After arriving to Puntas Arenas, Dan and I quickly realized that we would need to figure out something else to do with our 5 days besides spending one afternoon with the penguins on Isla Magdalena. I can imagine that Punta Arenas used to be a very busy, bustling trade city back in the 1800 and 1900’s due to it’s location on the Straight of Magellan but since the opening of the Panama Canal, its traffic and population has dropped. The town is very interesting with its European influence and old, rusted ships that are just left along the shoreline, but it barely took us a full day to walk around the city. Punta Arenas is now mainly used as a jumping off point for tourists visiting Patagonia.
There are a few tour agencies that offer trips taking you outside the city to a couple of national parks and points of interest but nothing was really calling out to us. After looking at a map and realizing how close we were to “The End of the World”, Dan had the brilliant idea to rent a car and just spend the day driving around with no real destination in mind. (El Fin del Mundo (end of the world), Chile is an area including the southern most point of the continent. One can travel further than this to Ushuaia, Argentina and some other islands but they are not connected by land).
We walked into about 5 or 6 different car rental companies and met about 5 or 6 rude representatives with inflated prices. I was beginning to feel discouraged about renting a car because we were being quoted between $60 and $80 US a day (not including gas) which completely would blow our budget for the day. After much deliberation, Dan and I decided to suck it up (since we had nothing else to do) and go back to Avis/EMSA which had the cheapest price and the nicest salesperson. We rented a car for the final 24 hours of our time in Punta Arenas so that we could also drive ourselves to the airport.
The day came to pick up our rental and the company ended up giving us an upgrade (for free) after waiting for an hour since the car we had originally rented was not returned yet. We got into our 4×4 jeep and began to drive south on Route 9. Probably 10 minutes into the drive this new sense of freedom washed over me. We were driving right along the sea on our left, could see mountains ahead in the distance, and there was vast farmland to the right. We could literally stop the car and do whatever we wanted. And we did.
We began to approach this amazing part of Route 9 where it looks like the road is heading into the sea. Dan pulled the car over on this virtually empty road and we immediately ran to the middle and starting jumping around, doing gymnastics, and taking pictures. It was one of the first times in a long time that I actually felt giddy, that I felt like we were in complete control of our day and our fun. At the same time we had no plans or restrictions.
We had a not-too-impressed audience.
We hopped back into the car and began to head towards Puerto Del Hambre (Port Famine) which was a Spanish settlement in the 1500’s but the conditions at the end of the world were too harsh for the 300 settlers and they all lost their lives. Unfortunately the site was closed after 1 p.m. so instead we drove around the corner to a bay the housed some old fishing boats and had lunch.
Photo Credits Dan Horvath
Next we drove even further south towards Fuerte Bulnes which was constructed and deserted in the late 1800’s. Along the highway, there were plenty of small historical sites that we stopped at and spent as much time there as we felt the need to. One being a small cemetery of a Commander who committed suicide after mapping the geographical area of Tierra del Fuego. And another being the old base in which those studies were completed. It was really interesting for us to learn a little about the history of the region and try to imagine what it would have been like studying and discovering this remote and distant area of the world.
Once were arrived to Fuerte Bulnes, we learned that the entrance fee per person was 14,000 CLP (which comes out to be about $40 USD). Because it wasn’t a huge point of interest, we decided to scrap it and save the $40 USD for something more important. Instead, we turned around and just kept driving south until we couldn’t anymore and the road ended.
Where we ended up.
At the end of the road, the two of us just sat and starred out the window at the sea trying to conceptualize where we were. Trying to take in the fact that we were basically as far south as we could go and will most likely never be somewhere like this again!
The view of the sea at the end of the world.
Although we didn’t really see anything mind blowing or visit any well known sights, this day trip is one of my favorite memories so far. Driving this far south or renting a car was never on my bucket list but it was surprisingly fantastic.
This day was completely free, it was spontaneous, it was random and it wasn’t planned out. Nothing was holding us back or in control of what we did. We didn’t have the opportunity for disappointment or regret because we set out with an open mind and no expectations.
I know this may sound counter intuitive but I plan to be more spontaneous. More often, I’d like to let the wind take me wherever it is supposed to. Let go of constantly feeling the need to plan everything and having such high expectations. As the famous philosopher Lao-Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like”.