Punta Arenas, puppies, penguins and a false start.
27.07.2014 - 05.08.2014 2 °C
Well there has been a woeful lack of any blog about our actual trip. So It is finally time to put fingers to keys and let you all know how we are getting on. It is hard to know where to begin, but is suppose the beginning is as good a place as any.
27/08/14 - 5/08/14
Km travelled: 300
Firstly we arrived after the dreaded 2 days flying. It turned out we took off and landed 6 times over three days. For those interested it was London to Dubai, (where Andy pulled out maximum husband points by getting me a facial in the spa and 2 hours swim, very nice indeed) Dubai to Rio, Rio to Buenos Aires. We had a good nights sleep there and then back on a plane to Santiago, then onto Puerto Montt and finally to Punta Arenas where our taxi would arrive.
We headed straight to our lovely hostel, to meet Jacko who had already arrived. We were met by the cutest puppy, which gave a little relief to the the Monty dog sized hole already in my heart.( I really need to get a grip. We're away for the next 3 months!)
Woke up feeling fresh and ready to get going on the trip. First order of the day was a meeting with Agunsa our container arrival agents. Once in the office we were ushered to the big conference room and met with Adolfo. Covering the walls of the offices were maps and pictures of Antarctica, how exciting to be working with a company who normally are more concerned getting vital supplies out to teams on the great ice shelf. Adolfo mentioned in passing a Korean team were now without fresh food for the next three months due to the bad weather. This brought into sharp contrast our own particular food woes.
Patagonian is an area of the world that specialises in slabs of meat and bread, and what could be wrong with that? Well cooking a baby does has a strange effect on your digestive system, a general go slow is the normal order of things. Overly friendly pregnancy sites, of which I am not a huge fan, advise lots of fruit and leafy vegetables, to keep things moving. It was clear from a couple of meals these things were in very short supply in Patagonia.
However back to the meeting with Adolfo. He informed us our container (already delayed in getting to Punta Arenas on the journey) was was waiting off shore but there would be problems unloading due to a ship breaking the loading dock during one of the famous storms they have down at the end of the world. Just our luck! However we weren't going to let it get us down. We would just be starting on the 5th rather than the 1st Aug. for Andy and I the time constraints are very different to Jako, terry and Ellie. With only having a month to play with a 5 day delay was a real blow to them. But what could we do?
With the delay we decided to explore our home for the next few days. Punta Arenas is a strange town. It is a busy place, with lots of people living their lives, but for an outsider it is a hard to imagine what they all do. It has a strange collection of architectural styles. You can tell it once a thriving busy port before the Panama Canal was built, however it well past it's heyday. Grand colonial edifices sit up next to what looks like shanty town shacks. Tin roofs on clapboard buildings reminded me of Reykjavik, but a rundown crappy version. It was bitterly cold, having left high summer in the UK, wrapping up in a down jacket, was always going to be a bit of a morale dasher. Well I suppose you should expect it to be a little nippy on the closest place to the Antarctic at the end of their winter.
One very important task was for me to find a camera charger. Some time ago after lengthy discussions as to our financial arrangements or lack there of, Andy and I decided we couldn't afford to buy some second hand camera equipment from a friend in Portugal. After this agreement over the phone I went ahead and brought the camera equipment. Luckily Andy is quite used to me being naughty and fully expected me to come home with the kit. It really is an expensive set up but completely useless without the all important charger, which I had inconveniently left at home. So after seeking local advice we were directed to a out of town shopping area. Although 5km away we decided to walk it. Now there is a funny thing in Chile, there are stray dogs everywhere. They are fed and looked after and cared for by the locals and they are incredibly friendly. We picked up a dog patrol, which grew as we walked. By the time we reached our shop we had 9 dogs following us! For us doggy mad types it was such a lovely surprise to have these furry friends with us.
Jacko decided he had seen all that Punta Arenas had to offer and went off to meet Terry and Ellie who had flown into Ushuaia. This town in Argentina is the furthest southern point you can reach by road on Terra del Fuego and would be our starting point once we got the taxi. Although only 600km away he was told it would take at a 12 hours bus ride to get there.
We stayed on to sort paperwork and organise the "un-stuffing" of our container. We fitted in a bit of the touristy stuff as well making an impressive 10hr round trip to see an amazing flock of King Penguins. Being big fans of the movie, Happy feet, this was a special moment. Although there was no discernible singing or choreographed moves, there was the icing on the penguin cake in the form of a fluffy fat junior in the middle, so cute!
On this trip we met with a lovely Russian lady, Ana. Over a strange dinner of tinned meat and piles of chips, in the Shackleton bar, situated in a beautiful house where Shackleton sought help after his shipwreck, we had a very interesting discussion and heard a new perspective on the unrest caused by Russia at the moment. Suffice to say, many normal Russians are as perplexed by the current political manoeuvres as the West is.
On our return to our hostel we got some devastating news. In a cavalier fashion we were informed in an email from Adolfo ( who we had nicknamed "the legend " after our last meeting) our container was now due to arrive on the 18th August! We have all done it, missed a connection for a flight or train. We never expected it to happen to our little taxi. It turned out the port at San Antonio, just next to Santiago, had missed two feeder vessels heading south and the next one would arrive on the 18th.
A hastily arranged meeting with Adolfo lead us to conclusion nothing could be done except to leave the container in San Antonio and for us to make the journey North in a hire car to meet it there. Hiring a car for 10 days and leaving it in a another rental office, 5000km away, would cost us dear, but we couldn't afford the time to wait. Adolfo was upset for us and helped us organise the hire car. He also said we had to visit his parents and stay in his holiday home in the Chilean Lake District which was on route. Something at least to look forward to.
On the night of the 5th Aug we left Punta Arenas and heading South to pick up the rest if the gang. Although in a Nissan 4x4, not a London taxi, the journey had begun...