We embarked on our 22 day South America and Antartica cruise on December 20, two months after we began our South American land journey. Our departure port, Valipariso, was one of the most intriguing and distinctive cities in Chile. Its most striking feature is the array of houses – a mad, colorful tangle of them tumbling down the hills to a narrow shelf of land below. Steep streets greeted us daily as we awaited our cruise to begin. Puerto Montt founded by German immigrants (lots of German architecture) was the only port city where we took an excursion. This is the Lake Region of Chile (lakes extend into Argentina). It is just beautiful, rural and volcanic. Of course, it had the llamas and the Chilean staples of life.
Chiloé Island, our next stop, is home to an amazing collection of 150 Jesuit-carved wooden churches, houses raised up on poles out of the water and was fun to walk around. The churches were carved by Jesuits from locally grown Patagonian cypress, larch and luma trees, the detailing and precision are amazing. The weather in this part of Chile receives rain approximately 300 days a year, so our wandering and camera toting became pretty limited as we moved through Puerto Chacabuco. I can say it was very green, and the rain gear we brought worked quite well.
We returned to Punta Arenas, for the third time and it was wonderful to feel at home in a port. We saw a re-creation of Magellan’s ship Nao Victoria for our port day. Magellan, sailed this ship to became the first person to circumnavigate the world. The city of Punta Arenas found the original plans, had the boat made in Spain using original wood, and then created this museum on the Straits of Magellan. The museum has also begun the finish work on the HMS Beagle (Charles Darwin), it was amazing to move in their exact spacial confines. The other big tourist attraction in Punta Arenas is the local cemetery. Yes, that’s right. The families in South America take great pride in the family mausoleum, and so the grounds are manicured to the point of being a tourist attraction. The day we walked through, people were changing fresh flower bouquets, sweeping or washing the floor, gardening, removing the Xmas decorations from the mausoleum. The attention to detail was amazing.
We spent our first week on the cruise visiting these ports with dryer and cool temperatures. Our next ports and journey will take us to the end of world, the southern tip of South America, icebergs, glaciers and penguins.