This morning we slept until 8 and then enjoyed the excellent buffet breakfast that came along with the price of the room. In preparation for leaving we sorted through our hastily packed stuff and repacked much more carefully. My hiking shoes were still totally wet, so I wore my black leather loafers today.
After checking out at the front desk, we had a few hours to wait for the shuttle to take us back to the park entrance where we would be picked up by bus and taken back to Puerto Natales. We spent that time partly in the hotel lounge where the view is fantastic.
We also mingled with the other hikers who were waiting for transport out of the park. I gained a modicum of fame for being one of the few who actually made it to the top of the trail, certainly the only "old geezer" to do so. There were young fellows there (from Arizona) who gave up when confronted with
all that snow.
We chatted quite a while with Carly, the Australian fellow who took our picture at the mirador. He's a base jumper and has jumped in Yosemite where D.S. lives and works.
There were two vans to transport the large group of hikers. The drivers loaded all the backpacks and started crowding passengers into the vans--more than they were supposed to carry. I took one look at how crowded it was in the back and said, "Oh, I can't sit back there! I'm way too claustrophobic." Someone pointed me to the front passenger seat which, fortunately, was empty, and I gratefully climbed in there. That was a great seat with lots of elbow room and "breathing space" and a good view of the road out of the park.
The road was more pothole than road, and progress was slow. The van lurched from side to side, trying to avoid the worst and deepest potholes. The funniest part came at the very end where we had to cross a narrow bridge to get to where the busses were waiting for us. Our driver rolled down his window to peer out his side, steering carefully and slowly across the bridge since there was only about 6" clearance on either side of the van. After we got out of the van we realized that neither van had side view mirrors! There wasn't room for them on that bridge.
We sorted ourselves into the various busses for the 2 1/2 hour return trip to Puerto Natales. Our bus had mudsplashed windows, so there was no picture taking on the way back.
We were a little concerned about finding a place to stay in Puerto Natales, since we had told Carla we would come back on Sunday and we were a day early, but when the bus left us off at the small park by Erratic Rock, there was Carla, smiling and waving at us. She gave us a key to the hostel and we went over to drop off our stuff.
Then, because we do like to walk, we went for a long walk around town. First stop was a shop where D.S. had seen a heavy duty duffle bag he wanted to buy. It was on sale, well made, and he's very happy with it. He was able to pack all of his things, including the tent and his backpack, into the new duffle for the trip home. Plus, it's bright red, so very easy to spot on the luggage carousel.
We stopped to buy some groceries for meals and then did a little shopping. I bought myself a pair of enamel earrings, with deep blue, forest green and white, symbolic of the forest, snow and sky of our hike. Also found some really neat carved wooden salad fork and spoon sets for presents.
Back at the hostel we cooked up some soup and had a bun with sliced chicken and cheese for supper. D.S. took a shower but I'm waiting for a warmer bathroom. And so to bed. Almost seems funny to be back in a city. I really loved hoisting on my backpack and getting on the trail each day, and that part of our trip is finished.