sea day and a chance to wind down. Today, Sunday 4 March, we were off to see dolphins and sea lions in the icy Atlantic Ocean.
Next to the ship was a very, very long pier which we had to walk along to board an RIB – Rigid Inflatable Boat – for a ride to the Punta Loma Nature Reserve about 40 minutes away. The Reserve was created in 1967 to protect South America’s only permanent sea lion colony and is home to about 600 sea lions.
We were very lucky to be there at high tide, otherwise we probably would not have seen many. As it was, the sea was very calm, the weather great and with a perfect high tide, the boat was able to position itself for plenty of photo taking opportunities of sea lions and cormorants. The sea lions were not concerned that the boat was so close to them and were so noisy, I don’t know how anyone gets any sleep!
On the way back, the captain looked for dolphins, but we were out of luck. Although there seem to be plenty of dolphins in these waters, all the sightings have been some distance from the ship.
Seeing the sea lions in their natural setting was one of the highlights of our trip so far.