Today was a day to really experience Chilean Patagonia. While the Fram sat along-side in Punta Arenas, we had the opportunity to travel far and wide to soak up this unique part of the world. Many left the ship last night for the amazing Torres del Paine National Park, which was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. They don’t return until tonight so we will leave “blogging” that one until tomorrow!
Others visited a Magellanic Penguin colony at Otway Sound, hiked in the nearby Magellanic Forest, experienced all a local sheep station (estancia) had to offer, went on a city tour of “Punta” or just walked around and enjoyed the city on their own.
The bus trip to the penguin colony at Otway Sound was a treat because so much wildlife was seen along the way. A group of Andean Condors was seen flying over a ridge near the colony, and Rheas pranced around the bus, apparently oblivious to us! Many bird species were seen on the surrounding pampa. The Magellanic Penguins did not disappoint either with many pairs sitting outside their burrows and a few hundred birds on the landing beach. For some of us it was our first sightings of penguins anywhere, or at least in the wild. Those who have experienced this know you never forget your first penguin!
A group of 20 decided to go on a hike in the Magallanes Forest Reserve. The area is known for up to 3000 mm of rain per year, but today we had just a few clouds painted in the blue sky, though here and there with a couple of rain drops. Our way uphill to a viewpoint led through a forest that could easily be a film set. The trees stand close to each other, with lichens of different type and size growing on them. Close to the top of the hill we left the forest and walked the last few hundred meters on an open plain. A strong wind of around 80 km/h was blowing from a wide valley. But we made it to the view point and were rewarded with a great view over the forest, on Punta Arenas and the Magellan Strait as well. We could even see MV Fram in the harbour.
Our visit to an estancia found us at “Fitzroy” after a short ferry ride across the water. There we were treated to a fine show of shepherding and sheering. The estancia is an outdoor museum as well, showing farm implements of all sorts. A few of us were able to try our hand at horseback riding! The whole area was very picturesque. To cap it all of we enjoyed a fine “Asado” of lamb and all the trimmings.
The day ended with a really well-done folklore show put on by a Chilean group from the local area. What a day, with so much to “blog” about!