Still not having our fill of penguins, even after Antarctica, we decided to spend the weekend heading back to Tierra de Fuego to check out a different type there. The king penguins look just like the one on the chocolate wrapper so loved in British children’s school lunches. It was only a 600km round trip to the colony, so a relatively local attraction by Patagonian standards.
After a night out in the wilds camped beside a small stream with just guanacos, foxes and lots of sheep for company, we headed to the small town of Porvenir. Patagonia has its own wild, desolate beauty but the island of Tierra de Fuego feels even more remote. The long distances of rolling plains covered in scrub and grass were occasionally punctuated by sheep estancias (farms). Several had been abandoned, farming must be very hard out here. We’d passed one on the mainland and the girls and I had taken a wander around. We peeped into empty buildings full of uncured sheep skins and abandoned wool bales, the rotting ship hulls on the shore gave it an even more melancholy feeling.
Getting closer to town and in range for a cellular signal, we had an email from the local delivery company guy, Mario, admitting that his Santiago colleagues had messed up yet again. After assuring him on Thursday that the tyres were already on a truck south, a 5 day journey, they had just admitted to him that infact they had been lying and the tyres were still sat in their Santiago warehouse. We were doubly frustrated as we’d paid for airfreight but we had been told, only once they were in Santiago, that they were too big. So we felt we were being quite patient last Thursday when they told us it would be another 5 days…then to hear it would be another 5 days. We were absolutely spitting!
Porvenir felt like a frontier town, even though it was established in Victorian times. It was full of painted corrugated iron houses. Parked up on the front, we decided that we deserved Saturday night out. Bizarrely, especially contrasting with the outsides, all the four restaurants in town went for the huge fancy napkin arrangements and fake flowers. We pumped for the Croatian Club which had the most elaborate napkin fans and had a couple of excellent steaks. It must have been a slice of home for the Croatian immigrants who came to the area for the gold rush 135 years ago.
Crossing the ferry back to the mainland alongside the sheep transporters we were treated to several pods of black and white Commerson’s dolphins larking about in the waves in the Beagle Channel. With no need to rush back to Puenta Arenas we took a detour to Pali Aike National Park which has several low extinct volcanoes and extensive lava fields. There was a couple of great walks but the wind was ferocious in the campsite that night,however they’d thoughtfully built three wild breaks at the edge of the lava field so overnight visitors actually wouldn’t get blown away by the gusts. The scenery was stunning though with my favourite South American photography combination: some sort of llama in front of a volcano, cue much eye rolling from Steve at the number of shots I was taking.
Back in town the next day, we had some good news at last. Mario, who appears to be the delivery company’s only competent employee, told us that the truck south with the tYpres had been making good milage and it looked like it might be a day early. Hooray our first bit of positive news from them in 2 weeks. We motored to get all our jobs like washing and shopping done, in the possibility that the tyres “might be” with us sometime the following day.
It got even better the following day when we got even more good news, the tyres had arrived early that morning! We hightailed it to the local delivery company office where Mario personally delivered the tyres to the tyre fitters.
What a beautiful sight….just waiting for a local mutt to christen them with a quick pee as always happens.
We were so glad to be getting out of Punto Arenas, we had been there for 15 days and the “Groundhog Day ” sensation was getting stronger every day. We’d been lucky enough to escape both weekends but returning three times a day, day after day to get our contact, Victor, to phone The delivery company in Santiago and getting absolutely nowhere was incredibly frustrating. We know delays are part of the overlanding experience and we are very lucky it wasn’t something far more serious like a health matter or a mechanical breakdown. We’ve been so lucky so far and I’m sure we’ll have many more delays along the way. But we were SO happy to leave and be back on the road!