Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales

March 25, Friday
Up around 7, shower, pack, eat breakfast and take a taxi to the airport. Took the time to visit a Café at the airport and have a REAL cup of coffee, after too many cups of instant Nescafé. Ordered a café cortado, not knowing what cortado means. Judging by the miniature glass cup of coffee, I think it means "short" because it was a short cup of coffee.

Had a good flight to Punta Arenas, arriving by 3 p.m. Got a taxi into the city to the address given for Erratic Rock 3, where we have a reservation. The whole building is shown in yesterday's post, and here is the door. Way up on the left is a buzzer, which we rang. After a while someone buzzed the door, and we tried to open it. They buzzed again, and we pulled harder. A third time, with no better luck. Someone came down the stairs and opened the door for us: opening it inward!

Up the stairs we came into a small apartment above the bakery. Living room, dining room used as an office. We explained who we were and were greeted enthusiastically by Pato, with whom I had had email contact when reserving the room(s), having asked for a single room for each of us. Pato is not 100% in English, and the room we were shown had one double bed. We asked about the other room, and found that this was it. There were three bedrooms: this double, a dorm room with about 5 beds in it, and the room for Pato, his wife and small daughter. Dear Son solved the problem by volunteering to sleep on the floor in his sleeping bag.

After dropping off our gear in this bedroom, we went out for a walk to reconnoiter the city. Just two blocks away is the house that belonged to Bruce Chatwin's uncle, a connection that drew Bruce to this area.

We found a bus station and arranged for transport to Puerto Natales on Saturday morning. Just around the corner was a nice looking hostel, and made a reservation for Monday night on our return trip. Then we explored the city, mainly the area around a large central square. Like Santiago, Punta Arenas is full of people walking and selling from the sidewalks. There are also so many stray dogs in these cities. The amazing thing is that the sidewalks are not covered in "doggy do."

For supper we stopped in a very small café called The Pines, appropriate because the interior, the counters and the stools are all made of pine. We each ordered a hamburg and burst into laughter when it came. The hamburg and bun covered the entire plate! That's about 9" to 10" across! DS had avocado on his and I had cheese on mine. They certainly satisfied our appetites!

There was a darling young girl there, probably about 7 years old, who couldn't resist flirting with us. She said shyly, as if to herself, "What is my name?" in English. Got herself a drink of juice, and gave a gusty sigh of contentment.

We bought a few supplies for camping, walked around the park and down to the waterfront. Back to the hostel as it was beginning to get dark.

March 26, Saturday
Had a brief breakfast at the hostel, with Pato keeping us company. He made REAL coffee as he had learned that visitors prefer that to the instant Nescafé. But, somehow or other, that automatic drip pot produced lukewarm coffee! Don't know how that's possible, but appreciated his efforts. He bade us a fond farewell. This whole experience here at this hostel started out seeming kind of weird, but we ended feeling very good about it.

Passed through much country like this on the way to Puerto Natales by bus. Reminds me very much of Alberta. Open country, with some cattle, but very little settlement. That's actually a large flock of flamingoes on the lake.

We arrived at Puerto Natales around noon and walked to Erratic Rock (the original) where Pato had reserved a room for us for tonight. Again there was some mix up and they had booked us into the dorm room. We
both prefer a private, to avoid noisy roommates. But Paul, the owner, (from Eugene, Oregon) looked out for us. There are oodles of hostels in Puerto Natales, and he found us a room at one just a block and half away.

Carla, the owner, soon found us as we headed over there, and we made arrangements with her for tonight and for the bus to the park tomorrow morning. We also reserved a room for our return trip.

This hostel was called "Austral Glacier" which we found out was a very appropriate name, as it was COLD!! D.S. said he would characterize it as "an icebox, besieged by dogs." There was a small gas heater in the living room, a small gas heater in the dining room, and that was it. The hot water was on demand. I had the first shower, but chickened out when it came to washing my hair. It was just too cold!

We had a room upstairs with three single beds, and they were absolutely the best beds and bedding we had on the entire trip.

At three that afternoon we went to Erratic Rock for their free talk about what you need for hiking in the park, what to expect, etc. Very informative.

Took a good walk all around the main shopping area and bought some more supplies for the camping part of our trip. Again, like Santiago and Punta Arenas, the sidewalks are filled with people out walking. Toward the end of the evening we were down by the waterfront and saw these lovely, black headed swans. I'd never heard of such a thing before.

Then did a good repack of our backpacks in preparation for actually going to the park tomorrow!

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