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Our three-and-a-half-hour flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas went smoothly and the kids were given a huge treat when we exited the plane. As we were disembarking they saw the cockpit and the number of buttons and switches there were. The pilots invited us into the cockpit and showed the kids the ‘Christmas Tree’, referring to the amount of flashing lights they have. The kids got to push some buttons and levers and were very excited by it all. In return, our son showed the pilots his very wobbly tooth but declined their assistance in pulling it out!
We were excited to be in Patagonia and after collecting our baggage we hopped into a shared van to our accommodation in Punta Arenas, the lovely Ovejero Hostal. The hostel was named after the famous Monumento al Ovejero, a gaucho statue not too far away. For the first time, we were presented with a purely Spanish speaking owner at check in. We had only picked up a few words so we muddled through. To his credit the owner was very patient and very expressive which helped! Once we had unpacked we took a short stroll to the Monumento al Ovejero where the kids took turns in sitting on the horse statue, or posing with the sheep. It was a short walk from there to Mr Snack, a strange mix of shop and restaurant, where we bought some food for lunch and some snacks to have for dinner back in our room.
Dad was happy that we had a TV in the room so he could watch the Superbowl, however with everyone else asleep and the Atlanta Falcons so far ahead towards the end of the 3rd quarter he decided to turn it off and get some sleep. When he woke in the morning to find out the New England Patriots had staged the greatest comeback in Superbowl history just after he switched the TV off he was a little bit gutted to have missed it.
Taking a short walk into the centre of Punta Arenas the next day we looked around town. It wasn’t as impressive as we had hoped it would be though the central plaza was nice enough. Top priority was booking our onward bus ticket to Puerto Natales and once we had sorted that out we found a very nice restaurant, La Luna, in town and all had a nice meal there before returning to the hostel in the afternoon and relaxing.
The next day we went to see the owner of the hostel to organise a tour to Isla Magdalena with thousands of penguins on it. Unfortunately, they did not run the ferry to the island on a Tuesday but the owner said he would organise this for us the next day. Not too far from the hostel is the Cementario Municipal Sara Brown, a very large ornate cemetery and said to be the most ornate in the whole of South America. It seemed a bit odd to be taking a walk around a cemetery as a tourist attraction, but we were respectful and the crypts certainly lived up to their billing the most ornate in South America. For lunch, we headed to Mr Snack and bought some cooked food to take back and eat in the hostel before relaxing again in the afternoon.
The following day was penguin day! The owner confirmed the time we should get a taxi to the ferry port later that afternoon and we thanked him for organising. It was our last day in Punta Arenas so we headed into town again in the morning before treating ourselves to a nice lunch at La Luna once more. We got ourselves ready in the afternoon and lucked out with a taxi to the ferry port as one had just dropped some new guests off at the hostel as we exited the door! When we arrived at the ferry port there were lots of people already there waiting to board the ferry. We had to pick up our tickets and were met with a huge queue when we entered the building. Fortunately, the queue wasn’t for the Isla Magdalena ferry and we were escorted to the front of the queue to pick up the tickets that the owner of the hostel had organised for us.
Once we had the tickets we boarded the ferry for the two-hour cruise to the island. Once the ferry arrived at the island and we were let out onto the island we were greeted by so many penguins! The kids were in their element and took plenty of pictures of funny penguins with their tablets. We had an hour on the island to see the penguins by following a roped path around the island. There were thousands of penguins and despite the number of them we never got bored of seeing them. The kids loved the sounds they made and tried to emulate them! The hour soon passed and we were back on the ferry for the two-hour return journey. Back at the ferry port we waited for a taxi but didn’t have much luck. We decided to start walking back to the hostel along the main road and hail one down. This tactic worked perfectly and we were soon on our way back to the hostel (via one more stop at the Monumento al Ovejero for the kids to sit on the horse!)
The penguins were a great way to finish off our time in Punta Arenas and the evening was spent packing our bags ready for the following day’s coach ride to Puerto Natales for a visit to Torres Del Paine…