Penguins, Patagonia and Proposals: My Experience in Patagonia, Chile

Updated on January 14th, 2019 at 11:39 pm

Puntas Arenas

This weekend was absolutely insane. I flew into Punta Arenas with three friends who left to do the W trek through Torres del Paine while I went to explore Punta Arenas. I ended up sleeping in the airport for awhile because we arrived so early and I was nervous that my hostel wouldn’t be open yet. After checking into my hostel and taking a long nap I wandered around the city and met the cutest dog in the plaza. She actually hopped up onto the park bench I was sitting at and lay on my lap. We stayed like that for quite awhile and then she followed me around town a bit.

I ended up texting Carolina, a woman I met when I was in Pucon, who lives here and she ended up taking me to various monuments around the city as well as to the cemetery here. On Friday I went on a tour to Fuerte Brunes which is the site that the first settlers to arrive in Patagonia lived in. It was beautiful but so windy. The temperature here has been pretty low (about 6 degrees Celsius) and with very strong winds. Plus being adjusted to the heat of Santiago makes it that much colder.

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Penguins, Patagonia and Proposals: Making Local Friends

Saturday was amazing. I slept in and then went back to the plaza to find my dog friend who I nick-named Gringa. She came and sat with me on the park bench and I decided I would buy her some food. I feel bad for the street dogs and I realize that buying her food might not have been the best thing to do (because then the dogs will rely on humans and etc) but I couldn’t help it. What’s wrong with helping each other out a bit anyhow? She followed me to the grocery store where I bought her a small pack of dog food and then we went to the boardwalk where I let her eat it. I walked around town with her for a bit more and then went back to the hostel to Skype my friend Haylee which was long overdue.

Meeting the Penguins of Isla Magdalena

Penguins in Magdalena Island
Visiting my favorite animals on Magdalena Island

After Skyping it was time for me to do something that I have always dreamed of doing. I got to go to Magdalena Island to see penguins in the wild! The only problem was that I thought a bus was coming to pick me up from the hostel but it turns out I had about ten minutes to get to the harbor at the other end of town. The owner of the hostel ended up driving me there in his taxi and I just made it. I literally ran onto the boat as it was about to leave.

Magdalena Island was incredible. The boat docked and everyone was led around the island through this roped off pathway. There were hundreds of penguins and other birds all over the place. Sometimes the penguins would even cross through the roped pathway and walk super close to us. I ended up getting some amazing photos of them all and had the time of my life. There was a lighthouse at the top of the island that I went in and signed my name in the guestbook too. It was all very surreal.

Penguins, Patagonia and Proposals: Torres del Paine

Penguins, Patagonia and Proposals
Appreciating the view in Torres del Paine. Photo by Yofre and Pamela.

Now yesterday was a total roller coaster. I woke up at 4:45am and headed out for a full day tour of Torres del Paine. The tour guide, Rodrigo, was super friendly and he spoke both English and Spanish. I told him I was studying Anthropology and he was very interested in that. He was training two other girls on the trip so they could lead tours as well. Anyways our first stop was this giant cueva (cave) that remains of the Mylodon (an ancient animal) were found in and has been an important archaeological site ever since. I again took some awesome photographs and found it to be super interesting.

On the tour I met this really nice couple, Pamela and Yofre, as well and we walked through the cave together taking photos. Before getting back in the van I went to the bathroom and left my phone in there by accident! I didn’t realize it until we had driven about an hour away from the cave onto our next stop and it was much too late to go back. Now I would not have minded leaving my phone there at all because the battery life is complete crap and I charge it four times a day and it freezes a lot and a bunch of other glitches… but this whole time I have been using my phone as a camera as well. So this means that the only photos I have of my penguin tour are the two that I uploaded to Facebook/Instagram the day before. Also I have no photos of the Mylodon Cave. However I chose not to let it affect my trip too much. Oftentimes we get so busy taking photos we forget to actually look around us and realize where we really are.

Pamela and Yofre ended up taking plenty of photos for me anyways and said they would send them to me. Plus we took lots of photos together. Just driving around and seeing Torres del Paine in the distance was absolutely beautiful. We stopped at a bunch of places to appreciate the view and take photos. One place we stopped was at this turquoise lake surrounded by yellow flowers with Torres del Paine in the distance. There was a bridge that we walked across to this cabin restaurant that was delightful. Yofre and Pamela even paid for my meal for me and we made plans to hang out more in Santiago.

An Unexpected Surprise

Penguins, Patagonia and Proposals
Right before I photographed a proposal. Photo by Yofre and Pamela.

At one point I felt like I was kind of intruding on their trip but they kept insisting that I get in photos with them so I figured why not? Our last stop was a short hike through this forest that led us out to the shore of a giant lake. There were pieces of icebergs there that had been carved into different shapes by the wind and were absolutely beautiful. The wind was so strong though that I almost fell over a few times.

When we finally reached the edge of the lake and had taken a few photos of the icebergs, Yofre handed me his GoPro and I started making faces at it since it was recording. I looked at Yofre then and realized he had a little box in his hand. I immediately stepped out of the picture and started filming. Pamela’s hands flew up to her mouth in surprise and happiness and Yofre asked her to marry him. She said yes and with shaking fingers put on the beautiful ring. It was so exciting and I got to film it all for them! I’m so happy that I got to witness that but I just wonder how the video turned out because I was definitely just making the ugliest of faces at the beginning of it. Typical me. I only wish I could stay here in the south longer.

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About The Author

April Thompson

Updated on January 14th, 2019 at 11:39 pm

April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.

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