Almost the Whole Pacific Coast - Winter/Spring 2016 travel blog

before sunrise

















land mine warning

The crew got us up before sunrise to suit up for a short zodiac ride to Magdalena Island to a Magellanic penguin sanctuary. These cute creatures share their rock with a picturesque light house. The soil on the island is light enough for them to dig burrows with their feet and flippers and lay two eggs inside. The penguins are great parents and one always stays with the eggs and/or babies to protect them from the marauding skua birds that lurk nearby looking for a quick snack. They take turns fishing and regurgitate the catch into their waiting babies' mouths. While fishing they have to avoid the sea lions. Soon the babies are bigger than the parents. The penguin parents are worn to a frazzle.

At this point in their life cycle, the babies are fully grown and have started north on their own before the winter comes to their barren rock. Today we saw the parents relaxing and rejoicing for another job well done. There was much cheerful braying that sounded more like donkeys than birds. Because the mature birds are in moult now, they cannot go out to fish and were living off the fat they had accumulated now that the kids were gone. It felt like such a happy place. Birds were waddling around, canoodling and taking quick baths at the edge of the sea to get the dirt off their feathers. I could have stayed and watched them for hours. As it was we were the last passengers on the last zodiac.

The ship docked in Punta Arenas, a town of about 70,000 that was very quiet today Good Friday. We had one of the best meals ever there featuring lamb, the main money maker in the area. When the price of wool is high, the sheep are kept alive longer and sheared. If meat prices are high, most are slaughtered before adulthood. As we drove north the land reminded me of the Great Plains with large sheep ranches. Because it is flat and green the sheep get little exercise and their meat stays tender.

We passed a field of land mines, left over from a land dispute with Argentina in the 1980's. They argued about three tiny island, but probably the dispute was a way for the dictators who ruled both countries to distract the people from more serious problems.

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