After a busy week in Santiago it was finally time to fly South to Punta Arenas – the end of the world…

To avoid entering Argentinian air space the three and a half hour flight from Santiago follows almost the entire length of the Andes all the way down, which gave us some spectacular views looking out onto the mountains one side and the Chilean wilderness on the other. It also ensures that you experience some fairly big turbulence! On arriving into Punta Arenas, it definitely has that final frontier feeling about it. The streets are very quiet, and even in this time of year (the beginning of spring) we are wearing two layers underneath a down jacket and a wind jacket on top of that! Even the towns stray dogs are built for this weather. The town is full of expedition and tour organisers sending people either South to go to the penguin colonies and onwards to Ushuaia, or North to go to the famous Torres del Paine national park (our destination in a week or so…).

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Even though Ushuaia is further South, Punta Arenas is still only 881 miles away from Antarctica. As a result of this, there are still a number of expeditions that base themselves out of the town and a number of ships that pass through using it as a refuge. It is clear that the town is proud of its maritime heritage, with two maritime museums and a large number of restored ships (naval, fishing and exploration) kept in great condition and the majority for public viewing.

Our time here so far has been spent mostly indoors – being located on the ‘roaring forties’ (the line of latitude it sits on infamous for having wind speeds rarely dropping below forty knots), the weather here seems to change almost constantly with almost three seasons in a day! In fact on our second day we had light snow in the morning, followed by rain, followed by an incredible sunset that lit up the mountains behind us! This weather also led us into the North Face shop. It’s always hard trying to pack for a two month trip into a backpack that has to also carry a tent and all the camping gear that goes with it! We have so far managed to get everything fairly right but it seems we made a mistake on the sleeping bag front, and completely underestimated how cold it gets at night here…But, we now have sleeping bags that can go down to -28C and are also the size of a small child so the next challenge is figuring out how to carry everything…

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Our plans for the coming few days have changed slightly – the original idea was to go via ferry to Tierra del Fuego (end of the world?), and then on to visit the King penguin colony. However, after visiting every tour operator in town we decided unfortunately that it was too expensive to do this. Instead we are currently sat on the ferry from Punta Arenas to Porvenir to spend the day there having an explore, and enabling us to still say we have stepped foot on Tierra del Fuego! Then tomorrow we are catching a bus to Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine national park, to start organising and preparing everything ready for the hiking to begin! This is a particularly exciting part of the trip for us, as this park was one of the main reasons we chose to come down to Chile and Patagonia (if you have a look on google images you can understand why…).

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