Playing with Penguins in Patagonia & Other South American Adventures
I caught a glimpse of myself unabashedly smiling in the rearview mirror of the car taking me to the airport. Just a few hours before I’d gone through my usual pre-travel jitters. I had thoughts of bailing, irrationally wishing that I could stay in Seattle and idle the days away in the comfort of familiarity, but now that the trip was underway I had a smile big enough to devour the world. The world is big and bright and beautiful and I was off to explore another part of it.
I traveled from Seattle to Santiago via Dallas, but my true destination was even farther south. However, I had an 7 hour layover and a travel companion to pick up in Santiago so I grabbed a cab into the city for lunch, a bottle of wine, and a jaunt up San Cristobal Hill before returning to the airport to hop on another plane to Punta Arenas. After 3 planes and nearly 30 hours of traveling I finally stepped out into the cold crisp air in Punta Arenas, Chile. It felt like I was standing at the Edge of the World.
The first order of business in Patagonia, finding some Penguins. We boarded a boat which took us to Isla de Magdalena, an island populated by 120,000 Magellan Penguins. Our speedboat sped through the Magellan Straight, before docking at the island brimming with Penguins, clearly I was beyond excited. We spent an hour wandering around the wind swept island among the penguins, many of whom were nesting, anxiously awaiting for their eggs to hatch. I contemplated staying on the island forever, perhaps I could become the Jane Goodall of Penguins, but there were other adventures in Patagonia to be had.
We departed the edge of the world in a tiny Chevy Optra Hatchback, with a manual transmission. Our destination, Puerto Natales, which would be our base camp for exploring Torres del Paine over the next few days. Side note, learning to drive a manual car in South America was hilariously fun.
Torres del Paine was breathtakingly beautiful. I constantly found myself stopping and staring mouth agape. One day we hiked the 13 mile trail to the basin at the base of the towers. Another day we sailed up the Esperanza Ford in search of glaciers. In the afternoon we dawned what can best be described as a bright orange all weather snuggie, before boarding a Zodiac to continue up the Serrano river and back into the park in pursuit of more glaciers and breathtaking views.
Torres del Paine was outstandingly beautiful and diverse. The red sandstone towers jutted up inside a ring of granite mountains, green blue glacial alpine lakes were plentiful, and waves rolled through the inky blue waters of the larger lakes. Guanacos, deer/alpaca like animals, roamed the grasslands, along with ostriches and dozens of foreign birds. The whole scene was surreal the photos can not even possibly do it justice.
More photos from the Edge of the World
We spent our last night at the edge of the world eating Guanaco, they are pretty tasty, and having drinks at a sky bar overlooking the water facing south. Cheers from the Edge of the World! I was sad to be leaving, but once again we were off to explore warmer climates.
En route to Buenos Aires, we had another long layover in Santiago, so we headed back into the city, grabbed lunch and checked out the art museum before continuing on.
More photos from Santiago
Buenos Aires reminded me of a combination of New York City and Paris. It’s a large city filled with a variety of neighborhoods. We wandered through the Recoleta stopping at the Cemetery. In the Palermo we did some shopping and hung out at cafes. We strolled through the uber rich apartment complexes and to the water front in Puerto Madera, and rode bikes to La Boca and San Telmo.
We snacked on empanadas and tortas during the day and ate Bife de Chorizo and drank Malbecs from Mendoza for dinner. And of course we went and saw Tango.
We arrived at Montevideo via ferry, it’s just across the Rio de La Plata from Buenos Aires. The first evening was filled with new friends, beer in incredibly large bottles, and dancing till 5am. During the days we wandered along Montevideo’s sun drenched streets and headed down to the coast to stroll along La Rambla. We even managed to catch a soccer game where Club Nacional won 4 to 1!
Every great adventure must come to an end, and so did mine. After nearly two weeks in South America I boarded a plane to head back to the United States for Thanksgiving feeling wonderfully exhausted.
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- Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Penguins, Photography, Punta Arenas, Santiago, South America, Torres Del Paine, Travel
- December 2, 2014