Apartment buildings lie adjacent to the Puenta Arenas port.
The NCL Sun anchored offshore at Punta Arenas at 7am and by 930am we had breakfasted and ridden the tender into the pier area. We needed to go through Chilean Customs prior to leaving the port building but this was pro forma. Upon leaving the port buildings on this gray day, we were dressed in sweatshirts and our Alaska parka (Marilyn) and hopeful that the rains would hold off. At the direction of a traffic officer, we left port and turned right one block into the city.
Looking back at the port area and one of the modern hotels.
This was a much larger city than Ushuaia with a traffic-filled divided four lane street heading up a shallow slope toward the center of town and beyond. We planned to try the center city after our ride along the coast to the east. The buildings were one and two story structures containing some residences, churches, and hostel/hotels and mostly other commercial buildings like banks, telephone stores, hardware stores, and a few bars and restaurants. There were a large number of local craft stores and trinket stores immediately around the port.
Upon turning we entered a more residential area with 5-30 year old colorfully painted buildings fronted by older cars, some being repaired on the street. The area was designed so that streets dead ended every 3-4 blocks. We worked our way eastward and worked toward the coast as we negotiated this maze of streets. Eventually we came to the coast again and were pleasantly surprised to find a coastal walkway under construction. We road along the adjoining sparsely used roadway until we could spy a park-like area and a 50 yard long bridge being constructed across a creek. We moved up onto the now completed walkway and then followed the roadway again as it became a two lane divided road rising toward the coast in the distance. After about 400 yards, the roadway was blocked for new construction and we were forced to turn back. Upon reaching the walkway again, we stopped for some photos and struck up a conversation with a couple who asked about our bikes.
They turned out to be from Great Britain and were returning from a visit with their son who had been in Conception during the earthquake and was engaged in a teaching contract for the next year or so. Although shaken, he had not been harmed by the quake. They were staying in a nearby hotel and remarked about the differences in Chilean hotels which were either hostel-like with minimal accommodations or upscale but somewhat expensive. We exchanged email addresses and agreed to try to get together in England after May.
We moved on to our ride along the walkway/bike path which was very nice. Our ride went on for another 5-6 miles along the coast. A beach lay alongside the walkway and the birdlife along the beach were numerous and varied. The cold weather kept all but a few fishermen from using the beach, but the beach was nevertheless very nice. A few joggers passed us in the opposite direction.
As we moved along the path, the homes became newer and nicer but continued to use a very colorful color scheme. I believe this area is becoming a vacation site for Chileans and other South Americans and some of the homes are designed as beach rentals. Further up the beach we spied several 6-story buildings which were probably condominiums or apartments.
Apartments along the beach walkway.
We looked for a restaurant or café to stop at for lunch but never really found an acceptable establishment during this part of the ride. Along the walkway, we spied, on several occasions, artworks unique to the area intended to introduce visitors to the local traditions. One was a set of totem-like structures, each identified with a unique artist.
Marilyn stands in front of the totem art.
Another area contained six two-sided billboard like displays of ceramic tiles, each telling a unique story.
Art along the walkway
At one point, the area across the street from us took on a different look, with like-painted buildings which carried an A-frame theme throughout. I suspected this might be some form of government area and my suspicions were borne out momentarily when a sign revealed the area was a military base, probably an air force base because I saw an F-84 jet static display, but never saw or heard any airplanes flying. The beachside area gradually turned into a commercial port area with some larger freighter ships and a sign indicated the airport lay nearby. At this point, we decided to turn back towards the town to seek a more commercial area likely to hold a wifi-bearing restaurant or café.
The roadway here turned almost freeway-like for a mile or so and then more urban with traffic lights. We tried a shopping center but found no suitable site. Several more miles ahead, we passed some museums and then into the downtown area of Puenta Arenas. Soon we spied a grill-restaurant which indicated they had wifi and we stopped for lunch and to reconnect on the internet.
This was the Iris Chile restaurant. It was just the beginning of the lunch period for Chileans, so the restaurant had only a few patrons but grew to about a hundred over the next hour. Down the center of the room was a 50 foot long buffet table with salads on one end and desserts on the other end. In the middle were prepared main courses. There were few vegetables like carrots or broccoli, but a few potato items were available.
Parillist gives the thumbs up for Hawaii.
Near the entrance door to the restaurant was a grill which prepared barbecue meat items consisting of beef, lamb, pork, and sausage. I chose beef and lamb and the parillist filled my plate. He also started up a conversation and even offered the utensils so that I could spell him as the chef for a while. He wondered why I would come to Chile when he learned I had lived in Hawaii. Upon choosing a seat later, I also found another patron with a Stanford sweatshirt and we conversed for a minute about the Stanford campus.
We spent an hour at the restaurant eating and using the internet, but I soon noted that it had started to drizzle outside and suggested we try to make it back to the port before the rain grew more intense. We rode through town, noting the large size of this city’s commercial area. Several divided streets contained parks in the median. Trees in the median were also remarkable—unique Tiera del Fuega varieties trimmed in a unique way with a vertical-sided cylindrical structure beginning 6-10 feet off the ground and having a diameter of 25 feet. We saw these arrays here in town and along the highway leading in from the airport.
The rain held off until we reached the port area. We worked our way through the security at the street and took a few pictures inside the port area and then got in line for the tender. This time on the tender, our bikes were placed on the roof and we became concerned that they might fall off. These concerns were found to be misplaced upon reaching the ship when we could see that the tender contained a special indented cargo area on the roof. The time in Puenta Arenas had been very pleasant but the cold started to get to us on the ride out. We sank into our beds upon reaching the cabin and covered ourselves with the robes provided by NCL, falling asleep within minutes and waking only an hour later, ready to test the buffet.
These three sites contain other info about Puenta Arenas.