Puerto Williams recovery days

Trip Start Jan 07, 2013
Trip End Aug 01, 2013

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Thursday, March 14, 2013

After the intensive 6 days of hiking, all we wanted to do was relax and feast. Conveniently Puerto Williams is perfect for these objectives. Fun fact: its also the capital of antartica (region of chile). The next two days greeted us with cloudless skies, a welcome treat after the rain, sleet, and snow during the hike. We stayed at a hostel in village ukika on the outskirts of puerto Williams. The owner, Christian, lived there with his family and lived the epitome of the simple life. He had a garden behind the house where he grew all his own food. Between that and ocean he was well provided for, and thus so were we.

Connor and I can barely walk (strained Achilles' tendon for me and knee problems for him) so day one was largely spent lying on an abandoned dock near the waters of the beagle channel. After a few hours the space was full of empty beer bottles and food wrappers from the local grocery store. A complete 180 from the day before.

That night Christian, our hostel owner, invited us to an asada (BBQ) he and some friends were having at "the grotto". It was a large firepit in the woods behind his house. For the next 5 hours a large grate supported by two upturned chairs cooked more meat than I have ever seen in my life. Connor, Greg, and I didn't move from our couch near the fire the whole time. Everyone drank, told stories, and passed around the guitar. Connor and I may have had one too many beers to remember all the songs we knew, but it was ok because some random dude just busted out flute solos to any chord progression we played. I've never seen someone so good at the flute. At around 2 am Christian showed us all the constellations he knew before we stumbled back to bed.

The next day our hostel was full and Christian was free of his advertising duties. He was only 27, and was excited to hang out. He first took us to get our boat tickets to puntas arenas, on a ferry leaving the next day. We walked around town doing that and other errands while kicking a soccer ball Greg and I had bought around the street. On the way back to the hostel to drop off groceries we made the best find of the trip. In a grassy front lawn of a tiny house on the hill we found a litter of 8 or so puppies playing. A single whistle brought them running toward us. I've never played in a field of puppies before, and I was missing out. We spent maybe 40 minutes there, Christian was too far ahead and thought we just disappeared.

Back at the hostel we asked if we could ride horses. He said yeah, but we had to catch some wild ones first. Following him into the forest behind town we thought he was joking... He led us to a corral up on the hill where local gauchos herded some of the wild horses roaming around the town and nearby countryside. It was a sort of training camp for the younger gauchos to be. Five of us worked together to heard the horses around the ring while others took turns with rope to lasso them. Standing in front of a stampede trying to direct them towards the lasso throwers was quite the adrenalin rush, especially on a bum ankle. Once caught, a careful dance would take place where the horse was "reeled in" and a bit was placed around its head for the first time. It was then led out of the wild ring where others would start its training. One horse, a large golden mare, was especially resistant and it took all 6 of us to get her under control. After an hour we led two newly caught horses back into town to Frederick's, the head gaucho's, house. While leading them back a number of wild horses came to investigate, they are everywhere here!

Back at the hostel, the all too familiar rain started up again so we took it as a sign to relax. Now officially hardened to the rain, I went out in my shell to play guitar on an abandoned fishing boat near the waters edge. After about an hour an old, maybe a little insane, fisherman invited me into his house for coffee. And by coffee he meant wine. We had a very broken conversation and I realized I hadn't really spoken Spanish since getting to Patagonia. I finished my glass in attempt to make my leave, but he just kept refilling it. His friends came over and we drank more.. As his buddy was leaving, I found my cue to go as well. I went to meet up with Greg and Connor, who were tipsy from a nearly identical experience after fishing.

Greg and Connor had been fishing with Frederick, and caught the tiniest salmon I've ever seen. When I saw his characteristic fishing-pose picture I broke out laughing at the half eaten fish stick on his hook. They had been talking with the fisherman/gaucho about horses, and had grown adamant about buying one. In Patagonia it is about $200 for a horse, and $150 for a wild one. They were considering staying one more week (boats only left on Saturdays) in order to catch and train some horses. All of Patagonia is very horse friendly and is there really a cooler way to travel? We continued to talk it out over beers at Frederick's but after finding our soccer ball stolen by one of his gaucho-kids the mood turned sour. He pretty much threw us out of his house, opening the slammed door again to grab another beer. An abrupt wake up call from the horse fantasy, we agreed some research needed to be done first. Plus we're on an island. The place to get a car, or a horse, will be starting in our next mainland destination, puntos arenas.

We spent our last night in Puerto Williams packing, eating, and going back to play with the puppies again. Our boat left at 7 am the next morning so we got to sleep relatively early. The 30 hour trip through the various channels and islands to puntos arenas was costly, and will hopefully be the last major transportation purchased in Patagonia.
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