Thursday, February 28, 2013

PATAGONIA-- Days 8 & 9 (Los Ultimos Dias)

We had left our last 2 days open, so we could visit Tierra del Fuego--one of the least visited National Parks in the World.  We heard it was a big, barren land--but we still wanted to at least set foot on it.  It would be another 2 hour ferry right across the Strait of Magellan.  We were set to go and then found out the ferries only go over to the island once on Fridays (what is it with Fridays?!!!).  And it wasn't until the evening.  The return ferry the following day wouldn't get us back in time to catch our flight home.  I heard myself singing that song "So close, yet..." again.
 So, this is the closest we got to it.  Behind us is the Strait and behind the Strait is Tierra del Fuego.  If you look hard enough, you can see land!  
"Luke:  you won't remember it, but you were there!!!"

 All in all, it turned out to be ok.  We used our last day and a half to wander around the city of Punta Arenas and explore.  We needed some "easy" downtime anyway.  
 Yep, it's a penguin on his head.  I LOVED it.  Convinced Jake it was cool after a few tries and told him he could get the wallet he wanted AND the hat :)
 love  love  love
 the market
 Our hotel
 After we walked around the city, we spent the rest of our time driving as far south as the road would take us.  Here's what we saw:

Panda Dolphins--see the white belly? 

 Had to get a picture of this.  People leave little memorials of loved ones they have lost all along the sides of the roads.  The plastic bottles were new to us though-- does that show how many people have come to visit?  They stop, drink their juice or Coke and leave the bottle as a token?  That was my hypothesis.  Could be WAY OFF.  

We made it to the "end of the world" and back with 3 kids in one piece.  
Just barely.  
We LOVED what we saw.  It was simply incredible.  

Time to go home.  School starts tomorrow :(  


 Eight hours after we left El Calafate, we pulled into the parking lot at the dock in Punta Arenas and had about 30 minutes before our boat would be leaving for Isla Magdalena--the island of 60,000 pairs of penguins.  

A quick stretch and bathroom break and we were sailing on the Strait of Magellan! It was way too windy and wet to go outside, so I captured that full rainbow from 2 adjacent windows inside the cabin.  
 Fatigue was definitely setting in.  And something--the water or the food-- possibly in Argentina was catching up to us.  I thought if you got used to the water in one region, you'd be fine elsewhere.  
I was wrong.  Kate wasn't at her finest.  

When we arrived at the island, everyone perked up a bit.  How can you not be excited with 60,000 pairs of Magellanic penguins surrounding you?  I thought the smell would be wretched, so I stashed some nose plugs in my backpack.  But one perk of such horrific wind, is a fresh smelling island :)  

 This island, in the middle of the Strait of Magellan, is the one that all of the penguins come to, to reconnect with their mates for the season.  

 These penguins are monogamous.  They waddle around or stand by the nesting hole that they have dug and call out for their one and only.  Incredible to me, with all of the wind and thousands of others calling out, that the pairs ever connect!  But they do! 
 Happy day when you see two penguins waddling around together.  

 The kids were LOVING this.  
Let me rephrase that:  Kate and Jake were loving this.  The wind was so strong, that Luke gave up.  He just wanted to be held and kept his eyes closed the whole time.  Poor little thing.  Should have brought the backpack.

 "Outta my way!"

 True love
 Sick of the tourists???
 Looks like goosebumps to me!  

Well worth the 8 hour drive to make the Thursday tour.  
Apparently the ferries don't like Fridays and Saturday we would be saying goodbye to the South.  We had to make this work.  So glad we did.  We happily boarded the boat again, put a movie on for the kids, and tried to slip in a quick catnap.  


Because we got in soooooo late, we only had one full day to see it all.  We LOVED the little town of El Calafate.  Very cute and quaint.  After a late breakfast, we hopped in the car and drove to the National Park to see the famous Perito Moreno Glacier.  We heard it was worth it.  
We were driving along, rocking out to remakes of some 80'S greatest hits (someone had left the CD in the rental-- no manual, but they cared enough to give us some good tunes), when all of the sudden, we rounded a corner and saw this enormous glacier that looked like it was enveloping the entire lake!
We hopped on the boat so we could take a look at it up close and personal  
(Yes, we are all looking a bit wiped out-- remember that night we had last night???)

And then we went up and walked around above the glacier.  
This was our all time favorite part of the Perito Moreno Glacier excursion.  You had to pay for the boat ride, but the walk was free.  If we had known how great the walkways were, we would have just done those.  Maybe we would have felt differently if we hadn't just done the boat ride in Torres del Paine.  

He might look a little "iffy," but he was the nicest guy.  Wish I could remember his name.  He volunteered to take family picture after picture for us.  He started walking around about the same time we did, and so whenever we stopped for a photo, he'd jump right in and do it for us.  I decided I really like going on vacations here, from the aspect of speaking Spanish.  People look at you (stare in fact, for minutes on end) and they know you are foreigners.  So, if you know any Spanish at all, they think you are amazing.  Whereas, in Santiago, I feel like I'm expected to know it better than I do.  It was a bit of a confidence booster for me :)  

Our all time favorite past time while we were there was to watch and wait and listen.  The Glacier is constantly making these crackling noises.  Suddenly we would hear a big BOOM and we'd look in that direction and see a big chunk of ice break off from the glacier and go crashing into the water below.  It was incredible.  The first boom we heard, I thought there was an explosion close by and wanted to duck and cover!  Wasn't quite prepared for it!!!
one of my favorites
Love Love Love
Isn't that gorgeous?!!  
I guess this is the only glacier down here that isn't's still forming!!

Exhausted but happy

We left the park and headed back to town so we could try to have an "early" dinner 
(8pm, maybe 9ish)

Did I mention that they really like meat in South America?  
Back to the hotel (see the guard dog for the place?) for a really good rest.  

We'd be off again in the morning.