Before we left Chile, there was one final thing we wanted to do - Go and see the penguins! And who better to do this with, than our new-found chums from the Torres del Paine trek.
We had heard about a colony of King Penguins – the second largest species after the Emperor penguin - searching warmer climes and establishing themselves in Tierra del Fuego. Since they're usually found in Antarctica and the South Georgia and Falklands Islands, which weren't part of the Hagemann travel itinerary (this time!), the trip to Tierra del Fuego seemed the way to go.
It involved a bit of a road trip; car hire from Punta Arenas, a ferry across the Strait of Magellan, and then over long gravel roads to the penguin colony at Bahía Inútil.
We could smell them before we saw them.
They were certainly stinky little fellas! Even from behind the viewing fences, 30m or so away. And they made the most fantastic noises, which they trumpeted into the air before abruptly lowering their heads in a bashful manner. Take a look and a listen for yourself:
It's thought that a King Penguin colony existed here in prehistoric times, but were forced from the area when, once again, we evil Europeans arrived. Around ten years ago, there was evidence of a colony re-establishing itself, and with current numbers at around 100, and still growing, let's hope this means good news for a recovering ecosystem.
From the largest penguins to the smallest National Park
On the return journey, we stopped the night at Pali Aike National Park, the smallest national park in Chile, where we were treated to clear skies and fabulous views of the Milky Way.
The morning didn't disappoint either – well, for the photographers in the group, at least. The gals stayed down there in the tents in bed ;-)
And then there were the guanacos.... See why we liked Chile?
We headed back to Punta Arenas for our last meal together – fresh salmon and scallops from the fish market, with potatoes and guacamole. It was the perfect end to a perfect time in Chile.
After around 5,000km and just over three months, we had travelled pretty much the length of long spindly Chile, from the Atacama Desert in the North to the mountains of Patagonia and wilderness of Tierra del Fuego in the South.
And now, another continent lay in wait for us.