Leaving Ushuaia we boarded a bus for an eleven-hour ride to Punta Arenas. It was a beautiful trip through the forest, along the ocean past lakes and rivers.
Although the distance of this route was a bit longer it allowed us to have a very short ferry voyage. We would also be experiencing a border crossing from Argentina into Chile.
Our first border crossing by bus was a very interesting experience. We stopped in Argentina and everyone got off the bus and entered the customs area to be stamped out. Keep in mind this was in the middle of nowhere with some of the strongest winds we had seen so far. It was like being sandblasted! Back on the bus about 30 minutes down the road we stopped again and exited the bus to get stamped into Chile. More wind and sand. Then everyone goes back to the bus, gets their bags and takes them to be inspected. They have very strict regulations about bringing items into Chile. Again, back onto the bus everyone goes.
About 3/4 of the way through our journey we reached the ferry crossing. We stopped, we waited wondering what was going on and then the bus conductor announced, “the winds are too strong and the ferry is not running. We will need to wait. It could be one hour or maybe overnight.” We thought he was joking but looking out the window we saw the streets were lined with buses, semi-trucks, cars and motorcycles.
There was one shop and everybody gathered to purchase food and drinks which were selling out quickly. Luckily, we had plenty of food and snacks to hold us over. We chose to get off the bus to stretch our legs and visit with other travelers. One older couple we met from Australia was heading to France to spend Christmas with their daughter and family. They thought why not stop in South America for 3 months on the way since it was such a long journey. We have found that Australians of all ages love to travel. We exchanged travel stories and tips.
We also met a group of young people traveling together. They all started off solo and met at a hostel. One was from Australia, one from France, one from New York and two from Holland. We enjoyed our time visiting but we were ready to get to our next destination. We ended up waiting another 5 or 6 hours before the ferry showed up. We finally arrived in Punta Arenas at 1:00 am., walked to our hostel in the rain, checked in and fell fast asleep.
We have been staying in Airbnb’s for most of our trip but this time they were expensive and limited so we decided to try out a hostel. One of the things we enjoy most is the opportunity to visit with other guests. Our hostel served breakfast and had a shared kitchen which allowed us to meet other travelers like an Argentinian family that was there buying a computer for their daughter as well as perfume and other items. They were very friendly and we had a nice conversation using our “muy poquito Español” and Google translate. We also met an English-speaking German couple who had plans to hike the “W”.
Punta Arenas, Chile is typically just a stopover city before heading south to Antarctica or north to Torres del Paine. There does not seem to be any “must see” sights except for maybe going out to see the penguins and its tax-free zone “zona franca”. This is an area where many come to shop for outdoor gear and other duty free items especially Argentinians due to their import restrictions and very high duty taxes.
Our first morning we headed to the tourist information center which is one of the things we try to do when arriving at our next destination. They provided us with some suggestions and explained how to get to the shopping zone. We took a bus out to the “zona franca”. We were well prepared with what we brought however we didn’t expect it to be this cold so we planned to buy a hat and gloves to keep us warm during our time in Patagonia. I guess at the bottom of the world we should have expected the cold even in their late spring. We were successful in finding hats and gloves as well as an inexpensive fleece for Kimberli.
With our shopping, out of the way we decided to take in some of the city’s sights. We walked to Mirador Cerro de la Cruz for a view over the city. It was REALLY windy but you could see all the way to the ocean.
We walked through the Plaza De Armas (every city seems to have one) and followed the footsteps to the Mercado Municipal. It had a small handicraft section but it was mostly a fish market with a few restaurants. We bought some salmon ceviche and took it to the beach for a picnic lunch.
We headed home along Av. Costanera del Estrecho de Magallanes “coastal walk” taking in some more sights.
Our last night also coincided with the US Presidential elections. Due to the time difference, we could not stay awake for the results. Let’s just say, we woke to quite a surprise and a very interesting breakfast conversation with the other hostel guests.
Our two days went by quickly. Next stop, Puerto Natales where we will prepare to hike the “W” in Torres del Paine.