posted on 27/04/20
In December 2019 Sophie Wright became Sophie Watts and with husband Chris, travelled to Chile on honeymoon for a taste of our Patagonia tour.
Leaving balmy Santiago behind we landed to more familiar temperatures in Punta Arenas. A walk around the town revealed the region’s history as we were introduced to Ferdinand Magellan’s statue in the main square before gazing out across his eponymous Strait, trying to imagine what his journey across the Atlantic would have been like 500 years ago. A drink in the basement bar of the French, neoclassical-style one-time residence of the Latvian born Sara Braun allowed us to contemplate the lives of those, like her, who made their fortunes here through sheep farming and shipping in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at the expense of the indigenous Selk’nam tribe.
We caught a boat to the Island of Santa Magdalena where we walked among 120,000 Magellanic penguins (so called because they were first spotted by Ferdinand himself in 1520) – an activity that participants on the tour will be able to enjoy in Punta Ninfas, Argentina. A truly unforgettable experience, we loved observing the interactions between couples, spotting their fluffy babies peeping out from their burrows and chuckling as they waddled nonchalantly across our path.
The focus of our visit to Patagonia was a 4-day hike in Torres del Paine National Park – absolutely not for the faint hearted as our aching legs would attest, but truly the most stunning place imaginable. The ever-present cuernos (horns) or spiky, granite peaks of the Paine Massif didn’t fail to mesmerise, and condors were often seen circling above us. Paine means blue and it was easy to see why, as we were dazzled by the varying hues of huge lakes, floating icebergs from Grey glacier, rivers, waterfalls and rapids.
We spent the final days of our trip relaxing in Puerto Natales, a quaint town of colourful, corrugated iron houses with views out to the Ultima Esperanza fjord, so called by explorer Juan Ladrilleros who in 1557 declared it his ‘last hope’ of escaping this maze of water, back out into the Strait of Magellan. In the early 1900s Puerto Natales was a port in the midst of the Patagonian sheep farming boom, and the tour hotel, The Singular, was a former meat packing factory. And so fittingly, as we watched our lamb lunch crisp up on the BBQ, with a glass of local Cab Sav in hand, we decided that we would heartily recommend Patagonia to anyone.