Now back in the US for just over one week. Chile was a successful trip from many perspectives. Nothing quite like being there first hand to get a true sense of the place. It had after all been 28 years since I was last in Chile. Times were obviously very different then ranging from unstable politics to a country trying to establish and define itself after years of dictatorship under Pinochet. Santiago was tense last round and so I left earlier than planned and headed south to Punta Arenas and from there to Puerto Williams. I recall Punta Arenas being small, quaint, windy and cold in spite of arriving at the height of summer. Agin this time we arrived at the height of summer and it was as remembered, cold and windy.
The town had changed dramatically I suppose a classic case of being loved or over loved by some well meaning fad adventure magazine touting it as one of the last best places. My impression this round was a quaint southern city bursting with activity and one that had tripled in size since I was last there. This time found us in a town of backpackers from all over the world dripping in neon and pastels, North Face, Fjall Raven and Patagonia were everywhere. Seems young travelers have to visit Tierra del Fuego so they come to Punta Arenas and with passport stamped they go back north as there isn't that much to do in and around Punta. I recall us speaking with several backpackers who were disappointed by the bus tour to the penguin colony, buses parked here and the penguins way over there, yes the small black dots. Not sure how true this is but it is what we heard.
Punta Arenas maintains its old world frontier town charm buffed up by scores of new boutique restaurants and a big glass hotel on the water front. Occasional cruise ships stop here on their way to Antarctica for the trip of a life time that costs the nest egg. These cruises were being contemplated when I was last in Pt Williams. A Norwegian cruise liner stopped in Puerto Williams and I was asked aboard to make a presentation on my voyage to the guests. This ship was one of the first to experiment with the Antarctic route.
Visiting Punta Arenas also helped me envision where I will stage my boat and provision. John and i walked the waterfront in Punta a town notorious for its lack of protection from the Strait of Magellan wind machine. There is not a harbor, just a jetty. So I found a great place tucked in next to the Antarctic cargo holding area and dock. To my right I will be able to look out from my on board test at the famous Cape Horn clipper ship wrecks. Provisioning will be easy as all stores are within a short walk.