Day 11: Punta Aranas, Chile (February 24)

Chile was under Spain’s control until they decided enough was enough in 1810. Wanting to exert some control over the southern tip of South America, the new country of Chile saw a need to have a presence down there, so Punta Arenas was founded in 1843. It had a slow start as a failed penal colony, but in the 1880s began to attract a lot of immigrants from Europe, especially Croatia and Russia. It is now a university town of 150,000 with an economy based on sheep (think three million), fishing, and tourism. Like Ushuaia, it’s a jumping off point for Antarctica.

We found Punta Arenas to have a bit of a sophisticated flair, in a hodgepodge, no zoning kinda way. It was tidy and clean with comparatively little graffiti. Corrugated metal roofs were prevalent as were colorful (think pastel pink and blue, tangerine, aqua, mustard) buildings. We saw cottages; homes built of stucco, brick, wood, and siding; an Art Deco building; and a Tudor building as well as a handful of homes that looked like the suburbs of any major city in the States.

We took a ho-hum tour of the town. I say ho-hum because our guide lacked enthusiasm. But his story was interesting and typical: both his parents immigrated from England, met and married in Punta Arenas, and he has lived there his whole life.

We visited two small interesting museums, one indoors and one outdoors and went to an overlook for a panoramic view of the city. The guide made a respectable attempt at explaining that Punta Arenas is in the famous Straights of Magellan discovered by its namesake in 1520 and, back in the day, only available to ships belonging to the East India Company. Charles Darwin sailed these waters on board the Beagle.

Dan and I walked the cute streets, popping in and out of shops looking for treasurers, until time to board the ship and get ready for cocktails and dinner with our buds. All in all, another great day.


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