[Patagonia VIII] January 12, 2012: Home again

Early in the morning, I extricated myself from my top bunk in the hostel dormitory, cautious not to wake any of my roommates. Last night, the hostel owners had kindly prepared an easy breakfast and left it out on the table for me, even though their breakfast service usually isn’t available until 7am. I munched on that, and then held vigil at the front window, waiting for the transfer van.

The van scooped me up, and we headed to the airport. I feel I owe Magellan an apology: his strait is quite beautiful when there’s a clear sky and a bright orange sunrise. It was the polar opposite of yesterday’s melodramatic storminess. I think I’ve put words to my conflicting feelings about Punta Arenas: I like driving through the city, and I might like its more rural outskirts, but I’m so-so about being in the main bulk of the city.

I had forgotten to do online check-in for my flight yesterday, but I’d somehow been assigned an excellent seat: an aisle seat only five rows from the front. Read More

[Patagonia VII] January 11, 2012: Strait of Magellan

My final morning at Ecocamp. I had been using my cell phone as an alarm clock, but it was running low on battery, so I woke up numerous times before my alarm in order to check that the phone hadn’t died in the night. I finally got up about half an hour before the alarm. While I hadn’t had any sore muscles from the hike yesterday, they had decided to make up for lost time and all be sore today. The ankle seemed better, so perhaps it was a fair trade-off. It was freezing inside my dome, so I dressed as though the icy hounds of hell were after me, and then trotted across the wooden path to the bathroom, to go brush my face. It was actually warmer outside, in the cold morning sunlight, than inside the dome.

Early morning mountains.

I headed down to breakfast, and found my way back to warmth through several cups of Darjeeling Himalaya tea. Read More

[Patagonia VI] January 10, 2012: Calafate berries

I awoke to a beautiful spattering of raindrops across all three of my dome windows. Or rather, as soon as I pulled on my glasses, I did. A modified Zen thought for you: if there’s a beautiful sight to be seen, and there’s nobody with decent vision around to see it, does it still count as beautiful?

The only drawback of how far I pushed my body yesterday to complete the hike was that today, I moved like a 100-year-old man. Read More

[Patagonia V] January 9, 2012: Mirador Las Torres

[Note: This will be a very photo-heavy post. It could have been even more unwieldy with photos, but I showed great restraint, I assure you. Please do feel free to check out all the day’s photos on my Flickr, though. I love them all.]

I rose at 8am, after several hours dozing through the light from the very-early sunrise. After dressing, I ambled down to the dining dome for a simple, tasty buffet-style breakfast. Then, I returned to my dome to throw a few useful things (extra jackets, food, camera) into my backpack. After a stop at the bar dome to buy a bottle of water, I set off purposefully into the morning, intent upon doing the hike that a guest from London had recommended: the Mirador Las Torres.

There is a little path that snakes down Ecocamp’s hill that I had not known about; it’s a much easier way to reach the main road than the gravel road I had arrived on. After passing a refugio and a fancy-shmancy hotel, I crossed a bridge, traipsed down a gravel hill, and reached the Mirador Las Torres trailhead. Read More

[Patagonia IV] January 8, 2012: Into Torres del Paine

Today, I slept in until the late hour of 10am, at which point I arose, ate the healthful hostel-provided breakfast, and stuffed all my things into my giant backpack. The bus to Torres del Paine was scheduled to pick me up at the hostel at 2:30pm so, with time to spare, I went for a final walk in lovely Puerto Natales.

It was not raining this afternoon, although the roads were still damp from an earlier rain shower. The air had the same feeling of winter as it had on Friday, traced with the scent of distant smoke. I tagged along with L. to a grocery, intending to buy bananas but finding none. Then, I ambled towards the town square. I browsed an artisanal souvenirs store, which I enjoyed. (I find window shopping just as satisfying as actual purchasing: it’s nice to get a feel for the “typical” goods of an area, especially when they are arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner, as at this shop.) In addition to artisan crafts, they also sold a wide range of Chilean- and Patagonian-focused books, including a Torres del Paine flora field guide (the same one I’d seen yesterday at the Chilean border, but still too pricy). They also offered an elegant book of macro photographs of Patagonian flora (well-priced by Chilean standards, so I caved and purchased it). Remind me to show it to you. Read More