Punta Arenas, Chile

Punta Arenas sunny an unbelievable 72
Last night, after dinner, I went to the Horizon Lounge to catch Holly singing with the 5 piece band. Conga drums had been set up, so I was looking forward to the music. Well, the music was fine, but no Holly. Next on the schedule was a chance to see the McNaughton Comet, discovered in August of 2006, It’s speeding away from the sun and only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. The Captain and Cruise Director had been announcing this sighting possibility, and Terry Breen, our resident anthropologist was set to give commentary from the bridge. Many passengers were gathered in the Observation Lounge and on deck. We only had a short space of darkness in which to see the comet before the early moon rise. Ah, there it is. No, that’s a star. What about that? Nope, another star. What about that dot?? That’s it! People with binoculars had much better luck. If you take this trip, bring binoculars. I forgot mine, and know I will miss them when we cruise the Avenue of the Glaciers.

The other light visible to us was the Cape of 11,000 Virgins lighthouse where we turned west towards Punta Arenas. 11,000 virgins? A metaphor for the amount of action in this area?

We are having miracle weather for the region; bright sun, and only a few wispy clouds to mar the brilliance. The word on the street is it is the hottest it’s been in 40 years. This area is usually very windy, with squalls popping up without notice, but not today. The sea is flat, and as we approach the gateway to Antarctica, dolphins, cormorants and grebes (sp?) are out and about. I’m hoping that we’ll sight an Andes Condor before our time here is up. Guides say they look like a small plane in the sky.

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Although Punta Arenas has about 90% of the Patagonia population, it being Sunday, the streets were mostly empty. Vendors selling wool sweaters, hats, and scarves circled the main square. Others sold wooden penguins of all sizes, furry penguin dolls, and other knickknacks.

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Tomorrow I’ll hone in and find out prices etc. For today, I needed some supplies (Listerine, toothpaste and white sport socks) which I purchased in a Pharmacia, and a variety store. The stores took US dollars; one gave back US change, the other pesos. The deal was all tabulated and based on the exchange rate with lots of numbers flashing by on the computer screen. Why do I feel like I just paid some child’s college tuition?

After my wanderings, without a decent map of the town, I realized I had no idea how to get back to Mariner. After a few lefts and one more right than necessary, I decided just to head downhill. I reached the waterfront about a half mile from the ship. Hopefully tomorrow some sort of personal compass will kick in.

At 4:30 PM I was the only person on deck and in the Jacuzzi. Eyes closed, I heard a voice. Eyes open, there was a waiter asking me if I wanted something to drink. The service on Mariner is far beyond expectations.

As I write this, from my balcony, I’m watching a cormorant swim and then disappear for close to a minute as it fishes for dinner. I’m looking forward to my own dinner in Compass Rose. The chef is taking us on a “culinary adventure”. For me it will be tuna tartar and stir fried ostrich chow main. But enough of that, the liver pate is at the door.

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