18.02.2014 - 19.02.2014 10 °C
We were happy to leave El Calafate behind, it's not the kind of town you want to spend too much time in. The next stop was Puerto Natales, the entry point to Torres del Paine National Park and one step closer to the end of the world.
I was still hobbling, especially on steps so we were 90% sure that the famous W trek was out but we hadn't fully accepted that fact yet. We decided to wait until we got there to make the decision.
The bus left El Calafate at 8.30am and timings were vague. It depended on the border crossing but worse case scenario we were told it would take 6 hours. It did. The bus had engine problems and getting stamped out of Argentina and then 15 minutes later stamped into Chile took quite some time. All the bags had to come off the bus to be x-rayed etc. Oh and Zarius of course got grief with his passport! What's new?!
Puerto Natales is not what we expected. For some reason we didn't have high hopes but we were pleasantly surprised. We were expecting another touristy place like El Calafate, but like El Chalten, it attracts a different type of tourist and it has a really nice vibe to it.
The plan was to stay two nights before going into the park but on the walk from the bus station to our hostel that changed. We passed a hostel called Erratic Rock where every day at 3pm they give a free information talk on the trek and fortunately it was just gone 3 so in we went, weighed down with backpacks. It was full, bursting at the seams. A Dutch girl with dreadlocks gave the talk which lasted 1.5 hours and went into great detail about what to expect. She talked about it being a given that you will hike for 5 days with wet feet and how it's completely pointless putting on your rain gear, the weather is so changeable that you'll roast so just walk in the rain instead and be wet all over. She gave tips on wrapping everything in your backpack in black bags to keep things dry and not to bother with a rain cover on the bag because the wind is so strong it will either blow away or turn into a parachute. The moment of realisation for me though was when she asked people to put up their hands for how many nights of multi-day trekking/camping they had done. She started at 15 nights plus. A lot of hands went up. When she got down to 3/4 one or two hands went up and then she said, anyone who has only done 1 or hahahaha none?! And everyone laughed. I kept my hand down. There was no way I would manage this trek with a dodgy knee. I don't know if I would manage the trek with two fully functioning knees.
BUT we could still go into the park to explore and we have since decided that we will come back, as a group (who's in?) and not do the W trek which is 5 days / 4 nights but the full circuit. 9 days 8 nights. We'll give ourselves a few years, organise it properly, get a gang of us together and do it as a group adventure :-)
The hostel where we stayed, Nikos II Adventure, is in a great location in the centre of town. It's a proper hostel though. The walls are paper thin. They seem to be made of the same material that you often find at the back of IKEA drawers. A flexible piece of board that is a few mm thick. The result being that we share our room with whoever is next door. For the first couple of days that was Pattie and Maryanne. Two Americans who we never actually met but felt like we knew intimately by the time they checked out. They talked non stop. I went to bed one night and put my earplugs in to drown them out and when I woke the next morning and took them out, they were still talking! They were quite entertaining actually and we had to stifle our laughter on more than once occasion.
We decided to have a mix of chill days and active days and ended up staying for 5 nights. We were again blessed with great weather, blue skies and sunshine mostly but still very cold. I must admit I quickly got sick of my one warm outfit. In theory I had multiple warm outfits but I was so cold I had to wear everything at once so it turned into one outfit. I won't miss the cold when we get to the Lake District!
The town is really cool. People are very friendly and and there's some great places to eat and hang out. We met people from different parts of the world who had visited Puerto Natales, fallen in love with it and never left. They have set up restaurants, bars, tour companies, laundrettes...you name it, they're doing it. And we could understand why. It's a beautiful part of the world and a great little town.
First day. These toes did not come out again. Rookie error.
Patagonia is famous for its wind. And with extreme wind comes extreme landscape, rugged and wild. And the clouds are incredible, the wind shaping them like nothing we have seen before, the same with the trees. Completely windswept.
My favourite photo to-date taken by Z. I'm cheating, this is Torres del Paine, but it deserves two posts!
What an amazing tree! Completely windswept!
After a day of exploring we made a plan. We needed to explore Torres del Paine. A water adventure was on the cards...