(December 30-31 – written by “11K Dave”)
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for (ok, I get it, no one is really waiting for this moment, but humour me). Who won the coveted LWOP mega mileage annual award for 2018? A drum roll please….
The winner is none other than Mega-Mile Nancy!
Yes, my minor stomach illness in Peru put me exactly 60 miles behind Nancy. A gap that no matter how hard I tried, or how much I cheated, I could not close. Nancy ends the year with exactly 11,098 miles – me, I settle for second place with 11,039 miles. At least I get to change my nick name from“10K Dave” to “11K Dave” – commemorative merchandise will soon be available on our website.
When I told Nancy of her amazing achievement, she replied “oh really, ok.” Yup, she was excited and barely able contain the overwhelming joy. I’m not that upset about coming in second (out of the two contestants) as it was a good year for both of us. Yes Nancy won but most importantly, we remained healthy and safe for all those miles – we are lucky to do what we do, safely. Winning isn’t everything (yeah right Dave…)
We’ve been enjoying our little mini-break here in Punta Arenas. We are about 53 degrees south of the equator so it is not surprisingly a little cool, even though it’s summer. 53 degrees north is well above Vancouver Island, so I guess summer cold weather makes some sense. Punta Arenas also sits on the edge of the Straits of Magellan meaning wind and rain. The high forecasted for January 1st, when we leave here, is 51F (a little below 11C) and some tailwinds. We hope that at least the later is accurate.
While Magellan and the boys went through here in the 1500s it took a while for a permanent settlement to take hold. Punta Arenas was originally established by the Chilean government in 1848 as a small penal colony. It would have been better to build the new prison in Santiago but they also wanted to assert sovereignty over the Straits. During the remainder of the 1800s, Punta Arenas grew in size and importance due to the increasing maritime traffic. In addition to shipping, a gold rush and sheep farming boom in the 1880s and early 1900s brought in more fortune seekers. These periods saw waves of European immigrants, many from Croatia and Russia.
Walking through town we couldn’t help but notice a lot of Croatian and Russian sounding names on things. Visiting the town cemetery is listed as one of the “top-10” things to do in Punta Arenas. We paid our respects and here again found lots of names like Hrvatsco, Juric and Bavic. The cemetery was interesting with numerous very large ethnic and family crypts, plus lots of very old and highly sculpted juniper trees. I’m not sure why it was “top-10” other than there isn’t a lot here.
We also visited the town’s mirador (overlook), Mirador Cerro de la Cruz – another top-10 list item. From a hill above town, you can see a good ways out into the Strait on a clear day and most of the foreshore area. We walked up there in light showers so it was more about getting a quick photo and moving onto to “Wake-up”, our favourite coffee shop for lunch and a proper coffee.
(A quick note on the Straits of Magellan. It is correct to says both Straits and Strait of Magellan – just in case you were wondering and/or itching to send in an editorial correction comment)
Our last stop of note was the very small Punta Arenas fish market. We picked up some smoked salmon for our first dinner back on the road plus tried one of the second floor restaurants for a seafood lunch. Nancy had one each shrimp and king crab empanadas – they were really good, not your normal empanada. I had the king crab chupe – a Chilean stew with lots of cheese and fresh herbs. It was delicious, think warm crab dip but more soup like – yum.
We’ve been staying here in a tiny cabana at Cabanas Espana. We have a choice of sitting on the bed or a stool – there is no couch or chairs with backs as they wouldn’t fit. Cooking is on a plug-in induction burner that you have to remove from the “table” when you want to eat. It is really small, but good practice for us if we ever do take up life in a Mercedes Sprinter van. Don’t laugh, Sprinter vans are a popular choice for the tour companies out here and whenever a Sprinter van passes us, Nancy reminds me how fun one of them would be to travel in. These reminders come more often if there are headwinds and/or rains.
As for other travellers we’ve met, for those of you keeping track, here’s a quick update:
- Curtis and Jenny crossed the Straits, we may see them on TDF (Tierra del Fuego).
- Sarah and Andy arrived here on the 29th and will cross the Straits with us on the 1st.
- Tina and Phillip are in Colombia and once again re-thinking their entire route, I can’t keep up.
- Sarah and Joe are back in the UK with normal life (jobs!) starting soon.
- Manja and Martin are still “about” a week behind us. If they hurry, we may take a bus back out onto TDF from Ushuaia to see them one more time.
- Frederic is back in Switzerland but still dreaming of a girl in Australia.
- Pete is back being a doctor, dreaming of bicycle touring and tending to his flowers
- Mark and Chris, well, they are both back to normal life, wishing they could grow travel beards again
And countless others have also carried on with their adventures. That’s the thing with meeting people on the road – everyone keeps moving on. It takes effort to keep the relationships going – but effort that is worth it in the end. Happy New Year to our fellow travellers!
And last but certainly not least, to the readers of our blog. Thanks for being with us this past year. We keep moving, taking photos and writing. You keep reading. It’s a pretty good deal all around. Thanks for sticking with us and Happy New Year.
Tomorrow we leave mainland South America for a 6 to 7 day ride across Tierra del Fuego – the land of fire. We will have limited internet access but will catch everyone up on blogs as and when we can. Our flight out of Ushuaia is on January 11th. Not long now to the finish line – woohoo (sad also…).
Random Punta Arenas photos follow…