Chile is finished with

Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
Trip End Dec 15, 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hi everyone

Have finished about 3 weeks of this round-the-world-in-a-year-odyssey and things are getting better and better. After leaving the Chocolate-Alpine village of Barlioche we headed down to the port town of Puerto Montt. This was to await the boat that was meant to sail us through the Chilean Ice Fjords and into the southern most tip of the world. Unfortunately, that town was a serious and complete hole. When the hostel owner advises you not to leave the hostel unless armed with a small chilean mercenary force (who also do laundry) you know you are in trouble. The only other tourists in the entire hostel had managed to have all of their passports, credit cards and camera equipment stolen the night of arrival. Conclusion - no mercenaries, no passports.

However, after bunkering in for a few days we caught the Navimag (the Good Ship Gringo) down into southern Chile. This was a great trip (aside from the vegetarian cabbage gruel that I was served 3 times a day). Met a whole bunch of Texans (cowboy hats and stetsons on a boat - nice) and saw lots of cool things (seals, dolphins, water - the works). We shared a cabin with a charming couple from Holland called Julius and Maritan. Their quiet exteriors belied a hidden love of Heavy Metal music. I had a very interesting education of the differences between Death Metal, Black Metal and Doom Metal. I had not known the cacophany sub-categorized but there you are.

Anyway, the point of getting down into southern Chile was to go hiking in 'Torres del Paine National Park'. We had heard it was meant to be the most incredible hiking in the world and we were ready. The fact we did not have tents, cooking equipment or sleeping bags was not something we had really considered. However, there are these little 'Refugios' on the hike that provide food and bedding to all ill-prepared hikers such as ourselves. The weather is so fierce though that many people end up staying in them just to stay alive. We met a wonderful Canadian couple who had got engaged about 3 hours before we met them. After sumiting a peak in driving white-out snow he had sumised 'anyone who can get over this is someone I want to spend my life with' and proposed then and there.

It was incredibly harsh but beautiful scenery - azure lakes, giant glaciers and stunning mountains. The 'Torres del Paine' (which literally means towers of pain) were fairly aptly named. We hiked for hours up a wall of tumbling rocks only to find they were hidden behind a wall of fog - pain doesn't get much sweeter than that.

We also met some amazing people doing it, mostly international professionals of incredibly high calibre. I met a pure academic statistician from cambridge (we bonded over t - sorry, bad stats joke) and his wife a paediatric cardiologist (the first doctor to surgically transplant her sense of humour with a pair of puckered lips). We also met a pair of Crown Prosecutors from Canada (with the best legal story I have ever heard - it involved 2 men caught masturbating, for somewhat obscure reasons, in a house they had broken into. Before they were aquited the judge ruled ´´in this case the accused got off not once, but twice´´).

It was lots of fun (although i had a horrible head cold for most of it) but quite demanding. There is a very apt phrase that is used down here - if it wasn´t for the wind and the rain it wouldn´t be Patagonia. Truer words never spoken.

Unfortunately, vegetarianism has gone to hell for me. The king is dead. It is just not an option down here in Patagonia and Argentina. Meat is king and, now that i am back in court, long live the king!

Anyway, hope everyone is well and working harder than me

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