Tierra del Fuego and Penguins

Life aboard the Infinity was very pleasant. We enjoyed our days at sea (albeit choppy days) by attending “Celebrity Life” lectures on both the political and diplomatic climates of the countries we visited, and a naturalist who talked about the wildlife around us.

At our port stop in Puerto Madryn, settled by the Welsh in the late 19th century, we passed on the opportunity to go and see sea wolves (southern hemisphere lingo for sea lions), and I don’t seem to have taken any photos of the town either. But, we continued southwards toward our destination of Cape Horn. The wind was really whipping and the seas were 16-18 feet (although one would never have known).

By the time we were nearing the cape, we were barely able to walk outside on the deck, and as we approached it, the Captain announced that due to severely strong winds coming from the SW, we would be unable to go around Cape Horn, but would approach it and turn 360 degrees and go through the Beagle Channel. We were disappointed initially, but realized that he was only doing what he should have and taking good precautions …. and, maybe we would have wanted to be on the other side of that rock!!!

The next morning we arrived in Ushuaia to very threatening looking weather, however, everyone who had been here before said that the weather changes continuously and quickly.

Ushuaia is a lovely little town, and to call it remote is an absolute understatement. The only way to get there is by sea or air. We were there in mid-summer, and I can only say that I wouldn’t want to be there in the winter! When we disembarked, we were battling a 70mph wind as we tried to walk along the dock to town! it was wild! Its remote location was the reason for building a prison there in the late 19th century; it remained operational for hardened criminals until 1947. The artwork in some of the cells was terrific.

Due to the continued high winds, our departure from Ushuaia was delayed a little, but once underway we continued through the Beagle Channel and then turn into the Avenue of Glaciers.  The glaciers we saw were definitely as impressive as those we saw in Alaska – which was unexpected.  The channel itself was very narrow, which made the mountains and then the glaciers appear even closer than they probably were.

Italia glacier

We were very jaded in our attitude toward sea wolves, and wondered whether we actually needed to see penguins in the wild. However, after sailing the Magellan Strait we arrived at Punta Arenas, Chile, and decided it was “now or never” to see these birds, which are only found in the southern hemisphere.

Main square in Punta Arenas

We read that there was a colony about 40 miles from Punta Arenas, and after negotiating a deal with a local taxi driver, we set off for Otway Sound. The first 15 miles were pleasant, taking us out of town and into the countryside, where we saw a couple of rheas (ostrich like birds) , after that we turned onto a dirt, washboard road for the remaining 25 odd miles! Oh fun! and I was beginning to wonder whether it was such a good idea. Well ….. we were both SO GLAD we went. What adorable creatures these little Magellanic penguins are. January is at the tail end of the season where it’s possible to see mothers with their young, but we were fortunate enough to see several little families on the doorstep of the burrows. The young were probably the equivalent of adolescents as evidenced by their size – almost as big as their mothers, and the down on their backs changing to the adult feathers.

What fun those little guys were! it makes me smile just thinking about them and the way they waddled down to the beach!

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