Journeys in Latin America - January to June 2009

Friday, 30 January 2009

Puerto Natales

Pizzeria Mesita Grande - 29th January

Right next to the main plaza, which has more of the moiture thirsty bushes which are nevertheless beautifully toparied. The centre of the plaza contains the first "train" i have seen in two and a half years, which appears to have plied a route about 5 metres long back in it´s day... although it is rusting and has been tagged by someone known as the "Anarkopunk", it retains a commanding presence.

The 3 hour bus ride from Punta Arenas was really beautiful, and i don´t think it´s merely my vegetational privation which fired my appreciation. It was exactly as i imagined parts of the Patgonian wastes to be, and reminded me in places of parts of West Coast Scotland with its tufty reddish-yellow grasses and little scrubby bushes which had the look (from the moving bus) of something like bog myrtle. As we moved further north, trees appeared, mostly low, fat (as opposed to low-fat!) pines bent away from the prevailing winds which in places had so much cream-coloured lichen hanging from their branches that it almost looked like the result of inundation by water and toilet paper (but of course, much prettier)!

The route was invisibly demarcated by the presence of various "estancias" or estates, the buildings of which appeared to display increasing affluence as we moved north into healthier land. The journey saw undulations turn blister into craggy knolls, and then beome full-grown hills as we approached Puerto Natales and came back to the sea at Seno Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Sound). Bigger hills with snow patches on them are visible to the North, although so far the view has been obscured by heavy rain in that direction which has periodically floated over this way to drench anyone caught outside...

From the bus (this is definately the way to travel to get a sense of the landscape, and the distances involved, in my opinion) i spied new animals. Not having a guidebook or knowledgable person to question, i can only guess that the things that looked like llamas were llamas, those that looked like flamingos were flamingos, those like geese were geese, and so on. There were a few large flightless birds, kind of emu-like, and other stange looking llama-esque brown creatures which i speculate could be the things known as guanaco, but i don´t know if this is correct... hopefully i will meet them again!

My original plan was to head into the Torres del Paine national park and do some walking. But since i think it is necessary to do it properly if at all, and i plan to come back this way with friends later on, i think that i will continue on my long journey up to Buenos Aires. The next stop is El Calafate, 6 hours by bus from here - i will be leaving early tomorrow morning. From there i plan to head to Bariloche which has been multiply recommended to me as a stunning location where walking and mountain-biking are possible without having to start with a 2 hour bus journey or a $60 entrance fee... The plan will probably change again, but i would like to be in Buenos Aires around the 22nd or 23rd of February.

Today (30th) it is another overcast day threatening rain, and i´m going to continue my walking tour of Puerto Natales and surrounding area and see what there is to see. More from El Calafate in the next few days...


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Punta Arenas, Chile

I woke up after a stupendous night of sleep to heavy rain outside. Warm rain! I have since watched the mud turning back into dust as the sun worked, and have again filled my day with relaxed wandering - my brain is working fast to try to keep up with the new input, and it is such that i feel no need to seek out "tourist attractions" to fire my interest, content instead to wander around the gridded streets viewing people, peeling buildings, cars loaded with too much stuff, stray dogs, one-note buskers, and so on.

The shoreline had a certain charm for me, although computer monitors and electrical cable are not normally associated with these habitats. The day we left Rothera, i had a walk along the shore, the edge of the Magellan Strait, with this geologist and she found plenty to get excited about in the variety of pebbles on show.

I had a wander in the cemetery. Not a top destination you would think, but it seems the Chileans, especially the rich ones, go into beautifying their loved ones tombs in a big way. And so amongst the careful topiary inside a huge walled compound you can find tombs the size of bungalows and an interesting memorial "map" of the social structure of the place for the last 150 years. The larger memorials often share their names with streets in the city.

Tomorrow i will leave Punta Arenas and with it my last contact with the British Antarctic Survey, at least for the next while. I feel that my travels will really begin when i get to Puerto Natales, about 250kms to the North of here, close to the famous Torres del Paine national park. Next post will be from there...


Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Rob Released Into South America!

Welcome to my newest blog - it will cover the next 6 months of my life as i travel throughout South America in search of sights, sounds & knowledge previously unavailable to me. I have just arrived close to southern tip of Chile, in Punta Arenas, from Rothera Research Station where i have spent the last 26 months (see & for those blogs).

I saved a considerable sum during that time and now plan on using some of those earnings for an extended trip. Watch these pages for words & pictures. It may take me a little while to work out how im going to go about getting the pictures on here via internet cafes, but i don´t doubt that it is possible.

I look forwartd to getting started...