December 25th ~ Christmas Day
We are getting into a lovely routine of sleeping in, having a late breakfast or early lunch, then going ashore for an afternoon tour.
This much relaxation might eventually get old, but for now I am loving it.
Punta Arenas is the gateway to Patagonia. Occupied by the Thuelche people for 14,500 years, this area remained isolated until 1520 when the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan sailed through the straight now bearing his name.
Tendering ashore around 11:30, we had time to do a little shopping and walk around town before time to meet up with our booked tour.
This is a popular kicking off point for Antarctic exploration and the small harbor housed a couple of sturdy ships preparing to embark in that direction.
Immediately arriving on shore, I realized that my several layers of long underwear, heavy pants, thermal top, sweater and jacket were just not enough to battle the cold wind. Right at the pier is a well-placed craft market that was doing a booming business selling hats, gloves and alpaca scarves.
I found a fashionistas nightmare with bright colors and a huge pompom on the crown, the name “Chile” enblazed across the front and two more pompoms attached to stylish ties to keep it firmly attached to my head. HaHa, what a sight, and something I would never have selected at home. But, at the moment I would not have traded it for diamonds as it kept my head, cheeks and ears toasty warm and the inside lining was as soft as it could be.
Only a couple of blocks walk to the main square, we checked out the famous Hernando de Magellanes monument. Legend and custom states that if you kiss the highly polished foot (or at least touch it and have your photo taken with it) that you will return to Chile someday.
Later in the day, when we returned with our tour group, a couple from Florida refused to touch it out of fear, as they said it was way too cold here for them and they did not want to risk perhaps coming back 🙂
Our four-hour tour today was called “City Drive and Museum”. It kept a leisurely pace, yet managed to offer up a nice variety of stops. It was focused on the local history of Punta Arenas.
First stop was on top of La Cruz Hill (Hill of the Cross) for a sweeping view of town, the harbor and the Strait of Magellan. Our ship was waiting patiently off in the distance.
The Salesian Museum Marggiorino Borgatello housed a good collection of indigenous artifacts, a taxidermy exhibition of the local birds and animals and a full size replica of the Cave of Hands (Cueva de las Manos) which we somehow managed to miss.
The most interesting thing I spotted was a display of petrified whale ear drums. Come on – one does not get to see THAT everyday.
Moving on to the outdoor Remembrance Museum, AKA the Patagonia Institute display of original houses and farm tools placed in a field that catalogs the pioneering days when one could make their fortune in gold or sheep.
The City Cemetery was an unexpected delight, lined with cypress trees and impressive mausoleums. It was voted as one of the ten most beautiful cemeteries in the world! There are two in the top ten in South America, and the other one is in Buenos Aires which we plan on visiting in about a week when we take the “Evita” tour.
I am struck by the fact that we have visited more cemeteries on this trip (two, soon to be three) than the inside of churches (zero so far). After numerous other trips, especially in Europe where we have taken ABC tours (Another Bloody Church – their name, not mine), this seems all out of kilter, but in a refreshing, rather ghoulish way.
Final stop where we came full circle was a return to the center of town, Plaza Munoz Gamero with the aforementioned Magellan statue. Around the plaza are impressive large homes (known as palaces locally), the main church and government buildings as well as an assortment of venders – even on Christmas Day.
Our return trip via tender went much smoother than the precious day, and we got back on board in time for dinner at our still puny table with empty seats. The head waiter had taken note of our desire for more company and relocated the four of us (including our soft-spoken Canadian ladies, Marg and Helen) to join three others, David from Los Angeles and a couple from Upstate New York, (Gary and Lisa).
I had been looking forward to attending the evening entertainment which was supposed to be one of the original Twelve Tenors, Evan Bosworth, but at dinner they announced that he had been hit with a case of Laryngitis and would not be performing. They substituted a marionette show instead. We decided to return to our cabin and watched a bit of the slowly passing scenery through the Beagle Channel.
All-in-all, a most memorable Christmas.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for my new warm hat, which will be put to good use again tomorrow when we go to shore in an even colder city, Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego).
Hope you will join us!