Monday, February 20, 2012

On the Road - Puerto Varas to Punta Arenas, CH

Impromptu stop - On a country road, Santi spotted a woman herding some cows into a corral and decided to stop the bus. It looked like she was ready to milk the cows so we got out to stretch our legs and watch her go about her chores.

A neat day in the life moment

Hmmm . . . not too friendly looking

Santi giving the woman a helping hand

Our hotel in Puerto Varas where we spent two nights

Beautiful garden in front of restaurant we had dinner

Puerto Varas is a picturesque little town located on Lake Llanquihue, one of the largest natural lakes in South America.

Roses were in glorious bloom

While in Chile I consumed a lot of Malbec, a fine red wine from the Mendoza District

My hotel room had a great view of the Puerto Varas Church

Night-time view

Harbor views of Puerto Varas

X-Mas decorations on Main Street

Hmmm . . . Puerto Varas is heavily Germanic but this is kinda' spooky

Orsono Volcano looms over Lake Llanquihue

Close-up view of Orsono Volcano, - 8,701' tall

Heading south toward Punta Arenas where the Patagonian winds are legendary

Scrubby Beech trees shaped by the Patagonian winds

Doesn't take long for the laundry to dry here

Outside of Antarctica, the population base of Patagonia is probably one of the lowest in the world. Estancias, large estate size sheep and cattle ranches, are about the only signs of humanity.

Being an avid cyclist, I am always on the lookout for other cyclists, particularly loaded tourists.

This guy was heading south to Tierra del Fuego with 40-60 mph tailwinds. He was flying!

A very cool jersey . . . where do I get one?

At a rest-stop, a group of Italian cyclists roll in

Unlike the solo cyclist, these riders are going first class with van support

They are also heading south toward Punta Arenas

Bellying up to the bar

Off they go . . . watching them made me nostalgic for my bike

One of the nicer road-side rest stops

Back in the bus and ready to roll

Difunta Correa

Roadside Shrines to the ordinary: One of the intriquing cultural aspects of South America are roadside shrines based on folk legends. There were two notable ones we came across on our drives.

The first one is Difunta Correa near the village of Vallecito CH. According to legend, Deolinda Correa was a woman whose husband was forcibly recruited in 1840 to fight in the Argentine civil wars. He became sick and was abandoned by the army near Vallecito.

In an attempt to reach her sick husband, Deolinda took her baby and followed the tracks of the army through the desert. When her supplies ran out, she died. Her body was found days later by guachos and to their astonishment, found the baby still alive, feeding from the deceased woman's "miraculously" full breast. The men buried the body and took the baby with them.

Once the folk tale became known, inhabitants started visiting Deolinda's grave, building after time the grave site into a shrine.

To this day, pilgrims bring plastic bottles of water and place them around the shrine. As you can see, hundreds of plastic water bottles surround the shrine.

The figure is of dying Deolinda Correa nursing her baby

Guachito Gil

The second shrine to the ordinary is based on the legend of Guachito Gil. The shrine is located on a hill on the outskirt of El Calafate AR.

Popular accounts vary, but in broad terms the legend tells that Antonio Gil was a farmworker and that a wealthy widow fell in love and had an affair with him. When her brothers and the police chief (who was also in love with the widow) found out about their relationship, accused him of robbery and tried to kill him.

Gil escaped and enlisted in the army to fight in the Argentine civil war. He became disenchanted with fighting and deserted the army. He subsequently became an outlaw and acquired the reputation as Robin Hood for his efforts to protect and help the needy.

In the end, the police caught him. They tortured him and hung him by his feet to an algarrobo tree. When the policeman was going to kill him, Guachito Gil said to him, "Your son is very ill. If you pray and beg me to save your child, I promise that he will live. If not, he will die."

Then the policeman killed Guachito Gil by cutting his throat. When the policemen returned to their village, the one who had killed Gil learned his son was indeed very ill. Very frightened, the policeman prayed to Guachito Gil for his son. And afterwards, his son got better. Legend has it that Guachito Gil had healed his murderer's son.

Very grateful, the policeman gave Gil's body a proper burial, and built a tiny shrine for Guachito. Moreover, he tried to let everybody know about the miracle.

In the case of Guachito Gil, pilgrims bring primarily items of personal gratification to place in his shrine e.g. cigarettes, liquor, etc.

Interestingly, the Catholic Church has refused to declare either Deolinda Correa or Guachito Gil saints. This has not stopped people from paying homage to either.

Stopping at another rest-stop . . . winds were still howling, note Dawn's hair

At this rest-stop was a display case full of famous AR cartoonist Molina Campos characters

Goofy looking characters . . . I love 'em!

Guess I should have bought a couple . . .

A couple guachos riding on the Patagonian Steppes

At the Chile/Argentina border, we stop at a funky cafe/curio shop for lunch

Selling everything a traveler needs

Funny and provacative decals

The easier way of riding to the end of South America

Very bleak countryside of Patagonia . . . makes eastern Montana look like paradise

Nothing out here except for a fancy estancia . . . oasis in the high desert

The estancias are pretty nice so ranching must be profitable

Arriving on the Straight of Magellan where there is a replica of Victoria, Magellan's ship

We get a tour of the ship and learn about the harsh life on the high seas in the 1500's. The average life-span of a sailor was 40 years.

A mock-up of the ship's kitchen.

Next to the Victoria is a replica of Sir Ernest Shackleton's boat, James Caird, a 23' whaler. He and five companions made the epic voyage of 800 miles from Elephant Island to St. George Island the Antarctic winter of 1916 in this boat. Shackleton subsequently returned to Elephant Island to rescue the remainder of his crew of the ship Endurance.

Group photo on the Straight of Magellan near the tip of Chile. This is the farthest south I've ever been.

Punta Arenas had some interesting art on the parkway leading into the city

A bronze sculpture of windblown sheepherder

Overlook of downtown Punta Arenas

Historic buildings around the main square (above and below)

Click on "older posts" below to continue tour

~~Next - Puerto Moreno Glacier National Park~~

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