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A boomer adventurer near the bottom of the world

Active lifestyles? That is the theme of BoomerCafé and few boomers lead a more active lifestyle than adventure traveller Talek Nantes of New York City, who has traveled to more than a hundred countries. She has written for BoomerCafé an essay about her most recent trip. It’s called, “How to navigate the Straits of Magellan, boomer style.”

I always wanted to go all the way around South America’s Cape Horn, sail the Beagle Channel, and navigate the Straits of Magellan. I was thrilled when I recently got the chance to pursue my dream.

The starting point for sailing around Cape Horn and the Straits of Magellan is the town of Punta Arenas in southern Chile. The town is an unlikely mixture of faded European gilded-age splendor, wild-western U.S. frontier town, immigrant melting pot, and modern-day adventure expedition kick-off point. Punta Arenas was once a mandatory stop-off point for ships traveling to and from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Ships docked to load and unload cargo and passengers, and the town prospered. In 1914 though, the opening of the Panama Canal cut transit time between the oceans by 8,000 miles and Punta Arena’s fortunes declined.

It was in this little town that we boarded the Ventus Australis for a four-night sailing through the same waterways explored by Ferdinand Magellan as he circumnavigated the globe and Charles Darwin as he researched the region on his ship, The Beagle.

Australis is an expedition cruise company with a focus on exploring the area of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego commonly referred to as “the end of the world.” These are the unspoiled channels and waterways at the very tip of the South American continent.

The ship caters to smaller groups; 200 is the maximum number of passengers. It sails between Punta Arenas, Chile and Ushuaia, Argentina, “the town at the end of the world.” The ship’s accommodations are ample and comfortable. The meals tasty and varied. But the real highlights are the shore excursions.

All shore excursions require passengers to suit up in safety gear and listen to a safety and sustainability talk to ensure we leave nothing but footprints in the pristine environment. Passengers launch on Zodiacs and are taken to the several stops on the itinerary. One of the stops is a colony of Magellan Penguins you can only view from the Zodiacs in order not to disturb the colony. If you are lucky, your Zodiac will be accompanied by dolphins swimming alongside you as you speed over the frigid waters.

Along the way, you sail through the stretch of the Beagle Channel known as Glacier Alley with towering glaciers on both sides. This area forms part of the Chilean Fjords in southern Patagonia. It’s fascinating to see the massive glaciers tumbling to the edge of the water.

One of the highlights would have to be a shore excursion to the majestic Pia Glacier. Passengers can hike around right at the base of the glacier. Want to feel tiny and insignificant amidst the spectacular grandeur of earth’s natural marvels? Then stand next to a glacier and look up.

The final leg of the journey is disembarking on Cape Horn, the southernmost point on the western hemisphere. Now when I hear the word “remote,” I will always think of Cape Horn.