In the first few words to my new Australian mates for this trip, I thought I’d point out how lucky they were to be travelling with a Kiwi – a little like winning the lottery. By Day Two when, thanks to LATAM Airlines, my luggage didn’t arrive in Punta Arenas, they definitely thought they’d had won the lottery, and this Kiwi would become the butt of quite a few light-hearted jokes for the next 12 days. I now have a new appreciation for anyone who has ever lost their luggage while travelling – especially those going to very cold climates on an Expedition Cruise.
I headed down the street to buy some new outdoor weather gear; gloves, woollen hat, base layer, pants, fleece top, and of course the bright yellow jacket which is now steeped in Patagonia Travel History. “Why would anyone buy a jacket that colour?” was a question I answered quite a lot. All with the same answer about LATAM’s luggage debacle.
On a brighter note I want to tell you all about this fantastic part of the world and how lucky I have been to be able to explore it and call it work.
Day One’s arrival into Santiago was rather hot compared to where we were heading for the next morning. A quick tour of this magnificent city included a trip to Bella Vista for a coffee to wake us up about 5.30pm before a Gondola trip to see the Virgin Mary statue, then whisked back to our hotel, dinner, and a midnight finish.
Boarding the ship on that first night was pretty awesome and to wake up the next morning in Ainsworth Bay, looking up to the Marinelli Glacier, was stunning. A good walk and history lesson was followed by the very first Whiskey Hot Chocolate. A Zodiac excursion and a visit to Tucker Islands to view the Magellan Penguins completed a fantastic day.
Scenic cruising through Glacier Alley was an amazing experience – glaciers on both sides of the ship, some named after countries. There was Italy Glacier, French Glacier, Holland Glacier, but unfortunately no Kiwi Glacier.
Another highlight was an excursion to Wulaia Bay an Island in Murray Channel. An archaeological site Known as the Wulaia Bay Dome Middens, with seasonal settlements there of the Yaghan peoples about 10,000 years ago.
All too soon it was time to say a fond farewell to Stella Australis, a fantastic host and home she had been for the four nights onboard.
The southernmost city of the world provided a great photo opportunity, before catchingour flight to El Calafate Argentina, on the shore of Lake Argentino – think the beauty of Queenstown without the people and infrastructure – this is a real cool wee town. A guided Estancia (farm) tour to see some Guanaco (wild llama) was next, followed by a stop at a high country hut for a lamb stew dinner.
A trip to Glacier National Park to visit Perito Moreno Glacier – one of only 3 Glaciers in the world that is still growing – was a real privilege. Amazing to see it up close. What a stunning sight it was too.
Following a long bus ride to Puerto Natales Remota Lodge, I was reunited with my luggage; a little like opening Xmas presents! I had no idea what I had packed. After one night here we moved along the road a few hundred metres to “The Singular” A 5-star lodge built in an old abattoir. My first thought was: why build a hotel in something with such a bad history, but it has been exceptionally done. A beautiful hotel.
A day trip into Torres Del Paine National Park and a chance to see the Three Towers was not to be missed, although the Weather God’s didn’t play their game so we only saw two of the three towers, some stunning lakes and scenery that is beyond magic.
An opportunity for a horse ride with a gaucho (farm worker) was a real highlight of the trip, however me being at best very nervous, the horse sensed this and so for the first 20 mins it was a battle of wills between us, eventually settling. By the end we were friends, and I have I have to say I really loved the experience and it was a real highlight.
Coming home, I realised just what a magical part of the world this is, and mostly undiscovered by travellers. It is breathtakingly beautiful, the people are friendly, the animals are friendly and I just couldn’t help but wonder how long it will be before I get an opportunity to explore more of this magical place in the world… Not too long I hope..