On the way to Chile I had to spend an additional night in El Calafate because the only bus from bus Empresa Cootra between Calafate and Puerto Natales starts at 8:30 am. There is another bus from Empresa Zaahaj that starts in the afternoon however only Mo and Fridays I think.
After border checks similar to that between East and West Germany before the unification I left Argentina and arrived in Punta Arenas in Chile. The checks at the border especially on the Chilean side are very strong. They are looking for fruits which are not allowed to be imported to Chile. Apparently if they found one apple it costs 60 ars fine.
The relationship between the two countries is very basic. They just ignore each other. This goes so far that a lake across the border has two different names. A lake is called Lago San Martin in Argentina and in Chile the same lake is called Lago O’Higgins. Very strange. It is a perfect way to irritate tourists.
Punta Arenas is the southernmost city of the continental Americas and can only be reached on water from the rest of Chile. I thought that Punta Arenas is a small sleepy town at the end of the world and was surprised to find out that is a lively vital city with a lot of pubs and restaurants with gambling casino and skybar.
I’ve visited the cemetery which tells the history of the city in silence. It is similar with the cemetery La Recoleta in Buenos Aires and is surrounded with very impressive trees to protect against the wind. There are a lot of boxes with coffins.
The Mercado Municipal (city market) is close to the port and has been rebuilt and reopened in 2010. It has some cute small fish restaurants. Across from the Mercado municipal, the round skyscraper is casino, hotel and skybar.
In the main plaza of the city, a statue of Magellan as a conqueror and below him the conquered Indians.
I have spent some hours at the strait of Magellan imagining that he and his ship Victoria pass by.
One of the most important attractions close to Punta Arenas is the penguin colony Otway but I haven’t visited because I visited Punta Tomba.
People who were on the Magdalena island said it was very interesting too.
Other people told me that the house of Sara Braun right in the city center is very interesting.
People who have done the cruise through the fjords from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales said that they viewed whales, dolphins etc, they had very good food and very good beds in four persons cabins for ca. 300 Euro for 4 days.
On Jan 27 Jan Dan, my excellent host in Punta Arenas, arranged for me a visit to the Estancia Rio Verde. For Europeans it is hard to understand what is an estancia. An estancia is a huge farm surrounded by a barb wired fence and may have a surface of ca. 50 km x 50 km (!). Travelling by bus in Patagonia (both Argentina and Chile) it is very boring because the only thing you see along the road on both sides are the fences that border the estancias and nothing else. Sometimes you see some trees far away from the road. There is the home of the estancia owner and his personnel.
Sergio, the estancia owner was very cute and showed me the place. His estancia has a surface of ca. 20,000 ha, 10,000 sheep and 5,000 cows. Twice a year a team comes to shear the sheep. They need ca. 5 min per sheep and they work with ca. ten people one week from 4:00 am until midnight. Most of the wool is exported to China. He told me that one of his major problems was the lack of water for the animals. I couldn’t understand this because it rained a lot. but unfortunately the strong wind blows the whole water away.
After visiting the estancia I had short trek by the seaside on the rocks (still inside the estancia) and saw wonderful wild colonies of cormorans and other birds. See wildlife.
Hostal Tragaluz in Punta Arenas
Location: ***** (out of 5) located ca 1 km from the main plaza in P Arenas
Service: **** (out of 5) good breakfast. Room very clean
Room, Hotel overall, infrastructure (internet): ***** (out of 5): Very nice hostel with a lot of lovely deco details. Dan is very supportive and gives a lot of advices regarding sightseeing. . He even put together a list with the most important attractions in P Arenas and arranged for me a visit to the estancia “Vale Verde”. Internet very good. Complimentary tea and coffee.
Overall rating: ***** stars out of 5
Price: 30000 Clp per night (for a single room)
My favorite restaurant for fish: Sotito across the street from the casino. Excellent centolla.
Chinese restaurant tenedor (self service, flat) on Bories close to Supermercado Unimarc.
On jan 28 I took the bus to Puerto natales. It would have been better to stop first in Puerto Natales when coming from Calafate and then go to Punta Arenas. However the only bus connection between Calafate and Chile that I could find on Internet was via Rio Gallegos. Buses from Rio Gallegos go to Punta Arenas. In the mean time I had booked the refugios in Torres del Paine.
On jan 29, I’ve attended a boat trip to the Glacier Balmaceda and O’higgins national park. I have taken wonderful pictures of cormorans and condors. Very windy.
The trip is wonderful but very expensive (66000 clp). I don’t know if it worth to do it after having seen the Upsala and the Perito Moreno glacier.
We had lunch at a farm that can be reached from water only.
Hostal Dos Lagunas – Puerto Natales
Location: **** (out of 5) located ca 1 km from the main plaza in P Natales
Service: **** (out of 5). Basic Breakfast. Alejandro is very supportive on planning the trip to TDP. He sent me the bus connections between Argentina and Chile and helped me a lot for planning the trip.
Room, Hotel overall, infrastructure (internet): * (out of 5): The hostal is very basic. No central heating just an oven in the room but you can not use it because when it is on it is getting very hot within 10 min and if you switch it off it is getting very cold within 10 min. It was cold outside (5 degrees centigrade in January) and the windows do not close properly and are very thin. No sink in the room. Two bathrooms for ca. 10 people which is bad when everybody has to leave before 8 am..
Internet available at the PC in the lobby.
Overall rating: ** stars out of 5. Downgrade because of the poor room and bathroom.
Price: xxx Clp per night (for a single room)
Favourite restaurant: “El martimo” Baquedano 379 Puerto Natales
On jan 30, I took the bus to the National Park Torres del Paine.