Thursday, November 8, 2012

Punta Arenas – Continued.

Tuesday found us back at the port with almost the same news. Yes the wind has abated and yes, the cranes are back to work, workers are moving slowly. We are assured that on Wednesday our transmission will be unloaded and available. So now we have another day to explore the town. We walk Winston on the rocky beach and decide we will explore to the south of town along the shores of the Magellan Straits. This most southern end of Chile’s mainland is some of the bleakest and unforgiving we have ever seen. The landscape is ravaged by the almost constant winds with most of the vegetation consisting of close to the ground thistle and thorn bushes that are designed to withstand all that nature can throw at them. The only animals we see are the hardy Patagonian sheep that dot the small hills and the only homes are poorly maintained lean-tos with brick walls and metal roofs, some with small fishing boats tied alongside the water’s edge. The only splash of color is the sea and even that is a dark almost inky blue. After about 30 minutes with no change in scenery, we turn back towards town. Our next stop is the main square located in the center of town. Plaza Munoz Gamero or also referred to as Plaza de Armas is landscaped with huge araucaria trees (slow-growing native pine trees) and surrounded by opulent mansions which have long since been converted into banks, museums, restaurants, the Club de la Union and government buildings. However the amazing architecture with turrets, gorgeous tiled roofs, glassed-in sunrooms and well kept gardens, remain. These buildings are solid stone structures built to withstand the test of time in this almst-end-of-the-world location. In the center of the plaza is the Monumento a Fernando de Magellanes (Monument to Ferdinand Magellan) built to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of Magellan’s voyage. Standing close you can see the toes of one of the bronze Indians is polished and shiny. Local legend states that everyone who touches the toes will return to Punta Arenas someday, making the statue a favorite with tourists. There are small covered wagons dotted around the grounds with artisans selling all types of local crafts. We could not resist purchasing two alpaca scarves from one of the artisans, paying only a fraction of what they would cost in the States. We also noted a restaurant on the second floor of one of the converted mansions and decided that is where we would have dinner. Winston enjoyed himself in the plaza very much, surrounded by grass and plenty of new smells to absorb. Restaurant La Tasca, located in the mansion “Casa Espana” was very good and again we ate the ever present fresh and readily available seafood. Tom had salmon stuffed with crab and other shellfish and I tried their Crab Chupa which, had I not tasted the one from Puerto Viejo the night before would have been very good. Unfortunately the Puerto Viejo recipe was much better and had more crab, of course we should factor in that theirs was also double the cost. We drank another excellent Chilean wine that the waiter recommended. The walk back to our B&B through the plaza lit by small tree lights and antique looking lamps was simply beautiful with a brilliant starry night and surprising only a little wind. Punta Arenas had never looked better. That is until Wednesday when we finally, after six long months of waiting through the rebuild in the States, the long ocean voyage, a three week strike in Valparaiso, another boat to Punta Arenas, strong winds which prevented cranes from operating and factoring in the slower work pace of the South American lifestyle – we finally (can I say finally one more time), finally got our transmission. I could have wept with relief. Now, Punta Arenas had never looked better. True it did take the better part of the day to wrest it out of the hands of Chilean customs and port authority, but with the steady and competent help of Vivian who works with the Port Agency and with assurances from us that yes, we were taking it out of Chile into Argentina and yes, we had permission from the Argentinean customs that we could import it into the country, it was loaded into our rented vehicle for the last leg, the 12 hour return trip to Rada Tilly. I can only say it again – Finally.

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