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Penguins, Penguins, and Too Many Sheep to count in Patagonia, Chile

“You must go see the penguins. Penguin Island is amazing and I don’t want you to miss it. You need tickets for the ferry to Penguin Island! I’ll take you to the ferry office and make sure that you get the tickets you need.” Juan Pedro our hostel owner host in Punta Arenas, said.

We got into Juan Pedro’s car and he drove us fifteen minutes across town to the ferry boat office. He walked us to the front of the line and explained in Spanish to the clerk what we needed. We purchased the tickets and hopped back into the car.

“Let me show you the rest of my city.” Juan Pedro said, before speeding off down various city streets.

“The best view of the city is from this point. Take a photo.” He said before speeding off to the next stop.

“This is the British building where Shackleton fired a gun into the wall to get people to work on rescuing his men” he said.

“This is the Croatian neighborhood where my grandfather raised my family.” He said showing us around.

It was a whirlwind tour of the sights of the city.

“The ferry leaves at 2 p.m. and returns at 6 p.m. I’ll take you to the boat when it is time to go. But, I have to go to work for a while. I’m a diesel engine mechanic and I have to do that as well.” He said.

“With the hostel and showing guests around town and being a diesel mechanic, when do you have time to sleep?” I asked.

“I sleep fast” Juan Pedro said with a smile.

We were excited to see the penguins on Magdalena Island. Los Pinguinos National Monument, as the island is known is probably the largest tourist attraction in Punta Arenas. It is home to the largest colony of Magellan Penguins in Patagonia.

The island has more than sixty-five thousand mating pairs of penguins and tourists are allowed to walk among them. It is a unique and exciting experience and the ferry to the island is full.

The ferry ride itself is quite an experience across the Strait of Magellan. During the two hour ride we were able to see whales, dolphin, and large aquatic birds all living in the rough, cold and windy waters.

On the island we were able to get up close and friendly with many penguins and their seagull friends, all in their natural habitat.

We saw pairs of penguins.

Penguins in holes.

Mother penguins.

Father penguins.

Baby penguins.

And more penguins.

We couldn’t help but smile at all of the playful penguins.

Before we knew it, we were being called to board the ferry for the return trip to Punta Arenas. We didn’t want to leave penguin island!

The trip back across the Strait of Magellan was rough. The afternoon winds had picked up and the waves were huge. It was amazing to realize that 17th century explorers had navigated these waters in wooden vessels and without modern navigation instruments.

When we arrived back at the dock we exited the ferry. We walked to the parking lot to look for a taxi when we saw a smiling Juan Pedro.

“Did you enjoy the penguins?” He asked. “I came to make sure you had a ride back to the house.”

We had not expected this kind of service, but we were happy to accept the hospitality.

“I remember that Jennifer said that she liked lamb” Juan Pedro said. “I called a friend and made reservations for you in the best restaurant in town for lamb. Patagonia is famous for cooking lamb and I want you to have the best experience!”

We were amazed that Juan Pedro had done so much for us. We didn’t even protest. We decided to just sit back and let Juan Pedro take care of us while we were in Punta Arenas.

“Tomorrow you will go to see the King Penguins. It is another ferry ride to Porvenir. If you can’t get a tour I will call my cousin who can meet you at the Croatian club in Porvenir to drive you around.”

King Penguins, how could we say no to an offer like that?

That was too gracious of an offer to accept. Instead we let Juan Pedro drop us at the ferry where we ended up talking our way onto a tour that spent eight wonderful hours driving through the windswept grasslands of Tierra del Fuego.

The ferry ride was much smoother than the day before and we caught glimpses of whales and dolphins off the bow.

We had a few hours observing the King penguins and watched as they cared for their precious cargo. We laughed at the giant roly-poly babies trying to right themselves after a stumble. We watched them swim, feed and frolic in the surf. We then watched the colorful King Penguins waddle their way back to feed their mates and babies, it was like a scene out of the movie "Happy Feet".

We also visited a sheep farms to watch the harvest of merino wool, the life blood of Patagonia’s economy.

Just another perfect day in Patagonia.

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