The city of Punta Arenas
At this time of year, or perhaps at the others as well, Punta Arenas doesn´t really have much to offer. By mid-April all the penguins have gone and the cold has started to set in. But, it does happen to be the only place where you can catch a boat or a plane to Puerto Williams, the southern-most city in the world. So that´s why I took the 3 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales through some of the most boring scenery that I have seen on my trip, long strechtes of desolate semi-plains, very similar to southern Wyoming actually. Of touristic note there are a few museums in Punta Arenas and many large old mansions from when the early 1900s when the town prospered due to its proximity to the main shipping routes around the tip of South America through the Straits of Magellan.
A tree lined avenue in the cemetary
Then the Panama Canal opened and, well, things haven´t been the same. The city now sprawls out with around 150,000 people and has all sorts of nice stores and good restaurants, but there just isn´t much else to do. The cemetary is very pretty with tall and dense evergreen trees lining the alleyways and main quadrant and some nice smaller mauseleums and the views from the hill behind the city are quite nice, though very windy.
Luckily I didn´t have to spend much time here as I arrived on a Tuesday and the boat to Puerto Williams leaves every Wednesday night. I did have to buy my ticket which was a bit of an ordeal to find the office located near the boat dock, one of three consecutive white houses with a blue roof on it, I opted for a seat rather than a bunk for the 35 hour journey as it was much cheaper, but still more expensive than flying, which would have cost 50,000 pesos.
The ferry to Puerto Williams
When I arrived to see the ferry for the first time, I was rather surprised at how small it seemed and by the fact that there seemed to be almost no inside area to sit in. I quickly found out that this was essentially true (see photo). The inside area where I was to spend almost all of the next 35 hours was something of a cross between and old bus and that of a cheap dive bar, only without any alcohol, not terribly appealing by any means, and sharing it with another 13 people didn´t make it any better. The food was actually surprisingly edible, at least compared to that on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt
to Puerto Natales, especially the one dessert we got. The scenery was very similar with lots of deserted uninhabited islands and not much else.
The "cabin" of the boat where I spent almost all of the 36 hours
On the evening of the second night we passed by a glacier descending from the mountains to the ocean but it was almost too dark to see anything with just the moonlight. The scenery, in fact, would be much better if sailing from Puerto Williams to Punta Arenas as you would see most of the interesting stuff in the daylight. In the middle of the night we stopped at two research stations somewhere in the middle of nowhere and unloaded some supplies and people and picked up a few people as well. Just before dawn we passed Puerto Navarino and Ushuaia and continued on to Puerto Williams, arriving at around 7:15am as the sun was beginning to illuminate the area through the overcast skies. Amidst a lite drizzle and cold temperatures I gladly disembarked and left the ferry behind to wander the streets of the world´s southernmost city.