Arriving in Punta Arenas, the “end of the world”
November 11 – 13, 2011
After a long flight with stops in New York and Santiago de Chile I finally arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile, the starting point of the Mount Vinson, Antarctica expedition. Punta Arenas is an expansive city on the edge of the Strait of Magellan. Set at the bottom of the Americas, sunny days are a rare thing here and nature’s inhospitality is omnipresent. Easy connections to Southern Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Paine National Park make this city a good starting point for travelers and trekkers.
Little more than 150 years old, Punta Arenas (Sandy Point) was originally a military garrison and penal settlement conveniently situated for ships headed to California during the gold rush in later years. In its early years, Punta Arenas lived off natural resources such as sealskins, guanaco hides and feathers, as well as coal, gold and timber. Later sheep became a key industry and around the turn of the century nearly two million animals grazed the territory. Today, the city lives from a boom in the petrochemical industry and duty-free shopping and mega-malls on the city’s outskirts are the order of the day.
As usually, I arrived a little bit earlier than the rest of the group and had time to explore this exciting place. This time it was not so much about acclimatization, since the Antarctica is still about a five hour flight away and a totally different environment. It was more about getting mentally ready for the coldest and windiest continent on earth. There is a lot to learn about the Antarctica in this town.
I spent most of the time exploring the city, walking along the Strait of Magellan, visiting bookstores, reading about Antarctica and getting ready to meet the climbing team on November 14. Of course, I also did my daily training (mostly interval at this point) in the streets of Punta Arenas.
The Strait of Magellan: What an amazing feeling to stand here and think of all the ships that have passed this passage.
Punte Arenas: Some of the wool-boom mansions are still there…
Some are used as restaurants…
And others as consulates.
Where are we here? In France???
Plaza Munoz Gamero: The monument of the 400th anniversary of Magellan’s voyage.
Sunset at the Strait of Magellan