On my last night in San Pedro, I went to the town center to use the high speed internet cafe, the only one in the desert! The wait was long, but well worth it to upload my pictures and get my blogging fix. Before I knew it, the full moon was out and night had fallen. I was left with my 25 minute walk in the darkness in a town with no taxis, buses, or other transport other than my own two tired feet. Mind you, it was about 10pm and I hadn´t had dinner, with all the excitement of the internet cafe and post-adventure download.
Hungry, I looked at my options, all delicious but time consuming. Everything was made fresh and from scratch. No fast food in this town! I found the quickest option, which was a small, but quaint diner with sandwiches to go. I ordered my Chilean favorite, the Barro Luco and waited as the owner cooked the meat and melted the cheese on the stove top.
I thanked her, took my sandwich and started my 25 minute walk. The first 10 minutes weren´t so bad, as the streets were well-lit, it was the last 15 minutes I was dreading. As soon as the dark spot started, I wished I had thought ahead and brought the hotel lantern. Even the full moon couldn´t help me, except to show me the pack of stray dogs that had assembled, all smelling my freshly cooked meat sandwich. It seemed as though dogs were coming from everywhere, approaching slowly and eerily. My instincts started to kick in. What if they attacked me? Do I throw the sandwich at them and run?? Hell no!! That would mean turning back and having to brave that walk again! I was disappointed in myself. The night before I had been fearless during that same walk - proud of myself in my own fearlessness! And now, one meat sandwich and 15 dogs later and I could barely hear my own inner voices above the sound of my poor pounding heart.
So what did I do? Absolutely nothing. I kept walking and willed myself to be fearless again. If I was meant to die being mauled by a pack of wild dogs, then at least it happened in a Chilean desert as I was pursuing intrigue and adventure and not back at home in an alley in Providence!! As luck and God would have it, the dogs walked with me, sniffed me with interest, but never lunged at me or my sandwich. Matter of fact, the dogs actually made me feel protected as I walked the last mile. I had a canine shield around me, lest any shady characters lurching in the desert thought they were going to bring me harm. Needless to say, I made it back to the hotel in one piece and thoroughly enjoyed my Barro Luco before going to bed.
The next day, I walked the town, and said my good-byes. In such a short period of time, I made friends and plenty of "I´ll return" type of promises. Those, I intend to keep! I also had a last meal at my favorite restaurant, the "Casa de Piedras", a Chilean typical serving of "Lomo a Lo Pobre", which is deliciously cooked steak with a few eggs on top for good measure. No sooner had I arrived at the Santiago Airport and I was missing the desert already.
HELLO END OF THE WORLD
Arriving in Punta Arenas was a visual feast of so many different shades of blue, with hues of white and cream. It was hard to tell where the sky ended and the blue/gray ocean began. So this is what it looks and feels like to be at the end of the world! To give you some perspective, Punta Arenas is surrounded by the Strait of Magellan and with a plain eyes view of Tierra del Fuego, which is the last city of the world. If you sailed past that, you´d hit Antarctica!
Amelia, a life-time resident of the Patagonia area, came to pick me up for a city tour. She was extremely well dressed, with skinny stiletto boots and an olive green blazer. After having been in the desert for 4 days, I immediately felt under dressed in the well-to-do Magellan city of Punta Arenas. I got over it and enjoyed the new sites and sounds, complete with local history lesson. Amelia shared that Punta Arenas thrived, because of the union between two families hundreds of years ago. José Menendez and Sarah Brown, married and brought over the first sheep to the town all the way from New Zealand. Sheep herding quickly became the foundation for the Punta Arenas economy and a recognizable symbol for the entire Patagonia region. Matter of fact, I later learned that the typical meal of the area is the "Cordero Patagónico", which is made of sheep, and which I ate by accident a few days later!
Amelia drove me to the 3 Puntas port, which is where the ferry to Tierra del Fuego departs from. She also shared that a man drowned in that port the night before. Apparently he got too close to the edge and fell in, she explained as she parked right near the aforementioned edge!
In my tour, I also learned that Punta Arena has strong Yugoslavian roots, as many immigrated to the area during the war. She said they were called "puro ich" people, as their surnames tended to end in ich, like Maslovich, etc. We drove past many interesting sites, but my favorite stop was the local cemetery. Hailed as the "Recoleta" cemetery of the South, it definitely was architecturally stunning and rich with local history and folklore. It was also adorned with the Punta Arenas pines, which by city ordinances all have to be meticulously umbrella-shaped.
The day was beautiful, slightly overcast but calm. The Patagonia region is known for its unforgiving winds. Punta Arenas typically reaches harsh winds of over 100 Kms an hour!! Luckily, I didn´t have to witness that in person. I enjoyed my drive/walk through the end of the world and then boarded my bus to my next Patagonia destination: Puerto Natales. I will detail those adventures, which include beautiful lakes, thousand year old caves, and three days of ICE in my next entry!!