Thursday 4 March 2010

Parque National, Torres del Paine

The reason we came to Puerta Natales, was because that is where the Navimag took us.

However, for most, the reason for coming here is to visit the nearby national park, Torres del Paine. We of course planned to do the same, but agonized literally for days over whether to do the multi-day "W" trek, a day-trip, or something else.

Whilst agonizing, we explored Natales and spent one afternoon bicycling around the vicinity. We liked it, the town was pretty and full of touristic things like good pizza and bike rentals, and the countryside we explored by bike was both pretty and flat enough to make for a good ride. Some of the views, especially in the direction of the national park, were quite amazing.

Our hostel, Josmar, was also pretty nice. The owners were friendly and helpful, our room was comfy, we had wifi and access to a kitchen... the only problem was that the place was full of Israelis. Not that I have anything against Israelis as individuals, but they tend to travel in groups: all young, loud, messy and generally rather inconsiderate - pretty much what you'd expect from kids enjoying their freedom after mandatory military service in a very dangerous place. Josmar had multiple groups of them; clogging the toilets, messily cooking all at once and then talking loudly right outside our bedroom door until at least 1am every night.

But... we felt pretty comfy anyway, largely due to our hosts being so welcoming. Coffee and hot bread for breakfast, advice on how to get around, a ride with our bags on arrival - all good. Josmar also left me with the odd feeling that my Spanish was getting better; I found myself helping our hosts and the Israelis communicate.

After all this fun, and an inspiring presentation about the park at a place called Base Camp, we decided to: just take the touristic, one-day mini-van tour. Lame, we know. But we just didn't feel like carrying loads of rented gear, wading ice-cold rivers and then sleeping in a wind-battered tent. Not to mention the fact that our budget is still in critical condition after the Navimag extravaganza - we couldn't really afford the wind-battered tent anyway.

So, at 7.30am we piled into a van with five young Israelis (not from our hostel - we were probably the only non-Israelis in town) and off we went.

Our first stop was the Cueva del Milodon, a beautiful place where they charged us 3.000 clp each to visit the cave and pose for silly pictures with their big plastic milodon statue. Here, some wild red foxes were kind enough to pose for us, and a small hawk almost hit Ewelina in the head.

Next, we headed towards the park proper, stopping at various viewpoints to admire the breathtaking scenery. It really is very pretty, colorful lakes, wild herds of Guanacos (llamoids) and of course the Paine Massif: 3000m of soaring peaks, cliffs and glaciers presiding over it all.

We had a great day, and even better, we were both satisfied and quite glad we'd opted for the tour instead of the hike. No regrets! Driving around with our camera and then returning to our cosy bed was exactly what we wanted.

Next stop: Punta Arenas.

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