Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

Punta Arenas

A quick postscript to my Valparaiso stop:  While hauling ass to the bus station at 6 am, I ran by the city’s movie theater.  I’ve been dying to see a real movie since…well, since I moved to Cusco and was told I couldn’t see a movie because they don’t have a fucking theater.  In a town of 350K+.  Ridiculous.  But every time I walked by the Valparaiso theater, all they had playing was Harry Potter and some goddamn Narnia flick.  Until this morning.  As I’m flying by I see that Tron has opened (in 3-D, of course).  The morning I’m leaving.  I (instinctively) screamed, “BULLSHIT!” as I went by.  The woman sweeping the floors inside (whom I didn’t notice prior to my outburst) seemed less than amused.

So, with no particular plans or itinerary, I decided I should head for Patagonia before all the locals start traveling there after the holidays.  I booked a flight to the furthest southern destination possible other than Antarctica, Punta Arenas (US$125 from Santiago).  Our plane was more than an hour late, but that gave me time for a second trip to Dunkin Donuts (goddamn delicious) and to meet a couple from Slovenia heading the same direction.

Punta Arenas (~125,000 people, sea level) is considered the world’s southernmost city and is only 1500 km from Antarctica.  It is also, well, a shit industrial port city with a miserable wind that never lets up.  But, it is at 53° south latitude, sitting on the Strait of Magellan (yes, that fucking Strait of Magellan), and directly across the Strait from Tierra del Fuego.  Top of the world, baby. (Well, if you turn your map upside down.)

We were starving after a long trip, and the owner of our hostel informed us that we could get an entire kilo of king crab meat down at the harbor for 10,000CLP (US$20).  We run out the door and down to the fish market, where we find out that they only bring in king crab on Saturdays.  Motherfuckers!  Plan B involves asking the local policia where a decent seafood restaurant might be located.  They point us to a nice spot.  Thank you, Mr. Policia.

First order of business is to get some wine.  Miha and Jerneja don’t speak any Spanish, so the ordering process falls on my (quite linguistically talented) shoulders.  I ask for the wine list.  Meathead Waiter says, “No.  No botellas de vino.”  I ask for 3 glasses of white wine.  “No.  No tengo vino blanco.”  Okay, El Dumbshit, just get us three glasses of whatever wine you have lying around.

He returns 60 seconds later and asks, “Sorry, Señor, you like vino tinto o vino blanco?”  You must be joking me.  I’m going to punch you in the face now.

Then he brings us three glasses of white wine…in coffee cups.  (At least they were classy enough to include the saucers.)

We did score our huge plate of king crab (although it was served with a vat of mayo on the side…Chileans and their goddamn mayo…) and also some delicious baked mussels.  Good shit.




Since my Slovenian friends had actually done some research first, I opted to just tag along with them.  First stop: Penguins.  (Seriously?)  A van picked us up at 8 am the next morning and took us to the harbor where we took a 90 minute cruise across the Strait of Magellan (yes, that fucking Strait of Magellan) to Isla Magdalena where ~200,000 Magellanic Penguins call home.  This is not exactly what I was expecting when I left home 8 months ago:











In case you were wondering, the wind here at the bottom of the planet in punishingly cold.  Time to sort out a second set of thermals.  Thank god for the Michael J. Fox red puffy vest and the chicken hat.

After returning from chilling with the penguins (including a dolphin escort on the boat ride…sweet!), we caught the last bus to Puerto Natales.  One night in Punta Arenas was more than enough.


One Response to “Punta Arenas”

  1. Jody says:

    seems a bit risky entering the penguin enclave in a chicken hat.
    And i told you to wear a sweater.

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