Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales

This morning we walked to the bus station in Punto Arenas and got on a bus for a three hour bus ride north to Puerto Natales.

The trip was very interesting. The terrain was flat, desolate and wind blown. We saw lots of sheep and guanacos. We also saw Rheas the Rhea is a large flightless South American. bird. We didn’t get any pictures from the bus but there is a picture of one on the wall of our hotel room.

We are staying at a lovely hotel in Puerto Natales overlooking the water, the Weskar Patagonian Lodge. After checking in we walked along the water into the town. We were going to visit the historical museum but it was closed.

We ate dinner at our hotel and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Day 5 – Ventus Australis and arrival in Punta Arenas, Chili

Over Saturday night we crossed Magdalena Channel and this morning stopped at Magdalena Island. The island has a lighthouse built in 1902 and a big colony of Magdalena Penguins. We disembarked at 7 am by zodiac and took a path around the island. In addition to lots of penguins we saw lots of gulls and geese.

We got back on board and had breakfast while we headed for Punta Arenas where we went through Chilean Customs and walked to our hotel. Our Australis cruise was a fantastic experience. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys being active and exploring nature. The mountain and glaciers of the Darwin Range are like nothing I have seen anywhere else.

In Puenta Arenas we went for a walk this afternoon.

And we stopped for coffee.

We ate dinner at Cafe Sarmiento with a view overlooking Punta Arenas. Our Ventus Australis waiter used to work there. He recommended it. We had scallop stew and spider crab stew. It was delicious.

Day 4 – Onboard Ventus Australis – Saturday 26 October 2019

Our fourth day on the Ventus Australis was Saturday October 26. In the morning we had a tour of the engine room. Here is one of the two Cummins 1600 horsepower engines.

In late morning we boarded a Zodiac and head for the end of the narrow fjord where Cóndor Glacier lays, our guide told us all about the glacier and the natural history of the area.

In the afternoon we went to Águila Glacier, which is set over a calm glacial lake surrounded by forest.

After disembarking from the Zodiac we hiked across the shore of the lake towards the base of the glacier. Our guides described all the birds and plants we saw. We even saw condors gliding in the sky over the mountains.

Prior to our final dinner on board we enjoyed drinks in the lounge.

Dinner was delicious and fun. We have had a great waiter, Juan, for all five days on board. He recommended the local specialty, lamb. It was the best lamb I have ever had.

My video of Day four is available on YouTube by clicking here.

Day 3 – Onboard the Ventus Australis – Friday 25 October 2019

Each time we have gone ashore on this cruise we have seen very different things. Yesterday it was Cape Horn and the historical Wulaia Bay. Today it was glaciers. The moment I opened my eyes and looked out our window this morning I was awed to see a stunning glacier. We sailed through what is called Glacier Alley during the night. We didn’t see all the glaciers because it was dark but this first one of the morning blew me away!

The ship sailed into the Pía Fjord. We again rode in a Zodiac boat to shore and We disembarked in front of the Pía Glacier. Many of our excursions have easy, medium and difficult options available. At Pía Glacier we chose the medium difficulty option and hiked up to a lookout overlooking the front of the glacier.

After hiking back to the landing spot We had hot chocolate and whiskey while we waited for our turn to take a Zodiac back to the ship.

This afternoon the plan was to enter the Garibaldi Fjord and those who wanted to could go ashore and do the strenuous Waterfall excursion. Those of us staying on the ship would cruise further into the fjord and see the Garibaldi Glacier, one of the few in Patagonia that is currently growing in size. As we moved into the fjord it was very windy. The ship stopped at a decision point and the captain decided that it was too dangerous to go further up the fjord. Instead we went back the way we came and got to see the glaciers of glacier alley.

Mid afternoon the boatswain gave an entertaining talk, demonstration and class about knots.

In the evening we heard a lecture about the history of the mapping and navigation of the Straight of Magellan

Here is a link to my day three video on YouTube.

Day 2 – Onboard Ventus Australis – Thursday 24 October 2019

Our ship sailed south from Ushuaia to Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos National Park), the actual southern tip of South America and the point at which the Atlantic Ocean meets the Pacific Ocean. We were lucky and it was unusual that we had almost no wind. The guide told us that it is often too rough to go ashore here. We transferred from the ship to a Zodiac which took us to shore on Hornos Island.

Cape Horn is a rocky promontory with a height of 1,394 feet that dominates the landscape of Drake Passage. The Chilean Navy maintains a permanent lighthouse in the island, inhabited by a navy officer and his family, as well as the small Stella Maris Chapel, and a monument honoring the albatross.

From the beach we climbed to the Cape Horn monument and then hiked to the lighthouse and chapel. It wasn’t hard to imagine clipper ships rounding the island as they sailed from New York to San Francisco.

From Cape Horn the ship went back north to Wulaia Bay. We got to visit the ship’s bridge and see how the ship is steered and navigated.

Our second disembarkation of the day was at Wulaia Bay. It is a sheltered bay that had one of the largest Yaghan settlements in the region. It was described by Darwin and illustrated by Fitz Roy during their journey to the Beagle Channel.

We hiked about a mile up to a lookout overlooking the bay. Our guide talked about the history of the area and the plants and animals.

Beavers were introduced onto the island in the 1940s. The beaver population has exploded and they are doing considerable ecological damage.

Here is a link to the video of days one and two that I loaded to my YouTube channel.

Ushuaia Day 2 and Ventus Australis Day 1- Wednesday 23 October 2019

On our last day in Ushuaia we checked out of our hotel at ten and stored our bags. Around two we checked in for our cruise.

The rest of the day we spent wandering around Ushuaia. We checked out the museums.

Duke got a haircut. While he was getting his haircut I hung out in a nearby coffee shop. Argentine Spanish takes some getting used to. I asked for a bottle of water. Bottle is Botella pronounced bote-ay-ya in most of the Spanish speaking world. In Argentina it is a bote-ay-cha. I have to pause and think whenever someone says something to me that has that cha sound for the letters ll.

At six we got on the Ventus Australis. We have a wonderful room with a big 5 ft by 5 ft window. We had dinner on the ship and went to sleep watching the spectacular snow capped mountains slide by our window.

I’m posting this at the end of our cruise now that I have internet again. Here is a link to the video I made for day one and day two of our Ventus Australis cruise.

Ushuaia

Today we rented a car and explored around Ushuaia. First we went out to Tierra Del Fuego National Park. We hiked along the shore of Acigami lake.

We drove to the end of the road.

We saw several of this unusual bird. I think they are kelp geese.

After we left the park we drove up and then hiked to see the glacier above Ushuaia.

Finally we drove north east out of town. The mountains and valleys around Ushuaia are just gorgeous.

Buenos Aires to Ushuaia

This morning we took a three and a half hour flight south from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia at the southern tip of South America. We are now at fifty five degrees south.

After checking into our hotel we walked around a bit and explored.

We had a great dinner at a restaurant called Maria Lola on top of a hill overlooking the town.

Here is a link to the video I made for today.

Buenos Aires Day 2

Today is Mother’s Day in Argentina. I guess Mother’s Day has to be in Spring wherever you are. The occasion made it hard to get a taxi and all the restaurants seemed full.

Yesterday we bought tickets for a 1:45 tour of Teatro de Colon today.

The tour was fabulous. The opera house is considered to have the best acoustics for opera of any opera house in the world and it is exquisitely beautiful.

One of the interesting things we learned is that there is a small balcony above the chandelier for a choir of fifteen who can provide a heavenly chorus.

Tomorrow we fly to Patagonia.

Buenos Aires

Today we took the Subte (subway) into central Buenos Aires.

We saw the Casa Rosada, the office and house of the President of Argentina.

We stopped for coffee.

We checked out the exhibits in the former central post office which is now an art museum.

Meals here in Argentina have been super cheap. Tonight we ate at a restaurant called Voro Cranes. Our steaks with two sides and a bottle of wine cost $47. The beef has been the most tender and tasty that I have had in a long time.

Here is a link to the video I made today.