A 250km drive to Punta Arenas today, taking the local transfer bus service again. Views were somewhat different to the previous few days, a rolling steppe, populated by herds of sheep on large estancias, and random rhea spotted every now and again. We passed numerous lakes, some with flamingo, but this was a journey to finish a book and just snooze.
Three hours later we arrived in the port of Punta Arenas, now a bustling town of 130,000 people, on the shores of the historic Straits of Magellan and with its economy in recent history buoyed by oil and gas finds.
It’s much colder down here, about 5 degrees but with strong sunshine. Our hotel for the night is the comfortable Hotel Jose Nogueira, right in the centre of town, and the mansion, built by a rich wool farming dynasty, is actually a National Monument. It also has a bar named after Shackleton, to celebrate the final rescue of his crew in 1916.
We visited the Museo Regional Salesiano, which gave a useful introduction to the indigenous peoples that populated this area and south into Tierra del Fuego, before they were wiped out by white man’s diseases at the turn of the 20th Century.
Passing the huge Cementerio Municipal, we cabbed it to the duty free Zona Franco, before a rest and dinner, preceded by a short walk to see the central Plaza Munoz Gamero, a conifer-lined square surrounded by large mansions and with the centrepiece monument commemorating the 400th anniversary of Magellan’s voyage (1520). A good buffet dinner at the hotel completed the day.
Tomorrow we head back into Argentina and Tierra del Fuego!
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