Santiago is probably the most " North American like" city that we have seen so far in our travels of South America. It's citizen's are striving towards a materialistic North American lifestyle seeking brand names & style and influenced by mass marketing. The huge divergence in societal class and income level, common in South America, has been homogenized here into a large middle class. There is a marked proliferation of automobiles with single occupants, and a drastic reduction in the number of buses and taxis. Large retail malls & North American outlets including Starbucks have a successful presence here. The costs of living, and prices of most items, are comparable to Canada (except liquor - a bottle of fine Chilean wine @ $ 3.00.
We traveled the Trans-Andean highway (350 kms) part of the an-American Highway between Santiago de Chile and Mendoza, Argentina by CATA International ejecutivo bus. A double decker coach with large leather reclining seats and several sleeping berths. This route is reported to be one of the world's great drives. We can attest that the scenery is spectacular, and the variety of rock formations and vivid coloration is a geologist's dream. The snow capped, rugged mountains are in view much of the time.
As we traveled south air temperatures have now dropped into the mid forties with plenty of snow on the surrounding mountains. Autumn and winter are approaching here in the southern hemisphere. Cape Horn is the southern most part of land associated with South America, at the southern end of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. It marks the north edge of the Drake Passage, the strait between South America & the Antarctica and the confluence of the Atlantic, Antarctic and Pacific Oceans. Several factors combine to make sailing around Cape Horn one of the most hazardous routes in the world (they say) prevailing winds in latitudes below 40 degrees south blow from west to east around the world almost uninterrupted by land and funneled south by the Andes: icebergs and the narrow Drake Passage; and the area west of the Horn is notorious for rogue waves which can attain heights of up to 100 ft! The Chilean Navy maintains a station on Horn Island, consisting of a residence, utility building, chapel and lighthouse. A short distance from the main station is an albatross sculpture memorial. Antartica a large desolate land mass covered in ice continues to entice travelors exploraton and discovery.
Our southern cruise around the harsh treeless terrain of Cape Horn in South America with visits to the penguin rookeries and Patagonian ports of Puerto Madryn - small non-descript Welsh village growing quickly and located in large wildlife sanctuary; Ushuaia – world's southern most city is a pretty port set against a backdrop of snow where remoteness promoted civilization centered around a prison for serious criminals.