Monday, June 15, 2015

Around Cape Horn

January 15-17, 2015 we took a 3-day cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina to Cape Horn and ending in Punta Arenas, Chile, travelling through the Beagle Chanel and Straight of Magellan.  It was incredible.  We like these small, educational cruises with lots of excursions.

We sailed out from Ushuaia and the next morning took off in zodiacs from our boat to land at Cape Horn, which is an island on the end of an archipelago south from Tierra del Fuego, which is itself a very large island separated from the American continent by the Straight of Magellan.  Silas loved the zodiac rides, which we took every day on excursions.  The next photo is of all of us on the Cape Horn island.  It was cool and very very windy.  Mike carried Silas a good bit, and kept getting pushed around by the wind.  There was a statue of an albatross on the highest hill of the island that had been built to withstand 200K winds, and had broken.  There is also a lighthouse, and the keeper and his family are part of the Chilean Navy.    All the islands in the background are part of Chile. 

The island itself was quite green, covered with grasses and plants but no trees.  It was a lovely high-summer day.

The next day, we got out to visit a glacier in Agostini national park, on an island south of the Beagle Chanel, that has a glacier.  This park and the Darwin Range, & islands are the tail end of the Andes, and the park is named for an Italian priest who was also a mountaineer and explored a lot of the southern Patagonian Ice Sheet.  The Marinelli glaciar,  the second one we'd seen after Glaciar Martial in Ushuaia, isn't connected to the ice sheet.  It's just hanging out all by it's lonesome, and like almost all the glaciers we saw, it's retreating rapidly. In this same park, we did a short hike to a lookout, found & tried some Pan de Indio, an edible fungus that only grows on Nothofagus trees, and saw a ton of beaver damage, which is prevalent around Tierra del Fuego.

On the way back to the zodiac launch point, we had a view of an awesome double rainbow and our cruise boat.  The kids were quite happy about the return trip, as the crew had hot chocolate waiting for us back at the boat.   We'd seen dolphins in the bay playing around with the zodiacs while we were waiting to board, but didn't see any more on the way back.

The last day on the boat, on the way in to Punta Arenas, the southernmost big town in Chile, we  stopped at Magdalena Island National Par.  The park has hundreds of thousands of pairs of Magellanic Penguins, as well as many gulls and skuas.  The babies here, like those in the Beagle Chanel, were starting to molt into their swimming feathers. We enjoyed the walk on the island, but were perhaps less overwhelmed because we'd already been up close and personal with penguins one time in Argentina.   At lunch we got dropped off in Punta Arenas, where we had 4 hours before needing to catch a 4 hour bus to Puerto Natales & camping in Torres del Paine.  

Punta Arenas was an interesting town, and deserved more time than we spent there. There was a huge cementary with large topiaries we spied on the way out of town, and several lovely mansions in town, one with a greenhouse with grapes,  that had been build by Patagonian cattle/sheep barrons. These families  (Braun-Menendez) were related to the families in Argentenian Patagonia and had & still have vast empires, including owning La Anonima, the largest Patagonian grocery chain that we used throughout our travels.  The also owned Estancias in Argentina where socialist workers were killed in the early 20th century for asking for better labor conditions.  The pervasiveness and historical power of these families were everywhere, and we ran into the same names over and over as being weathy owners, starting in Punta Arenas.  They are seen as pioneers, founding fathers, wealthy aristicrats, and evil capitalists who called in the army to kill their workers.  Their story is one of hard work leading to great wealth and the myth of immigration to make a better life.  It very much parallels similar myths of rags to riches pioneering possibilities of the westward expansion in the US.

Mike had been out of internet contact and would be for another week, so after a quick lunch in a pizza joint (not exciting) he hit an internet cafe while the kids and I picked up our luggage and went to the bus station, and off to the next leg of the trip.

No comments: