December 12 Punta Arenas, Chile
Punta Arenas claims to be the southern most city of its size in the world. It is on the shores of the Straits of Magellan. This area has a very harsh and unforgiving climate. Before the Panama Canal was built, the Straits of Magellan were somewhat of a shortcut from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The other route was down around Cape Horn, a very dangerous route. At one time, the Dutch East Indies company claimed the area and forbade anyone else to use the route, forcing everyone else to go around Cape Horn.
(Below is one of the few entries written on the voyage)
Today is December 12, 2008. I don’t actually know what day of the week it is, but I can find out by getting on an elevator and looking at the floor. Everyday, the current day of the week is placed on the elevator floor in front of the door. I’m not the only one who loses track of time.
Last night, just after midnight, Greg and I went out on the deck and looked outside. We were just beginning to go through the Straits of Magellan, off the coast of Chile. We could see land off both sides of the ship. Several hundred years ago, when Magellan was looking for the Spice Islands, he found these straits which cut through the tip of South America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It was a very valuable “short cut” for ships. It was pretty awesome to image ourselves in the same area as Magellan had been in hundreds of years ago.
(Magellan was asked by Spain’s king to find a westward passage to the Spice Island of Indonesia. They left Spain on September 20, 1519.)
We rose early this morning, ate breakfast, then went back to sleep. You can do that on vacation. After we rose again, we caught a tender (one of the lifeboats used to ferry passengers back and forth to the ship when cannot dock at the pier because the water is not deep enough, etc.) then headed out for the town of Punta Arenas on foot. Tour from the ship are very expensive on this cruise, so we don’t take them at each stop. We walked several blocks into the town square where the ever present market place was set up. I think they set up special when they know that cruise ships are coming in because the ships bring so much business. I bought a few trinkets then we walked about a block to a museum. It was the old home of a local somewhat wealthy family. We spent a pleasant hour there then tried to a get a taxi to take up to the nature reserve that was supposed to have a great view of the city. We ended up walking back to the ship and finding a driver who asked for $50 to take us but settled on $30 instead. He didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Spanish, but we visited the whole 10 kilometers out and 10 kilometers back. His few words of English and my few words of Spanish along with a lot of hand gestures were enough to tell each other about our families, what they did, about the farm, about the nature reserve etc. It was pretty amazing.
The nature reserve was located at the top of a high hill and had a beautiful view of the harbor and the town of about 40,000 people. From the top we could also see the island of Tierra del Fuego and the end of the world. Tomorrow we will be almost there.