Monday, December 30, 2013

Patagonia, Chile

It all happened in a bit of a whirlwind, the Homologoda arrived and we went to pay for the paperwork to be processed and on Friday evening we went to collect our bikes !

That evening we had a few celebratory drinks and a braai with our new Dutch friends Rutger and Ellis , who were also celebrating the collection of their new 4x4, and a Canadian couple, Aleksey and Dawn, who were celebrating the end of their 1 year trip through South America. Celebrations went on a little later than we had anticipated and were left with 4 hours to sleep and pack our bags before having to leave to the airport.
Saturday morning, a little tired and tender we headed off to the airport for our flight to Patagonia woohoo!
Flying over the Andes was a magical sight, seeing all the snow-capped mountains popping out through the clouds and the vast turquoise coloured lakes.

We landed in Punta Arenas and met an English couple on honey moon who had organised a taxi through to town and asked if we wanted to share the costs with them. So we loaded our bags precariously into the boot and strapped the lid down with a rubber lakki and headed to town.  At the bus terminal we were quite glad to see our bags were still there! We booked our bus tickets through to Puerto Natales and had 3 hours to explore the town.  This is the southernmost city we will get to, and we were impressed at how equipped the shops were!!

Punta Arenas Town Centre

Statue along the promenade
Catch the mermaid!!

Lifelike art on the houses along the promenade


Nibbling on the snack he just caught

First glimpse of Patagonia landscape

Pretty comfy and spacious
We arrived in Puerto Natales and started looking around for accommodation, together with a Swedish traveler we had met who had already been cycling across from Brazil to Chile (Atlantic to Pacific), who was also looking for accommodation.  A few places were booked up but eventually found a lovely little place in town - a room inside a woman’s second floor apartment.  


Church in the main square of Puerto Natales
Second floor apartment
Curious street dog
With the sun still up at 10pm we headed out to get some dinner. We had passed a small pizza shop along the way and decided to go back there for dinner. Had an amazing pizza and tried the local pisco sours, which is the local brandy which they mix with lemon juice and sugar hmm yummi !! The restaurant building was the old trading post back in the 1800s and was only renovated in 2005 and they tried to keep it as original as possible keeping posters, doors and they still had the original cash register!! At 11:30pm the sun had gone to bed and so did we!

Puerto Natales is an interesting town that looked a bit shaby when we first drove in, but as we explored it more the next morning we found lots of outdoor shops, smaller mercados, lots of restaurants and even more hostels.  It is quite touristy, but you can still see that it is a trading town with a port.  We found the office for Navimag, but unfortunately as it was a Sunday it was closed and we were therefore unable to confirm when we needed to board the ferry. Unsure about this, we decided to catch the 14:30pm bus to Torres del Paine to make sure we saw the National Park if we needed to board on Monday afternoon.  The tickets were 12 000 pesos return and the drive took about 3 hours to the Park.  After signing in with the park authorities we sat for another 45min in awe of the weather that we had exposing the ‘Torres’ (towers) and the beauty of the mountain range.  We jumped out at the second stop in the park, Salto Grande, and pushed through howling wind for 40min to the Salto Grande waterfall.  From there we were able to see the glaciers and different coloured volcanic rock as well as the large glacier lake ‘Lago Nordenskjold’, and enjoyed a breadroll with ham.  Having only an hour and half in the park we jumped back into the bus and returned to Puerto Natales arriving back at 10:30pm.  We found a lovely restaurant and had roast chicken for dinner.

The 'Torres' of Torres del Paine

Salto Grande

"Precaution: zone of strong wind"

Getting dirty for that artistic shot!
 The next morning we headed down to the Navimag office, bags packed and ready to go, only to find out that we had to board the ferry on Tuesday 2pm! Damn we could have stayed in the park longer, but the town of Puerto Natales had come to life with a bit of sunshine and it being a Monday, so we hunted around for a cheaper hostel with wifi.  The church speakers played Christmas carols at around 6pm so we went to the park and watched the locals enjoying the sunshine and tricksters on their BMX’s.

Homer Simpson was scattered throughout the town

Fireplace in our room
Waiting to get the go ahead to board the Navimag ferry, we met a few others going on the ferry too.  It looked like a nice bunch of people and we got more excited for the next 4 days.  Herded like sheep up the ramp and onto a hydraulic powered lift, we were lifted up to the second level of the ferry.  From there we were guided to our cabins, a decently sized 6 berthed cabin with its own ablutions.  An American couple and German sisters were to be our cabin mates for the next 3 nights.

Being herded along

The ferry disembarked at 6pm sharp and we braved the cold wind and stood on the bow of the boat.  The landscape was breath-taking and the fjords were much more than we could have ever anticipated. The pictures really don’t do it justice and everyday we were treated to more spectacular views and a few dolphins and seals.

The looking point from the upper level bow of the Ferry

Odd decoration in a cabin window

The sheltered spot from the wind

Occasionally we were allowed to join the captain and first mates in the bridge!

Which gap are you going for??
Oh right...that one!
Our cabin

Its a dolphin! No iceberg!!

We got to watch all the gear behind Nick get loaded onto little boats off the back of the Ferry
Loading supplies for the small town en route

Getting involved!!

All those drums went onto 1 boat!!

Loaded and ready to head back to shore
The Ferry went through so many tight gaps

Eight sharp in the morning we docked at Puerto Montt and again were herded like sheep off the ferry.  Straight to the bus terminal we found a local bus to Puerto Varas, a strange but beautiful German influenced town on the shores of the largest fresh water lake in Chile, with a backdrop of Volcanoes Osorno and Calbuco.  The hostel we decided to stay in invited us to join them on a sunset kayak on Lake LLanquihue from 3pm.  Having a few hours we wandered the town and booked our tickets back to Santiago, 12 000 pesos per person. 

The sunset kayak was spectacular and included a detour into a lagoon.  Again the pictures don’t do it justice!!

Picnic on the beach
In the Lagoon with Volcano Osorno in the background

Yeah! I can still do it!

Hehe the fun shot!
The group of us!

2 volcanoes in one picture

What a sunset!!

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