By the time we got up, our room mate had left for a day out to visit the Towers of Paine, so we breakfasted together with a guided Slovakian group who interrogated us on "why are Leicester top of the Premier League when we don't know any of their players?" I countered by way of a faux pas, saying that when I was last in Slovakia it was part of Yugoslavia! Oops.
The ten o'clock Bus-Sur service, one of seven buses a day on this route (which needed two coaches for this morning's passengers) saw us heading at a steady 50 mph on a well surfaced road on the 250 km or so route to Punta Arenas. Birds of prey floated over the stunted skeletons of what used to be trees, mingled with the two tone sight of trees in full, bright green leaf with pale green lichen clad branches.
The road was pretty flat, passing through a landscape of low trees that eventually gave out to a fairly barren zone with occasional wetlands full of birds - ibis, flamingo, Upland Geese, oystercatchers, and numerous small ducks. In the distance, snow-capped mountains reminded us that we were still in the Andes region. A red-tummied Long-tailed Meadowlark sat proudly on a telegraph wire.
Police checkpoints were carefully negotiated (the bus slowed right down and was waved through) and two fighter jets flew past.
Bright yellow dandelions lined the roadside as far as the fences either side, beyond which rhea, of which we saw many today, and others grazers no doubt nibble the shoots before they have a chance to flower.
Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of the continent, was signposted but that wasn't our destination. Innata Casa hostel (more like a B&B, with just five rooms) is just around the corner from the bus terminus in the centre of Punta Arenas. We were welcomed after our three hour journey by Corina, from near Zurich, and Christian, a Twin Otter pilot. They are standing in for the owner who is away for a few days. And they are making a good job of it.
Admin sorted, tea drunk, lunch ingredients sourced at the Unimarc across the road, then we were all set for a stroll to the waterfront. Concrete tables and benches provide a solid venue for picnics, but crisps may blow away. Rock Cormorants and Imperial Cormorants, the latter with whiter necks, sat on a nearby pier in their hundreds, minding their own business with a smattering of skuas, petrels, fulmar and albatrosses.
Then a stroll into town revealed a central plaza with a statue of Ferdinand Magellan. Apparently if you stroke the toe of the Tehuelche Indian below Magellan, tradition has it that you will return to Punta Arenas. Monterey Cypresses grace the plaza, which seems surrounded by small palaces. It really doesn't feel like the bottom end of the world, more like a regular seaside resort.
We returned to the B&B to discover a message from Sarah Marshall, Laurie's sister. We hadn't heard from Laurie recently. We were very good friends with him for a long period and had some great times together before our interests diverged and he stopped coming on our walks. It was distressing to hear that he had died from cancer earlier this year. Very sad. A walk in memory of Laurie is taking place in Manchester on 5 December, starting at Simon's Bridge in the Mersey Valley at 5 pm and adjourning to the Didsbury pub at about 6 pm after scattering his ashes. Unfortunately we will still be in Chile.
Then we went to a restaurant, La Marmita, to cheer ourselves up.
Today's pictures were taken in Punta Arenas.