Saturday, 18th January : Paddling at Punta Arenas

At 8am on the road again headed for Punta Arenas some three hours drive away. For some reason we were accompanied by an a English speaking guide. Now generally if you have a guide this is for them to show you something or provide information on something along the way. Well we had no sooner left Punta Natales and Carolina pronounced that this is what we would be seeing the entire trip with the exception of farm animals crossing the road. Hmm we thought. Not sure we needed a guide to provide an insight into farming land, run down houses and a couple of cows or sheep crossing the road but ok. Quite possibly it was that we had made a couple of complaints to the agent back home and this was their way of trying to “go the extra mile”. As it was she was able to answer general questions about Chile and provide some insight into her life. She was also able to ask the driver to turn the heat off and then after him doing so by putting on the air conditioner, then asked him to turn that off also. So we’re still no wiser as to why we got her when this hasn’t been the case on the whole South American tour but we’ll accept it for what it is.

Arriving at Punta Arenas the first thing you notice is that it is much bigger; kind of like the Shepparton to Mansfield. This is the town where people go to get their supplies in the same way that mum and dad might back home. It is a port city and borders the ocean. Our hotel window looks out onto the sea and the room is quite large.

With not long now til we fly home and a market just outside our hotel door, we had to take the opportunity to go and have a look around. As you can imagine Philip was thrilled by this prospect but knew that if we could tick off the few last items we wanted then that might be just about the last of it (anyway the suitcases won’t hold much more). We got a couple of things at the Plaza market and then went to the tourist information office to enquire about where else we could go for authentic items. A number of places were suggested and so we headed off around town. At one shop we had a bit of fun and found a few more unique items that of course, we just had to have. Claire even got herself another pair of woollen slippers as the first pair were a little large and she just couldn’t pass up these ones that were apparently even better!

By this stage siesta had kicked in and so the shopping had to end-yep Philip was gutted! Lunch it was then at a funky joint near the water. Steak for me and Spag Bol for Claire and Philip. Yes finally some more Spag Bol… a welcomed break from the lamb and steak!

Now I have to say that today is freezing. We are the furthest point south that we are going to go and the wind is bitterly cold. What do you do on a day like today? Well Elliot tours organised a few days ago for us to go kayaking in the Straits of Magellan. Again isn’t that what everyone does when it’s freezing, windy and nothing like Summer back home? Another one of those crazy thoughts, a bit like whale watching in zero degree temperatures in Norway.

We were picked up by Ricardo in an highly obvious van – kayak pictures along the side and a kayak on top of the van. We guessed that was our transport, one of the easier transfers to pick. We drove about 30 kilometres out of town following the ocean as we went. We then stopped at the Hosteria Agua Fresca where we were given dry suits to put on. These aren’t the easiest things to get into as they have tight elastic and Velcro straps to prevent any water getting in and therefore making you wet. The pants contain attached footwear and then a neoprene or wet suit type of boot goes over the top. Across the road we went to waiting kayaks and a couple more guides who had been doing rescue training. Have to say they looked freezing and the prospect of getting into the water or tipping out of the kayak did not seem appealing. Sorting out who went into each kayak it was decided that it would be Claire and I and Philip would go with one of the guides, Nicole, whilst Ricardo and Christian would be in their own kayaks.
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We did our best to ensure that all guides knew that we had not been in kayaks before; canoes yes but kayaks no. This was important as there appeared to be a significant difference including the “skirt” we were wearing to attach us into the kayak. It also became apparent when Ricardo starting talking about the pedals for the rear person and how these would be used to steer the boat. Ok so feet are steering, arms are paddling and body is trying to balance well enough not to tip the boat. Simple! Complicating this were waves and the fact that there were two people in each boat who had the potential to cause havoc. All of this was a little too much for Claire, who despite the fact that she was in the front and didn’t need to control the steering was growing increasingly anxious that we were going to tip and she would get wet. Of most concern to her was that she didn’t have a change of clothes. Of most concern to me was that I was in the boat with her and every time the thing wobbled a little on the waves she would wobble it even more in her panic.

These concerns were allayed a little when two dolphins jumped out of the water within 50 metres of us. They were playing with some people from the kayak group who had done their training and were now on a “rubber ducky”. It was incredible being at water level and seeing how much fun the dolphins were having chasing the boat around, jumping out of the water and generally playing with the boat. We watched them for about 15 minutes or so, us bobbing on the water and them racing around. We kayaked for our 5km going along the coast and then heading back towards our initial starting point. Claire and I probably enjoyed it more than Philip who was a little worried about hurting his back after his “Man from Snowy River” adventures.
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After kayaking we went back to the Hosteria Agua Fresca, got out of our dry suits and went into the Hosteria for coffee and a snack. Hosterias are like people’s houses that have a dedicated part of their house as a cafe. The poor lady, Alexandra was staggered that we didn’t drink coffee but still was able to provide some homemade cakes for us to eat. It’s interesting the type of cakes and biscuits that we’ve experienced in South America. Let’s just say very different from North America. More shortbread type items rather than the big, rich and calorie laden cakes that the Yanks (and at times us love… mmm Crumbs)

We were given time to eat and then driven back to the hotel. Given the late return which was around 9:30 we decided to have a shower and call it a night as tomorrow we’re up early ready to see the penguins.

By |January 21st, 2014|Chile, Our Trips, South America|