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Day 68 – Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

December 17, 2010

Location: Road to Punta Arenas, Chile

Date: Friday, December 17, 2010

Ushuaia has a surprising amount of things to do. There’s a prison museum (complete with a collection of model trains), a boat tour of the fjords, fly fishing, loads of treks, and surprisingly good food (see: Patagonia cordero). That’s not counting skiing, snowboarding, and all snow sports, which aren’t options now because it’s “summer” here. Yet, after a day and a half, after only doing one trek , I’ve opted to skip town.

Why leave with all this unfinished business? Simple. The bus to my next stop, Punta Arenas in Chile leaves infrequently. If I stayed one more day, I’d have to stay three because the next bus doesn’t leave until Monday. That is probably one day too much, especially considering I don’t fly fish, I can do a fjord tour elsewhere, and all I’ll be doing in Chile is trekking (or hiking, to us Americans).

And who doesn’t love to take another bus journey and cross another border? It’s so much fun! Really.

With that I’ll make this quick, short, and painless—in other words, exactly the opposite of a border crossing bus journey.



















Let’s talk quickly about Punta Arenas, my destination for the day. It is, for the traveler, the gateway to the gateway of Torres del Paine. You heard me right. Punta Arenas isn’t the gateway to Patagonia’s most famous trek, the famed Torres del Paine “W.” It’s a port city that’s a waypoint on the way to the place most people really want to be. Sort of like waiting tables for aspiring actors or practicing law for wannabe writers.

My first stint in Chile was fleeting and warm, basically the opposite of my second go around here in Punta Arenas. It’s cold here. Today, for instance, it’s about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) and the locals were reveling in the heat wave.

The town is a weird place, exemplified by tonight’s hostel. It’s basically like staying in a standalone room built in grandma’s backyard. Flowers, yard ornaments, and rusted out woodworking machines (really?) were strewn around the yard. The décor of the room was knitted wall hangings of kittens and bright colored mismatching sheets. The living room of the main house had been turned into a dining area for the obligatory free breakfast, complete with doilies, seat cushions, and tablecloths the colors of sherbet ice cream and highlighter pens.



The owner was a tall, imposing woman who spoke like a woman twice her age (i.e. someone 140 years old). Her answers were sprinkled with tangents about neighborhood safety, the weather, and how the town used to be. Inexplicably, an old, apple-shaped man with a cantaloupe-sized head that came up to my armpit and the voice of a five-year-old girl wandered around the residence; the place basically had a wool cardigan wearing Oompa-Loompa who could recite the schedule for every company that ran buses to Porto Natales. I swear it was like walking into a hallucination from Requiem for a Dream, but instead of heroin I was tripping on Grannie’s LSD—the colors were brighter and I had no fear of someone lopping off my arm.

Weird, odd, and devastatingly charming. A definite surprise. Just the kind you want after a day long bus ride from the end of the world.

GALLERY: No bonus pictures today.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Doug permalink
    January 11, 2011 10:52 pm

    After our trek we got stuck in “puta your anus”. That’s what we called it after three days of waiting for the bus out of town. I’m sure I’d enjoy it more now I my old age.

    • February 4, 2011 8:38 am

      There’s nothing in Punta Arenas other than cold, gray skies, and odd hostel proprietors. I’m not sure how age might change the enjoyment of that other than nowadays I appreciate good, long naps. Plenty of space to do that in Punta Arenas.

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