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Published: March 18th 2013
We arrived in Puerto Natales, minus one Frenchman. Mike had missed picking up his laundry on Saturday evening by 5 minutes, and was therefore unable to get the bus with us from El Calafate to Puerto Natales. As the laundaret is not open on Sundays, it looks like he will not make it here until Tuesday, and hopefully on Wednesday we will head into Torres Del Paine.
The bus ride was pretty good. Jo has caught the cold that has finally done the full circuit amongst us all, and i was tired, so we slept for a good few hours out of the 6 hour ride. When i did have my eyes open, there was spectacular views to Torres Del Paine across desolate fields of nothingness. How flora and fauna survive here is beyond me. In winter it is -30 and covered in metres of snow, in summer there is hardly any precipitation, apart from the odd snow storm.
We get to the border with Chile, and the method of exiting Argentina is a unique one for us. We fill in an exit form and the bus driver collects everyones passports and dashes into the border patrol office. Returning
30 minutes later, handing over the wad of passports to the girl sitting in the front, seat and then telling her to take her passport and pass the rest back... It works
20 minutes later, we hit a massive oil refinery, and then Chilean Customs. We have to fill out more forms, and sign declarations about not bringing in fruit and electronics worth over $300.... We all have to file off the bus with all belongings, collect our backpacks from underneath the bus, and go through customs. Passports are stamped 30 minutes later, and then we have to get everything x-rayed for fruit. All good, we are back on the bus after about an hour in total.
Arriving into Puerto Natales, you can tell it is a windswept town, with all of the houses made from metal, and very short in height. A lot of the fences are all bent at 45 degree angles, and even the dogs seem to walk with a slant as if ready to steel themselves against the wind. Luckily for us, it is warm. Very warm actually. Its strange, as we have moved down the Andes from Bariloche it has been getting warmer
for us. No doubt it wont last. Hopefully, after Torres Del Paine...
We get off the bus at the terminal, and with our broken spanglish get a rough idea from the information lady on where to go. We make it to the first hostel we wanted to check out, but after that get hopelessly lost. Using the very limited map in the lonely planet book we end up in completely the opposite direction as to where we should be. The packs are heavy, the sun beating us up, and tempers getting frayed. Finally, i convince Jo to ask a local as to wtf we are (what a man i am...), and we get pointed in the right direction. After leaving the bus terminal 2 hours before, we find a nice hostel (Patagonia Adventure), and check in for a few nights until Mike gets here. The few extra days here is a bit of a god send, as Jo is crook and needs to recover before doing the 150 odd km's on the circuit in TDP. It also gives me a chance to update the blog.
We head out for a beer (thirsty work carrying thse backpacks around), and
once again im really impressed. Had a selection of Artesinal beers from Puntas Arenas, and all very tasy, and reasonably priced. We then cross the road to a speciallity pizza place that was recomended in the Lonely Planet and enjoy a nice meal of soup, salad and calzone. And i had a Puerto Natales reserve dark ale, that topped it all off nicely.
Today, we walk around town a bit getting our bearings, eat some empanadas, and let Jo sleep off this dreaded cold.
I also had a new experience today, where you are not allowed to flush toilet paper down the toilet. Rather, you insead put it in a bin next to the toilet.... oh well
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