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Punta Arenas lies atop rolling hills, looking out over the Strait of Magellan. In the days before the Panama Canal, this was a major port as ships navigated the waters of Cape Horn. The city is also the gateway to Chilean Patagonia, a maze of fjords, rivers, steppes, and mountains to the north. To the south lies the great frozen mass of Antarctica.
City Drive & Museum
Day 6 is the only day during the cruise that we booked two excursions. Normally we do tours independently, but we chose to book with Princess Cruises for safety and ease. Especially for the penguin tours, we didn't want to run the risk of not being able to find a tour that would fit our schedule. Booking with the cruise line gives you comfort, especially if tours are running late.
Our afternoon tour turned out to be the prime example of when things could go wrong. The morning tour to Magdelena Island Penguin Reserve was scheduled to end at the pier by 1:45 PM and our City Tour was scheduled to start at 2:45 PM. The return ferry ride from the island took about 2.5 hours (thirty minutes more at least) and then we had to wait for everyone to get onto the buses before heading back to the pier. Just as we entered the gate to the pier, we saw a bus leaving, and you guessed it, that was our City Tour.
We took a quick look around the terminal to see if there were other passengers or anyone from the cruise line to assist us. Instead, we found a gentleman with a clipboard, who appeared to be in charge of the tours. We explained our situation and he called over another gentleman. Between the two of them, they contacted the tour company, got a hold of the bus driver to find out their current location, and one of the men drove us in his pickup truck to join the tour already in progress.
Muchas Gracias!! They turned a disaster in a success.
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This open air museum was the point we joined the tour. It was the first stop, so we didn't miss much. There are several buildings filled with artifacts from pioneering days. Outside the buildings are wagons, tractors, and other pieces of machinery common in those days. We had 30 minutes to explore on our own after our guide explained what to look for in each building. It was raining lightly when we arrived.
Our second stop was at this indoor museum which is a testimony to the life of the indigenous inhabitants and the ecosystem in the far south.
Among its many exhibits are weapons used by the extinct Fuegian Indians and a full-size replica of the Cave of Hands. There are four levels to the museum. Our guide explained the exhibits on the second level and we then had free time to explore the rest of the exhibits before returning to the bus.
Our next stop was at the walled City Cemetery. The City Cemetery was opened by the Governor Señoret in 1894 and is fronted by a giant stone portico donated by Sara Braun in 1919. Inside this necropolis lies a veritable miniature city, with avenues that connect the magnificent tombs of the region's founding families, immigrant colonies, and civic workers, and a rather solemn tomb where lie the remains of the last Selk'nam Indians of Tierra del Fuego.
It's a melancholic place, with lovely sculpted European cypress trees adding a gentle tone. Here our guide showed us some of the most important and magnificent mausoleums along the avenues lined with huge cypress trees.
On the way back to pier, we made a brief photo stop at the tallest point of the city, Mirador Cerro de la Cruz, for breathtaking views of Punta Arenas and the Strait of Magellan.
There were a couple of street vendors there as well, so we did some "power shopping" during our brief stop.
Plaza Munoz Gamero
Punta Arenas' central plaza was our final stop before returning to the ship. Here we had 15 minutes to explore the monuments and shops that lined the plaza. The Hernando de Magellanes Monument can be seen here.
We enjoyed the city tour very much. It might have been possible to do this on our own, but when dealing with a tender port, it is reassuring to have the tour provider responsible for getting us back in time for the final tender boat.
La Cruz Hill
Plaza Munoz Gamero
Note: we will be adding to these albums as we continue our journey.
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