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11 April 2004

Tiff's News From Way Down South
Well now we have really seen beauty to stun the
senses. We took a bus to Torres del Paine National
Park. We saw all our friends from the Navimag trip.
Most are doing three or four day hikes thru the
park--Its quite expensive to get set up though so we
just did a glorious day hike. From one viewpoint we
could see waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, the horns and
the towers. It was magnificent. Here it is like
there are no boundaries. Nothing seems like there is
any end. The vistas are to infinity. In the park we
saw some animals only found here. One is a bird that
looks like an ostrich, called Nandu and one is a "New
World" camel called a Guanaco.
We took the bus to Punto Arenas and arrived to
beautiful weather. I was crazy to catch a boat to
Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego so we were running all
around trying to find one that was going but it is
Easter weekend so no luck. We did however run into a
great little guy sitting in a hole in the wall tourist
office who couldn´t find us a boat but did take us to
some friends of his for the greatest lamb barbeque you
can imagine. They treated us like royalty. They had
a beautiful little horse farm set on the bluffs
overlooking the Staits of Magellan.
After dinner they offered horseback riding. I didn´t
want to go because I was afraid, but Brad made friends
with some guy from France who came out to the farm to
ride horses but didn´t speak Spanish- so we kind of
bonded as I could translate for him. He and Brad
wanted to ride and the family kept coaxing me to go.
They promised they had the sweetest old horse on Earth
for me to ride. I finally agreed and they brought out
this huge, strong, beautiful horse. I balked -so the
young girl of the family led the horse by the rains
out to the bluff while I nervously hung on. They were
right--it was the sweetest horse ever. Anyway I
didn,t want to run or even hold the reins and Brad and
the French guy wanted to run so I had the little girl
take me back to the house- where they entertained me
with sweets and conversation and coffee till the guys
came back. All the children in the family want to go
to Disneyland. Everyone down here knows Disneyland
and Bill Gates. Bill Gates is very popular here
because he gave computers to all the schools around
here. The Chileans are really focused on education.
They have a very high literacy rate and must spend
huge sums on education as the population is so
scattered and everyone gets sent to a city for high
school with all expenses paid. Some of their schools
only have a few children in them but the schools look
really nice and well equiped.
Our new Chilean friends sure had a laugh about the
barnacle I ate and then later was horrified by in the
open fish market.
Our little travel guy took us to some other points of
interest. We drove over bluffs overlooking the sea
that truely did let you know you were at the end of
the world. We passed the marker for the mid-point of
Chile. They are very proud of their claim that Chile
goes clear to the South Pole. All their maps show
Punta Arenas as halfway down the country. I don´t
know if anyone else in the world recognizes their
claim-but boy they are sticking to it.
We went to an old Chilean Fort on a bluff overlooking
all sea access (3 directions).Fuerte Bulnes 1843.
We also went to the site of Puerto Hambre, founded in
1584 (Port Famine) where 300 Spanish Colonists starved
to death trying to occupy this land for Spain. None
survived. I don´t know why they starved--there is so
much marine life-but the wind is ruthless at times so
maybe they just froze in the winter.
When we finally got back to town we talked politics
with a couple from Australia. Their election has the
same divisions as ours but their present leader is
expected to be thrown over for his alliance with Bush.
The Australian Guy gave a nude skydiving exhabition in
a nudest camp. Think I´ll pass-but he was fun. His
wife was a teacher.
The bus trip between Puerto Natales and Punto Arenas
was all the huge sheep estancias. Looks just like you
would expect. Everything here is super-jumbo size-
including the ranches. It all started with one
illiterate Portuguese guy who hired a Lithuanian
accountant to keep his books in a shipping country he
started. There was an Argentinian who went bankrupt
and some Argentinian foreclosure guy bought his land
and brought in sheep. The Portuguese guy married the
sister of his accuntant and then died. Then the
accountant inherited from his sister. Then the
accountant married the daughter of the Argentinian
foreclosure guy and they had 10 children. The
cross-match resulted in the shipping company Navimag
and the largest wool-processing operation in the
There are also some oil fields here but not much
because no one wants to develop it because Argentina,
Chile, and some indigenous groups all claim the
offshore islands. Hope they never get it resolved as
this is such a wild and free and wonderful wilderness.

posted by - 3:38 PM


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