Chasing penguins at the end of the world
Travelling, exploring new cultures and new places, discovering parts of this planet that you didn’t even know they existed before and constantly expanding the knowledge that you have of the world. These are just some of the reasons that pushed us further every day during this year. And it seems that these motives have pushed us quite far away… you only realize how far you are from Home when even the road signs tells you that you’re on “Ruta del fin del mundo”. And the road that leads the traveler to the end of the world is just as one is imagining it should be: a raw display of the beauty and the force of the nature. Long stretches of road that cut through gentle green hills, with yellow flowers on the sides and the occasional sheep that reminds you that humans have taken control over these lands as well. But the human control is actually the last thing that you are feeling here: strong and chilly winds are a constant reminder that we are not made for this kind of environments. And just to prove this point, after the discovery by Ferdinand Magellan of these territories while on his historical first trip around the world, it took the first settlers 300 years to permanently install here due to the harsh living conditions.
After all the journeys that we had this year, this was the only place that made me think about how the first humans arriving here must have felt. And it’s a puzzling feeling, mixing the excitement with the fear of the unknown, the urge for exploration with the constant kick of self-preservation.
Punta Arenas in Chile is the oldest and largest city in Southern Patagonia, as well as the last city on the continental South America (there is also the smaller Ushuaya on Tiera del Fuego Island which is commonly regarded as the Southernmost city in the world). In the center of the city thrones the statue of his famous discoverer and a full size replica of “Nao Victoria”; the first ship to circumnavigate the globe is also on display near the sea shore, as a tribute to explorers everywhere.
It has a mix of different architectural styles and colorful houses contrasting the grey sky that are a reflection of the truly diverse origins of its inhabitants. As we walked through its famous central cemetery, resembling Père Lachaise or Montmartre in Paris, we were able to read on the tombstones the origins of the deceased: Spain, Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, France, Poland, Germany …
Not far from the city, on a small island in the middle of the Strait of Magellan called Magdalena, we found the main reason for which we’ve made all that journey: PENGUINS! You have to know that penguins are some of Zeb’s favorite animals and we are chasing them for quite some time now in their natural environment. After different failed attempts in Chile and Argentina, they could not escape us this time!
We took a tour that dropped us on the island hosting the 150 000 penguin colony. As soon as we got down on land a lot of 30cm tall, funny walking, curious, black and white Magellan penguins surrounded us. They are such an entertaining thing to see that we almost forgot about the freezing wind slapping us all the time. It’s forbidden to touch them, which got Zeb a little upset, but seeing them walk and “talk” got us smiling again quite fast.
And now we have another item on our “pet wish list”!
In a moment filled with emotion, while walking on the highest hill in Punta Arenas, we have found an arrow pointing towards Bucharest. It seems that the end of the world is 14 189 Km away from home. Now that we have reached it, the only option left is to go back…