Patagonia 2 – Estancia de San Gregorio

This is the second installment from our trip to Patagonia last December. Last time, we toured the city of Santiago (here) before flying into Punta Arenas late at night on the 19th. We stayed at Hostal Ventisqueros, a cozy little place, which had this very handy map of Patagonia painted on the wall in the lobby. Punta Arenas is roughly in the center, next to those larger bodies of water that are chained together (the Strait of Magellan – denoted by the dashed line). We were all pretty exhausted by this point and headed quickly to bed.

The following morning, over breakfast, we decided to go see a historic, partially abandoned agricultural town along with two wrecked ships. We picked up a rental car and headed northeast from Punta Arenas (red dot) along the Strait of Magellan (Estrecha de Magallanes) to the ghost town of Estancia de San Gregorio (red X).

Outside, it was very, very, very apparent we were at the height of summer, which came as quite a shock after the dark, cold, wet winter days of western Oregon.

There was a park with some Monterrey cypress (Hesperocyparis macrocarpa) kitty corner to our hostel.

And, the lilacs were blooming. Can you imagine going outside and enjoying the scent of lilacs just days away from Christmas?

Columbines, rue (yellow flowers on the right), and peonies (not shown) were in full bloom. As I write this on May 17th, 2024, my columbines and peonies at home here in western Oregon are just coming into bloom now. Makes me wonder what the weather will be like back in Punta Arenas today… I had to look it up. Today, in Punta Arenas, it will be partially cloudy with a high of 47°F. Meanwhile, here in Oregon, it will also be partially cloudy, but our high will be 67°F.

After driving about an hour and a half, we arrived at Estancia de San Gregorio.

Founded in 1878 by José Menéndez and built by Marius Andrieu. Estancia de San Gregorio was an agricultural, territorial settlement with a focus on sheep farming. Unfortunately, there weren’t any signs, so we wandered around for a bit, just taking it all in. Later, I read online that architecture is southern style with elements similar to those from Australia and New Zealand. The larger buildings were for sheep shearing and processing meat, fat, lanolin, and leather, and there are also worker houses, a blacksmith shop, a theater, and a winery. Today, about 800 people still live in the area and some of the buildings are still used in summer for sheep shearing.

The settlement itself straddles the highway, which you can see in the foreground, and is a short, walkable distance down to beach along the Strait of Magellan where the shipwrecks are. I took about 20 photos of this particular house with the dead trees in the background. It feels much more haunting in person.

We headed down to the beach and spent most of our time birdwatching (two of our friends are avid birdwatchers) and exploring.

On the left, I got a little creative and made a miniature mermaid teaset with limpet shells.

One of the shipwrecks along the beach. This is the Amadeo, the first steamship registered in Punta Arenas, which was used to transport wool to Europe

And to the east of that, the skeletal remains of the clipper Ambassador

Now heading towards those distant buildings. Everyone else was staring wistfully out over the Strait of Magellan, practicing their photography skills, or birdwatching. As I think I’ve said elsewhere, I am more of a terra firma kind of guy. I find broad open stretches of water pretty boring, so off I went to explore.

Oh, there it is, the open waters of the Strait of Magellan, in the background. As you can see, my focus was on more important things, like a closeup of Monterrey cypress cones.

I love old, abandoned buildings. Particularly ones that haven’t been vandalized with grafitti. The feeling of desolation, of past lives gone by…

A picture of a dandelion. This is a plant blog after all.

Heading back to the car.

Next time, we will continue our adventure by heading towards the narrowest part of the Strait of Magellan. My travel companions let me stop along the way and botanize for about 15 minutes, so there will be more plant pictures.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Lynn

    Thanks for a delightful vicarious experience! I can imagine the pleasure of smelling lilacs in December, yum. I especially like the beach find photos and the last ship photo. Also the attractive golden-yellow building. And thanks for including the maps! Always helps.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Yellow seems to be one of the colors I associate my memories of Patagonia now. The yellow of the sun, the buildings, the grass. It was such a vibrant place.

  2. Tracy

    These are some GREAT photos. I immediately loved the yellow roof, and then noticed so much yellow in a lot of the buildings. The second picture of the Ambassador is amazing. I look forward to your next installment!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Yes, I had a hard time deciding on a cover photo for this post. The yellows were so warming after a long, cold, gray winter. The Ambassador photo reminds me of a great whale skeleton.

  3. Kris P

    Your photos convey that haunting feel, Jerry. Was there any explanation for abandonment of what looks to have been a thriving community at one time? I can speculate that shipping sheep wool from a part of the world that remote may have been an expensive proposition if the demand can be met faster and cheaper by other sources. But at least it hasn’t been converted into a tourist outlet!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      There isn’t a lot of information about what happened, but there was mention of economic stagnation and a downturn in the livestock boom. There are a fair number of tourist buses that stop by. We left just as one arrived. Since we were on our own, we didn’t know how much exploring we could do in the area. Some of the buildings have a lot of graffiti inside. Luckily the outside has been left more or less as is for us to enjoy the ambiance.

  4. Chavli

    Beach combing is a fun activity (your mermaid tea set is lovely!) and that particular beach has a lot of potential for taking excellent photos. I find beauty and melancholy in the rusty remains and dilapidated structures. Mother nature slowly taking back what’s hers.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I only wished I had some tea and biscuits to go with the tea set. I adore old places like this and could just spend hours exploring and listening to the wind whispering in the background.

  5. danger garden

    I’ve paged through this post 3 times now, on different days. Your photos are so evocative, of what I am not certain, but I have stared at them all for quite awhile, certain I would have taken nearly the same photos. Have I asked (or have you told us), why Patagonia? I know absolutely nothing about the area, but these are not the photos I would expect to see.

  6. Botanica Chaotica

    Why Patagonia? It was on the bucket list for several of us on the trip and we wanted to go some place in the southern hemisphere where we could enjoy some summer sun. I am happy you enjoyed the photos!

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