Tourist Hell Pain

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, April 13, 2007

The wind eventually abated and we disembarked the ferry about 1pm at Puerto Natales. I didn't have a place to stay so after pushing through the taxi and hostel touts I wandered the few blocks into town. Somebody somewhere had mentioned a decent hostel which I found a couple of blocks east of the Plaza de Armas. Some of the people from the boat had beaten me to it but I was lucky enough to get a bed. By complete coincidence my room mate was French Franck who I had shared a cabin with on the boat.

Puerto Natales is the main base for the hiking mecca of the Torres del Paine National Park. In season I imagine the town to be buzzing with people either setting out for or returning from the wildly popular three day trek to see the towers. This being low season it was much quieter. And wetter.

I went for a walk in the cold rain reflecting on how much I enjoyed the boat trip. Now I had to decide whether I was to spend two or three days walking and camping in the park or to wuss out and take an organised day trip. Still undecided I returned to the hostel where I bumped into the Pakistani Californians, Dolly and Ernie, making dinner. They offered me some of their rice which I gladly accepted. Ernie began to tell me his denture-clicking story of London-1956-five-guineas-a-week-only-two-Indian-restaurants as Dolly tutted and smiled and I pretended he hadn't told me at least twice before.

He asked me about the cricket world cup so I jumped on the internet so get the news from the last few days and also to check the weather forecast for the park. I don't know what was worse: England's performance or the scheduled rain and wind. As I was reading in walked Lesbian Jo, last seen in Bariloche the week before. Another complete conincidence, she had just come back from a day trip to the park while she had seen nothing but rain and clouds while getting frozen. French Franck was still trying to convince me to join him in a three day hike but I decided to take a chance on tomorrow's weather and booked a one-day guided tour instead.

Crammed into a minibus with a few boat people - including Dolly and Ernie whose clicking dentures were telling the English people how he once lived in London in 1956-9 for only five guineas a week - we set off through the rain in the darkness. Two hours up the road and the guide pointed out mountains to the left we would have been able to see if not for the cloud. Marvellous. As we drove through the park the snow-capped jagged tower peaks came and went as the blustery wind played with the clouds - and quite impressive peaks they were too. In a way we got lucky as we saw so much more than Jo the previous day. Still, I was glad I wasn't walking for three days and getting frozen at night. Some people are nutters.

Back at Puerto Natales I decided there was no need to stay. The town had a hungover air about it following the busy summer season so the next day I took a bus with Jo a few hours north to the town of El Calafate across the border in Argentina. There were two things I want to do there: teach the locals how to play football without using their hands, and to go and see some big-ass glaciars.
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