As we had already arrived in Punta Arenas the evening before, we got to lie in until 6.30 this morning! We had breakfast, put on/ packed all our warmest clothes (thermal underwear, waterproof trousers, thick coat, scarf, fleece hood, 2 pairs of gloves... and then headed to the theatre to wait for the call for our tour - the one I have been most eagerly awaiting since we booked the cruise - the Otway Sound Penguin Colony!!!!! (In the words of the promotional brochure: "do not fail to visit this colony, for penguins are one of life's greatest pleasures." - couldn't have put it better myself!)
The ship was anchored at sea in Punta Arenas so we had to get tender boats ashore. Tender boats are very similar to lifeboats - i.e. small, rocky and not very comfortable! Thankfully we were only just offshore here, so the boat ride only took about 10 minutes once everyone was on board. We then took our first steps onto Chilean land. To find that actually it was quite warm!!!
We went through the terminal where I had to fight hard to keep going with the group despite penguin pictures and souvenirs EVERYWHERE! We eventually came out the other side and boarded our coach. The drive to the penguin colony took about an hour and a half. The first part of the drive took us through the town along the sea front, viewing large gatherings of cormorants, statues, and the open air museum where you could view a replica of the Victoria which is the ship that Magellan sailed when he discovered the straits. The colony wasn't actually that far away (Otway Sound is on the other side of the southern peninsular where Punta Arenas is located) but most of the roads once we left town were uneven and rough and so the coach was doing about 20mph most of the way! The long drive gave us a chance to watch for wildlife, and we did see some beautiful birds, lots of hares, and some farm animals including some llama like ones, but I mainly used the drive for a little snooze!
Eventually we arrived at the entrance to the penguin colony. The birds are wild and come and go as they please but the land is private and maintained in order to benefit both the penguins and the tourists. There is a long wooden walkway stretching from the entrance in a loop all around the park, which you must stick to. The penguins can therefore choose how near they want to come to people. The path leads through grassland with lots of flowers (I was expecting ice and snow, but I guess we have come in the height of summer for Chile!) and there are penguin burrows scattered all around. The Penguins (for some reason my iPad automatically capitalises that word and I'm tired of correcting it, so from now on they will be Penguins!) can walk wherever they like within the complex, and the pedestrian walkway has numerous bridges which they can go under. There are also trenches in the ground which the Penguins could walk along - we would spot the clover wiggling above their heads before they emerged from the end! There were lots of butterflies flying round the area too and we nearly trod on a beautiful caterpillar at one point! As we walked around, a number of Penguins stopped close to the walkway to have a rest, have a look at us, or in one case to peck at each other's fleas! The main direction of travel however was towards the beach, which is also where the main viewing area was. When we got here there were Penguins everywhere, it was wonderful! They were swimming and playing in the sea, they were standing and squawking, and they were resting on the pebbles. I could have stayed there all day! JL however dragged me away to continue the walk around the park, where the path took us to 2 viewing towers where we could overlook the entire area, including the snow covered mountains in the distance. Wow.
Once we had finished the walk, it was nearly time to go back to the coach :-( I decided to go back to the main viewing area one last time though, and I'm glad I did as there were even more Penguins there than when we had arrived! I really did have to go now though if I wanted to get the coach back, so I reluctantly dragged myself away, leaving me 2 minutes for the gift shop (probably a good idea I didn't have longer or I may be penniless by now!). We then got back on the coach ready for the long drive back to town.
When we arrived, we decided to have a little wander round the town before going back to the ship, so we used the map we had got to find the main square, Plaza de Armas, where there was a large handicrafts market (Penguins galore!), a pretty cathedral, and some buildings with very interesting architecture. Today there was a local band playing also. We walked to the centre of the square to see the statue of Magellan surrounded by other characters including a resting Indian whose big toe is supposed to bring good luck if you rub it! (This part of the statue was shiny unlike the rest!) We wandered back to the ship though the rest of the town and along the sea front - I have never seen so many penguin themed shops/ bar names/ pictures in my life! I could see myself living there! :-)
We only just caught the next tender back to the ship and noticed that the wind (and therefore the waves) had increased since the morning - when the boat reached the ship's entry point it crashed rather worryingly against the side!
Safely back on board we had a late lunch and then I spoke to my parents for a bit and relaxed in the cabin until my favourite time of the port days - afternoon tea! JL didn't come with me today as he went off to play table tennis, but I had a nice natter with a group of people while enjoying a warm scone and chocolate cream eclair!
As we'd had such a late lunch we didn't go to dinner until later, so before that we went to the Crows Nest to have a cocktail and watch the sailaway (which today just meant pulling up the anchor and steaming off!). We had dinner and then went to the theatre to see a guy called Jimmy James who is apparently a famous soul singer (I'd never heard of him but I enjoyed it!). Then off to bed to dream of Penguins!