The next part of our Bucket List journey started at the San Antonio Cruise port in Chile. The Emerald Princess was our home for the next two weeks as we circumvented the ‘end of the world’ and set out to visit places you have only read in history books. The Beagle Channel, The Magellan Straits, Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands, a chance to see the places we have only read or dreamed about were soon to become a reality.
Puerto Montt, Chile
Our first stop was Puerto Montt, part of Patagonia, a stunningly beautiful place. Our trip out from the cruise port to the Orsano Volcano which is still active but dormant at the moment, it is often called the Fujiyama of South America. Passing the beautiful Lake Esmeralda on our way to the waterfalls at Petrohue, not the biggest waterfalls I have ever seen but rugged and wild. The walk way to the falls is disabled friendly and has stopping areas for easy walking. Get there early as it is a very popular spot.
For outdoor adventure, a visit to a ranch which boasts Chilean horses and Los Huasos who are similar to America’s cowboy or Argentina’s gaucho. You can go rafting in the Petrohue River and walk through the Lahuen Nadi Forest, amazing experiences, if you book trips from the cruise ship they are quite expensive.
We visited Puerto Varas which means the City of the Roses and is a former German settlement. It is a small, busy town – especially when the cruise ships are in – and has lots of shops and restaurants and of course lots of roses. German people have been settling in Punto Monte since 1854. Chile really is a beautiful country to explore.
Punta Arenas, Chile
Many visitors to Punta Arenas visit the penguin reserve on Magdalena Island, where you can walk amongst the penguins and get up close to see them in their environment. The walkways around the colony are in parts roped off but this is a very up-close experience to look at these ‘painted’ birds with a wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head.
Visitors to Punta Arenas also can fly to the South Pole for a chance to see the Antarctic wilderness. It costs over £3,000 to fly to the Antarctic with no guarantee that you will be able to fly on the allotted day!! Two people on our group did go and said it was amazing but very expensive and a once in a life time trip.
We also visited an open air boat museum that has replicas of the HMS Beagle, Darwin’s ship, the Victoria, the James Caird – Shackleton’s life boat which completed the epic 900 mile to save his men – and the Acuna, the first boat to bring Chilean settlers to Punta Arenas.
The city centre is a busy interesting area with museums, restaurants and bars. You will find Magellan’s Bar in the hotel that is adjacent to the Sara Braun Museum, an interesting place with lots of pictures of Magellan and his men. Sara Braun was one of the most powerful women in the 19th century Patagonia. From there go to the Plaza Munoz Gamero to see the monument to Ferdinand Magellan.
Beagle Channel and Magellan Straits
Soaring mountains and an historic lighthouse guided us through these iconic channels. As we followed Darwin’s lead we ventured through the waters that were named as a tribute to the MS Beagle that carried Charles Darwin around the southern tip of South America, part of a five year voyage.
The Magellan Straits were amazing, we stood on a very cold deck mesmerised by the wonder of the jagged peaks and glaciers and watching the giant petrels and albatrosses sweeping down into the channel for food.
Our next port of call was Ushuaia, ‘the end of the world’. Yes, it is the southernmost city in the world and I have the certificate to prove it! As you get off the cruise ship there is a reception area where you can get your certificate for free.
We travelled to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park by coach. You can, however get a transfer to the train station and visit the park by a vintage train. We visited the train station which is a tasteful reconstruction of the old railway station that was built by the prisoners. Ushuaia was a penal colony long before it was a tourist destination. he cost of the train ride is $40 for a 45 minute ride but we chose to visit the park by mini coach which cost $40 for a four hour visit.
The coach took us to Roca Lake which had stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains. The lake is used for kayaking and boating and the most popular is the walking. Many people come and camp here to experience the wild beauty of this area. We walked along the Lapataio River looking at the blue, snow melt water. Our journey continued to the ‘end of the world’ view point which seemed bizarre as we were surrounded by people all taking photographs of land jutting out into the sea.
Ushuaia centre is a busy place with a Hard Rock Cafe – good WiFi – and lots of gift shops. Been there now and got the t-shirt!!!
Cape Horn, Chile
Well, what can you say about going around Cape Horn, it was fabulous. From our early morning call to when it faded into the distance this was a sight to behold. It is just a rock that looks like a horn! Well, this rock signifies the ‘end of the world’ to me and the adventures and stories I have read about all came tumbling back into my mind. It was like a ‘mill pond’ when we went around this iconic site – another bucket list sight ticked.
Port Stanley, Falkland Islands
The Argentina and British Conflict in 1982 was something people of my age will never forget and I wanted to go to Stanley to see what we had been fighting for. Well, it was important because of the strategic position in the south Atlantic but this isolated land far away from Great Britain has been on my Bucket List for many years.
We were very lucky to get to Port Stanley as many cruise ships often have to abandon the visit as the rough sea and bad weather can prevent the passengers from leaving the ships. The life boat tenders are used to transport us from the ship and a friendly welcome awaited us as we stepped onto British soil.
Established by the British in 1845, Port Stanley as it was found to be a deep-water port which specialised in repairing boats and a resting place before boats would travel through the Straights of Magellan on their way to California’s Gold Rush.
The area is a wildlife paradise of penguins (majestic Kings, Rockhoppers, Gentoo Magellan and even the elusive Macarkoni). There are literally thousands of penguins around the island! Many people go for the trips to see the Gentoo Penguin Colony at Sparrow Cove Reserve, but we went for the minibus (to the left of the jetty) where the locals help the tour company take you to Gypsy Cove to see the area of the penguins for £15, yes, pounds, it is all very British. Our coach driver was a lawyer by profession but on ‘cruise ship days’ he becomes a bus driver for a local company. This is the strong community spirit that we found on the island, they all pull together for the good of the island.
The Victory Bar and the Globe pub are the main attractions in the town and fish and chips plus a pint is very popular. Stanley has one main street with a church, a school and a post office. Many people make their way to the war memorial and to see the bust of Margaret Thatcher. A tour of the Battle Grounds is also a very popular.
Stanley was an experience I will not forget and I am so pleased we had the opportunity to visit a little piece of Great Britain in the South Atlantic.
Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay, a large sprawling metropolis and a red Bus Hop on Hop off Bus is recommended at the $24 per person. See the business areas, the parks and the wonderful beach areas that the glamorous Montevideo crème de la crème regard as their playground.
However, if you would just like to take a stroll away from the cruise ship then the lively, 130 year old Port Market is a hive of activity from shops selling locally created artisan crafts and souvenirs. Eat, drink and be merry by tasting the locally produced wines and tasting the fresh local cuts of meat a traditional cut such as ‘asado’ beef with ‘chorizos’ sausage cooked in special ovens.
You can visit Plaza Independencia in the Old Town and newer downtown of Montevideo with historic buildings up market shops and cafes. The area has stunning architecture, but as we were only there for the day it is difficult to see everything you would like to see but that is what cruising does it gives you a ‘snap-shot’ of lots of places.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn is a busy, thriving city with lots of shops and restaurants. There is an artisan market in the centre of the town which is small, but sells momentos of your visit.
We visited the Punta Loma Reserve to see the Sea Lion Colony, and it was the first time I have seen a sea lion with a lion’s main – yes, I knew they had them but I had never seen one so this again was a new experience. We got to the Reserve by sharing a taxi with another couple and the cost was $12.50 each.
You can also go to see the penguins at the Punta Tombo National Reserve where the Magellanic penguin colony migrates – I was getting a little ‘penguined out’ by this time – if you see what I mean!
Welsh settlers came to Puerto Madryn in 1865 looking for a ‘new world’ and away from religious persecution in Britain. In those days it would have been bleak and barren not like the land they had left, but settle they did and today this thriving town celebrates the Welsh people by erecting a statue in the port area of a woman with her back to the sea. She is saying “no I won’t go home, I am settling here.”
There are still traces of the Welsh legacy in the quaint hamlet of Gaiman and the charming town of Trelew, reminders of the Welsh immigrants who left their mark on this picturesque town’.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires means ‘good air’ or ‘fair winds’, well not anymore, it is crowded and has lots of traffic pollution with a population of 12,800,000 in the greater urban area. This Capital city is sprawling and busy and the home of the Tango and Evita.
We chose the Hope on Hop Off Bus as this is a large, busy city. The bus costs $40 and sets off from outside the cruise port, which I can only describe as manic and chaotic. People getting off the cruise ships and more people waiting to get on other cruise ships. Our trip took us to the new modern parts of Buenos Aires, past The Colon Theatre which is acknowledged as the third best opera house in the world. We stopped at the final resting place of Juan and Evita Peron at La Recoleta Cemetery, this celebrated couple certainly brought the eyes of the world on to Buenos Aires.
We visited La Boca, one of the oldest and most authentic neighbourhoods and the birthplace of the spirited tango. Its multi-coloured houses and vibrant art scene is too good to miss. The Plaza de Mayo is an area that celebrates the 1810 Revolution leading to Argentinian independence.
Not seeing a Tango show in Argentina is like not having ice cream at the sea side!!! But the Tango Evening organised from the cruise ship was something else. A coach took us to a central theatre for a dinner and drinks evening with a Tango Show. The meal was fine and the wine drinkable but the show was fabulous. I can really recommend this shore excursion from the ship and it was value for money.
The next part of this fabulous journey was another land adventure, a trip to the Iguasu Falls and then down to Rio. My bucket (list) was running over by this time on ward and upwards, literally as we set out for our flight to Iguasu.