|Rebuilt waterfront in Punta Arenas, Chile|
I envisioned a small town clinging to the last rocks of the South American continent but instead found a small city of 170,000 inhabitants reinventing itself in a new world of energy and tourism. It is the center of Chile’s only oil reserves, now being drawn out by fracking. Half of the country’s lamb production still ships in and out of its free port but new kids on the block include dozens of cruise ships which call during the summer season of November through March.
Punta Arenas is filled with names associated with its adventuresome past. There’s a Charles Darwin Colegio, Magellan Street, Los Navegantes Hotel, Colon Avenue (after Christopher Columbus) and even a street named Yugoslavia after the homeland of many of the Croatians that immigrated here. Just two years ago, flash floods filled streets and damaged or destroyed 500 homes. The city has taken advantage of the disaster and rebuilt the water walk, using pavers to redesign streets and sidewalks and adding monuments, benches and play areas.
|Monument to area's important sheep industry|
From our hotel, we easily walked to Ivan Baria’s home where we were joined by Alejandro Toro and his wife, Lily, and children. Ivan was restoring his Art Deco home that had been damaged in the floods. Trays of hors d’oeuvres awaited, many made from the very popular mayonnaise, with hot dogs served later. Offers of Pisco Sours were accepted and visiting began.
|Ivan Baria, Mack Walker, and Alejandro Toro|
When asked what was good about Punta Arenas, Ivan explained everything centers around the home resulting in strong relationships and a safe place for children. Alejandro and Ivan bonded during their trip to California and told wonderful stories that included my brother. What struck me was how normal it all felt - enjoying an evening with friends - except it was at the end of the world.
|Southernmost Golf Course in the World|
|Exact replica of Magellan's Ship,Nao Victoria|
Ivan picked us up the next day for a “real” tour of the town. It included a short ride up to the southern most ski area, open one month a year, the southern most golf course with its wind tilted trees, historic cemetery and the two year old Nao Victoria Museum containing exact replicas of Magellan’s ship, Shackleford’s lifeboat and soon to be finished Darwin’s Beagle boat. On a more personal note, we toured Ivan’s Croatian neighborhood where he grew up on a hill surveying the Magellan Straits.
|Owner Silvia Harambour at Kiosko Roca|
|Author and husband on Southernmost ski lift in the world|