... Prince George is north actually. Yup. Punta Arenas is as far south as Prince George BC is North. Somewhere between 53 and 54 degrees latitude to be exact (north vs. south of course). But, somehow, it seems that the weather here might be more severe. For one thing, it is the equivalent of September, and you already need fleece and a good windbreaker mid day. Maybe even some gloves. Another thing is that of all places on earth, the southern tip of Patagonia must be the most windswept on the planet. There are almost no trees, and the ones that do survive are the stunted and craggy beech trees that are low enough to the ground to not get blown away. So, not a lot like Prince George in the end from a geographical point of view, but it is maybe more similar culturally.
This is more of an industry town, far away from the big cities, with fishing and drilling for oil taking the front seats. There is a port, which gives the place a trading feel. And there is also the history. There was once a great wool industry here and there is evidence of the rich barons that used to own all the land. Stone mansions line some of the streets of this city. It is medium sized city that has a strange combination of colonial grandeur, and back woods industrial hick town feel. Maybe it is Prince George? Nah! There is a lot of beer though...
The other big deal is the fact that the city sits on the Straight of Magellan, another one of the most important navigational finds in history - the passage around South America, which was found by Ferdinand Magellan. All around town, you can see reminders of this important piece of history in statues and the names of places.
This is our exit point for Patagonia, and tomorrow we fly all the way up to northern Chile to San Pedro de Atacama on the edge of the Atacama Desert. So, we just spent a day hanging out, drinking coffee, and getting cleaned up after the trek. We visited the town's cemetery which has a really good collection of crypts from all those rich wool families sitting alongside the more bourgeois graves of the locals. We also had fun walking along the straight picking up all the local stray dogs that would follow us around for hours. Not a very exciting day, but hey, you gotta take a break now and then right?
Actually, we had a funny one today. We were talking about backpacking, and how tough you really have to be to do it long term. Or maybe, how you don't have to be that tough. And also, even after another 4 day trek, how is that we've both put on a few pounds since being in Asia? Damn that European food! Anyway, we chalked it up to being flashpackers instead of backpackers. But, still wanting to be tough enough, I kept on talking about it because I think it was still bruising my ego. Problem is, as I tried to say backpacker, I wound up saying backporker, confirming the Freudian truth about our situation. Damn! I can't even think my way out of this! The truth always slips out.
Alas, we have decided. We are "flashporkers" :)