Patagonia #3: Punta Arenas / Chile

1 09 2010

Translated into English by Aslıhan Demirkaya.

For the album to the photos of Punta Arenas:

30.04.2010 – Friday

The bus that we’ll take from Ushuaia heading to Punta Arenas is leaving at 5:00 a.m. Actually we don’t like the idea to get on the bus in such a cold weather and at such a weird time. Besides this, there is no bus terminal, we should also wait for the bus in front of the YPF gas station. The guy who sold the bus ticket is warning us to go there early because there is possibility that the bus leaves 10-15 minutes earlier!!!

We are running a little bit, then walking, of course freezing at the same time, finally catching up a taxi and heading to the place that the bus leaves. While waiting there for the bus, a North American girl is approaching us. In this freezing cold weather, she is wearing very thin tight pants, denim jacket with the t-shirt inside and the Converse shoes. At the time she sees me, she is asking me when I got my earlaps as if she was protecting every piece of body from the cold but for her ears!!!

Our bus is having a connection in Rio Gallegos. We are passing over the border one more time, and Strait of Magellan by the ferry. It is much colder than the day we came to Ushuaia.

When we arrived Punta Arenas, the first thing we observed is the power of the military.

The buildings, people and especially the soldiers walking around make us think that way. The soldiers are wearing calpacs. We are calling Juan from one of the “Locutorio”s (calling center). He is giving us a ride to our home. He has to leave just right after because tomorrow is May 1st and he has to do lots of preparation with the Human Rights Association.

In the mornings, Juan is working for the municipality about IT, and in the evenings he is doing a volunteer work for the Human Rights Association. During the night time, he is going to college. This kind of heavy schedule is one of the things we noticed since we came to South America.

Juan’s connection with the HRA is because of his father. In Chile, during the years 1973-1990, because of the military regime, there had been many people lost (!), tortured or killed. Juan’s father and his brother are two of them. They haven’t still heard from their father but his brother was found 2 years ago. One of the aims of HRA is to find the people who were lost during these years and make them gather with their families. It is almost similar to the Plaza de Mayo mothers in Argentina.

Juan’s house is literally the last one in the city. 🙂  When you take the ramp and go up to the very end, and take the last street, then you’ll see the house at the end of that street. He has two kids. We are witnessing the same thing that we did notice before. Even the people’s houses are not in the best condition (lacking heating system, etc.) they are much better socially developed than us. Juan’s family is also one of them. Their house is quite cold and does not have a proper heating system. However Juan is doing his MS in the university. Two of his kids are going to a French school. His son is playing drums, (yes, they have drums at their home), and his daughter is playing a violin. Juan is joining them with his flute. What comes to us in Turkey first is having a house. Once your house is not as comfortable as you wish, you can never socialize.

01.05.2010 – Saturday

What we dreamed was to celebrate May 1st in Santiago with the others but since we were a little bit late, we had to celebrate it in Punta Arenas.

A very big parade was not planned for May 1st. They just gathered to go the cemetery and leave some wreath to the monument that was built for the memory of the ones that were lost.  Since we left home lately, we missed that part of ceremony. However it is still a good opportunity to get to see the cemetery. Actually it is assumed to be one of the most popular touristic attractions. They even have a direction map for the cemetery.

I can definitely say that this was one of the most beautiful cemeteries among the ones we have seen before. When you enter, a big cross and interesting trees welcome you. Actually you see these trees almost everywhere in Punta Arenas.

Most of the graves look very fancy. Almost all of them had been designed diligently. The ones that attracted our attention most were the graves that looked like mortuaries. They are like drawers, 5 layers, all close to each other. In front of every grave, you find toys, doodahs and fake flowers.

One of the most important places in the cemetery is the mausoleum that is built for the memory of the ones lost after the coup. The most painful thing is losing someone you loved but not finding the corpse of him even you believe that he died. The other important place is the grave of Yamana. Actually we cannot figure out whether it is a grave or a sculpture but we see lots of thankful notes and the plates all over it. The ones whose wishes came true nailed their thankful notes around the sculpture. We saw the similar applications at different places, like around the holy icons.

After the cemetery, we attended the celebration ceremony in the sports center.  That was what Juan and his friends were preparing for. We spent some hours with some songs. Actually the celebration was a  little bit dull but the attendance to the ceremony was quite high.

We see a fantastic car on the way back to our home. The guy put the print of Yoda on the hood of his car and wrote Star Wars on the sides. The print looks like a very high quality such that the car had an awesome look.

We spent our best hours in the building of the association. We made a barbecue with the families of the lost guys. Most of them were old. In fact, the oldest guy was very interested in us. Even we missed the most of the part of his talk, he did tell a lot. Even Turkey and Chile are very far from each other, both countries experienced similar pains.

The two guitar players coming from Santiago accompanied the night with their songs. We had a night with lots of conversation, songs and wine. Since we are in Chile, every wine here is delicious.

We were almost flying while we were going back to our home. The wind was crazy. They say the speed if the wind reaches 150 km/hour. It is really hard to control the doors of the car. When we read the news the other day, we see that the roofs of many houses just flew away.

02.05.2010 – Sunday

We find one of the newspapers from Punta Arenas. Each city has its own local newspaper. The funniest part about the newspaper is it has one page of sex ads. Some even have pictures. The streets of Argentina and Chile are full of advertisements of prostitutes. You can also find their ads with their pictures on in the telephone booths, on the street lamps.

Since the city is along the Strait of Magellan, we suppose that there would be lots of different sorts of seafood in the market. However this is not the case there, we find almost nothing. The only thing we find is empanada. Bon appetite to us!

Even we are in Patagonia, we find kinds of tropical fruits. I choose one from each kind to try. My favorite becomes pepino. Avocado is also extremely cheap here. It is not surprising because the origin of avocado is Chile. If you say that you don’t like avocado, it is almost swearing to them 🙂 We are satisfied with the tropical fruits but not with the other fruits and the vegetables. The other fruits like strawberry and apricot are sold in cans.

Chile is the most expensive country among all in South America. One of the reasons of expensiveness is because we are in Patagonia.

We drink the corn soup made by Ana. The soup has chicken, noodles and whole parts of corn. Even it is hard to eat the corn, we think that it is one of the best soup we have ever tried.

In the evening, we go out one more time. This time our goal is to try the king crap (centolla). I think this crap is found mostly in the Strait of Magellan. We actually knew that many restaurants had this crap in their menu, but we even couldn’t dare to ask the price of it. This time we are eager to eat that crap. Before I started this trip, I watched a documentary on the National Geographic channel about the process of hunting this king crap from the Strait of Magellan. Now I feel so excited to get the chance to eat these gigantic animals.

We are going to La Luna as suggested in Lonely Planet. Inside is really cute and full of gringos. We order king crap, eel and beer. While waiting for the food, we take a tour inside the restaurant. There are beautiful details inside. They stick a table and a chair upside down. It really looks great. There are also two maps, one is world map, the other is European. Whoever comes in, pins the country with her/his name on a paper. Turkey has nothing on it. There is actually one piece of paper on Istanbul but the name is not Turkish. We of course write down our names on a piece of paper and pin it to the map. Thus Turkey is not feeling lonely anymore.

Finally our food comes. There is nothing special with the eel, but we love king crap. They cooked it with the Parmesan cheese in the stew. We learn that they put the whole crap whose diameter is nearly 1-meter inside the food.

We eat until we feel totally full. However we leave a huge amount of money there. One portion of king crap is almost 9500 Peso = 20 USD.

We have an awesome mood. We buy a cocktail from the market Unimarc and drink it on the beach. Even the wind freezes us, it is a great pleasure to sit across the Strait of Magellan.

03.05.2010 – Monday

This is our last day in this city. We devote ourselves to walk around the city, and eat. There are two restaurants that we want to mention about. We may even change our writing style to a parvenu one. I just wanted to warn you.

Our first restaurant is Lomito. Since we are unaware of the meaning of the lomito, we are thinking that it might be one of the special foods in the menu but it isn’t the case. This place looks like a British Pub. Actually it is full of foreigners. On the TV, there is a soccer game between the two top teams, Universidad de Chile and Colo Colo. We order lomito and beer. The food is prepared in the middle of the restaurant. There is one cook but a very efficient one. He is incredibly fast in cooking. Actually it is a mass production. I start watching the cook, not the game.

As I mentioned before, the avocado is really important to Chilean people. In every sandwich, you can find an avocado sauce. I love it, but Murat doesn’t. Lomito is a kind of hamburger, made from a whole beef, not a ground one. The portions are really big and satisfying.

Based on Juan’s suggestion, the second restaurant we went is the Chilean restaurant, “El Mercado Chilote”. The only people inside are Murat and me. The waiter is suggesting us to order “Curanto”. He says that the price decreased to 4500 pesos from 7000. Just to try, we order one. However there comes a giant food in the middle of our table. The food looks swanky. It has 15-20 mussels. In addition to that, it has chicken, beef, sausage and potatoes, just irrelevant meat to us. They make the meat by smoking it. The food also comes with the soup. It seems very interesting and the amount seems gigantic. The giant mussels taste just awesome. Hopefully we ordered just one menu, it is still hard to finish though.

The origin of this food is the Island Chiloe of Chile. The traditional way is they make this food by digging a hole, put all these kinds of meat inside then cover it with the bushes and then cook. Since it is covered with the bushes, the smoke is absorbed more. The more the smoky it is, the more appreciated it is.

For the album to the photos of Punta Arenas:

Gülen & Murat


Translated into English by Aslıhan Demirkaya.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: