January 18, 2003

Chile flagToday our cruise starts! But not yet, boarding is not until 6 pm. So we didn’t have to get up early. We got up around 9 am, organized our bags, and wandered down to the kitchen for breakfast. This was included in the price of the hostel, so Eduardo served us an omelet and we also had buns and jam, tea and coffee. He also agreed to store our bags for us, as we couldn’t check in for the cruise until 1 pm.

After comparing notes with a couple of Germans who were cycling the continent, we went out to wander the city again, but not before asking Eduardo the right word for “hiking boots” in Spanish. It turned out to be “zapatas” and not “botas”. Armed with this information we found boot grease at a Bata shoe store.

After finding a suitable bank machine we went to the one place we hadn’t been to yet, the Salesian Museum. Several of our guidebooks had recommended it. The animal specimens they had on display were pretty faded and ragged, but there were many other displays of more recent vintage. It was interesting to see the exhibits and luckily for us a lot of the descriptions were translated into English. The museum closed for siesta at 12:30 but we did have time to see all the exhibits. All in all it was worth the visit.

For lunch we went to a pasteleria and bought two cream buns, and to a supermarket for orange juice. We ate lunch in the Plaza de Armas under the statue of Magellan. By then it was 1 o’clock, so we retrieved our bags from the hostel and carried them downhill to the dock. We checked them in with the cruise people and got our boarding cards; now we had to wait until 6 o’clock to board.

So we decided to walk back out to the cemetery. We saw the statue of the “Unknown Indian” that the Spanish-speaking people had erected in a momentary fit of guilt; it is said that if you rub the hand of this statue you would have good luck. It must work, since little plaques thanking it for bringing good luck surround the statue. So we rubbed its hand too.

The whole cemetery is quite interesting to look at as most of the sites are very well maintained. Rules here are very different here; each site is maintained by family members of the deceased, but the whole grounds are maintained by the city. The mausoleums range in size from microwave oven size in the poor section to large buildings with locked fences around them.

By now it was starting to rain, so we headed back towards the city centre. We looked at some random shops, then decided to walk back up to the mirador again. The same little Peruvian-looking street vendor was there again, so we each bought a sweater from her for 7000 pesos each. By this time it was raining harder, so we went to the Internet café and set off a few e-mails. We received one from our travel agent: good news, looks like Lan Chile has agreed to reverse the ticket reissue fees. Having run out of things to do, we went down to the dock where the cruise ship was leaving from.

We still had almost two hours before boarding time, so we looked around the overpriced gift shop for a while and then sat and talked with a couple from Ireland. We weren’t the only ones hanging around there, so about 5:15 somebody came along and said we could board now. So we did.

On board, we were shown our room and made ourselves at home. The ship is really nice and the people we have met so far seem nice too. Outside our window we were watching the Brown-hooded Gulls swoop around when a much larger bird appeared. This turned out to be a Giant Petrel, who certainly lives up to his name as he is about twice the size of the gulls.

There was plenty happening on board. At 6 pm we went and signed up for our table reservations, then at 7 pm we had a welcoming cocktail. Paul had a pisco sour, the national drink of Chile, and Rosemary had a drink consisting of port, crème de cacao, eggs, and cinnamon, which was very good. After the introduction of the officers there was a brief folkloric dancing show, then we had some free time before lifeboat drill.

9 pm rolled around and we departed from Punta Arenas. This was the start of dinner. We had King Crab as an appetizer, followed by a mushroom and champagne cream soup. The main course was beef, rice, and asparagus. With it there was a Chilean wine, Santa Rita Chardonnay Medal Real, which was very good. All of the wines we were served on the cruise were from the Santa Rita winery. Dessert was vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce. Our table companions were a group from San Francisco, mostly lawyers, and an older English couple.

By the time dinner was over it was 10:30. Far too much food, but that would be how it was for the next week. But we weren’t finished yet; in the lounge there was a talk on the ship’s routing for the next few days. Tomorrow we visit the elephant seals.

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