Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Puerto Natales

I arrived in Puerto Natales around 9pm. This is a pretty small town so finding the hostel is easy. And the hostel was nice and warm which I was very pleased about.

The first thing I did was book my bus ticket to Torres del Paine for tomorrow. Then I had to race up to the supermarket to get some food for tomorrow. Luckily Chile is not like Australia and things stay open a lot later. With tomorrow's activities sorted I went looking for el living, the town's one any only veggie place. It is a fantastic veggie restaurant run by an English family so its really easy to get food that is vegan, gluten free, whatever. They understand them all! The pumpkin soup was delicious. I will be coming back to try the vegan chickpea patties when its not too late at night for a big meal!

The next day got up early for las torres. The bus takes about two hours. Then the shuttle to the park's hotel takes another 20 mins. The guy at the hostel told me that the walk to the lookout would take about fours hours to to get there and four hours back. In total it was 19km. This did not phase me too much, since I've done a half marathon and 20km runs before. I've also walked around all day. Like Santiago for example. Not that I was super happy about having to walk 19km but I was looking forward to las torres.

It turns out this walk taught me something about myself I did not know until today. I pretty much hate hiking. Seriously the volcano was really hard, but you could see the top and tobogganing down was awesome. But here, I had no idea what was ahead of me or how much longer it would take. After three hours of walking mostly up the mountain I was so bored and I just really wanted to get there. And no, there is no bus. If you want to go to the lookout, you have to walk. I was so glad I didn't do the W circuit. And I was glad once again I didn't do the Inca trail at Machu Picchu. The only thing worse than hiking is hiking it with a 10kg backpack and a tent! I'm so glad I'm getting the bus back tonight. Anyway enough bitching about camping and hiking. I did it and got to see some nice stuff along the way. Patagonia is a particularly beautiful part of the world.


Towards the end it wasn't even a path anymore, just rocks. Then I got to the lookout, which wasn't really a lookout but more rocks. But that's ok, its about the view. Time for lunch with this lovely view. After taking four hours to get here, I only stayed about 15 minutes cos it was so cold! The weather in this park varies a lot. At the start of the path, I was regretting not wearing shorts cos it was quite warm, then massive winds came along, then some rain and at las torres it was really, really cold and raining. Hence the rubbish photo of las torres.

So I headed back down the mountain. This was easier on one level, but really hard on your knees. I later developed a sort of jogging technique which lessened the jarring and sped up the process. It still took ages though.

On the way back I wanted to drink water from the river cos you can here. The water tasted really nice and pure. No dirt or chemical or plastic bottle taste. This is one of the most unpolluted parts of the world. You must take all your rubbish away with you and everyone does. I didn't see any litter. It's nice that everyone respects the beauty of this park.
Got back to the park hotel at about 5pm. The last shuttle to the bus is 7.30pm. Time for a well earned beer me thinks! By now it was so nice to be sitting on comfy couches instead of rocks. And it was warm! I didn't even care that the beer was expensive.

On the way back to Puerto Natales we saw lots of llama looking creatures. I believe there are four similar species including llamas, alpacas and two others. I think this might be one of the others since it looks significantly bigger than the ones I saw in Peru. Or they are llamas and I'm taking complete shite. They just wander around doing whatever. I wonder if they have any natural predators down here, apart from tour buses? I also saw some birds that  look like emus but smaller.

There is evidence of the bushfire that ripped through here engulfing much of the park last month. But nature, unlike people's houses, recovers fast. Already there's lots of green coming up through the ashes. Some trees were already knee height. The park ranger that got on the bus at the start to explain the park rules told us that campers could not light any fires at all. Hope they brought lots of sandwiches and fruit!

After getting back to Puerto Natales I went to el living for some more pumpkin soup. It was just so good. I've also noticed that a lot of the restaurants advertise that their fruit and veg is organic and locally grown. I really like that, especially in such a pristine environment. Let's hope big farming doesn't come in and fuck it all up!

The next morning was a chance to sleep in. So nice. My legs hurt quite a lot today after all the walking up and down mountains over the past couple of days. I walked around the town down to the water.

I like this place (for a few days anyway). It's very quiet and peaceful and full of Germans. It's like mini Deutschland! I've heard more German here than Spanish. Some girl even spoke to me in German yesterday. Unlike me, those Germans all love their hiking so places like this attract lots of them.

Not sure what these guys did. I imagine the one on the left is impressed with the size of right guy's feet. You know what they say.

I'm pretty far south. Although Punta Arenas was more south.

Although the northern hemisphere equivalent is London which doesn't seem the same. Maybe because here is a lot more isolated so you feel like you're nearer to Antarctica compared to London and the Arctic.

They have the fanciest bins I've ever seen here.

I went back to el living for lunch and had the chickpea patties and was very glad I did. It came with a fresh salad and no bread this time. I'm so sick of eating bread everyday, I can't wait to get off it again when I get home.

Given most people go camping from here, there's lots of shops specialising in outdoor stuff including dried fruit and nuts. I bought this selection of apples, bananas and figs. They also had these strawberries. Not sure what they did to them but they are quite sweet like jam. Yum.

I would have bought more but I'll probably have to eat them all today before I cross back into Argentina tonight. Although I think Argentina cares less about food coming across the border than Chile. Chile has some of the strictest quarantine laws I've seen outside of Australia.

I am also a little bit addicted to this fruit and nut mix. I've eaten so many bags since I've been here. Nuts, dried coconut, cranberries and pineapple. It's my go to vegan snack and really good! Better for you than bags of chips.

None of the houses here look really built for the cold. I haven't seen any double glazed windows at all. People must freeze in winter. Brr!

After a nice relaxing day with yummy food, I got the bus at 6pm for el Calafate in Argentina. It look less than half an hour to reach the border. Then it was off the bus, get stamped out of Chile. Get back on the bus and go up to Argentina. Unlike going into Brazil, everyone got off the bus this time and got stamped into Argentina. On to el Calafate!