Nov 19 23:30 Punta Arenas
I am now sitting in a youth hostel wondering how I came to be at the bottom of Chile. Tomorrow I will try to go see some penguins, but I’m not sure what I will do with the rest of my time here. I am actually now wondering why I scheduled four days here because there isn’t much to do other than go penguin watching. Maybe I will take a bus to Puerto Natales and go see the Torres del Paine. The bus ride here from Rio Gallegos was pretty fun. I met a guy who is trying to get down to Antarctica and I practiced some Spanish with the lady sitty next to me on the bus. We had a lot of time to talk because the four hour ride turned into seven hours thanks to customs. I’m feeling pretty tired now though so I will get some rest to prepare for whatever it is that I end up doing tomorrow.
Nov 20 9:41 Punta Arenas
Woke up this morning staring into the bunk above me with a where am I feeling. Was dreaming about a rabbit that was sick that we gave it pain killers and then it had no heartbeat. Today I will try to completely change my itenerary to go to Torres del Paine and then to Calafate instead of back to Rio Gallegos. I also need to decide which penguins I should visit.
1:31pm A Mall in Zona Franca, Punta Arenas
Ok so I completely changed my travel plans. Instead of staying in Punta Arenas for five days I will go tomorrow to Torres del Paine. After that I will go directly to el Calafate. Staying here and going back to Rio Gallegos would not be a good use of time. I have to say that the people here are really nice. I had about a 30 minute conversation with the Bus Sur lady arranging the new bus plans entirely in Spanish. I also arranged a penguin tour later today at four. This may be problematic because currently I am in a shopping mall waiting to buy some camping supplies. I say waiting because all the stores here are closed from noon until three. I have decided to wait and try to buy shoes, camp stove fuel, and return to the penguin tour place in one hour. I think I should be able to make it if I don’t take the same super slow bus that I took to get here. I think that the ‘colectivos’ that they have here are cars that look like taxis except they have numbers on them and they only go on specific routes. I will test this theory when I go back to town. To pass the time I had a pizza and a cervaza Austral, which is the local beer of Punta Arenas. I have to say that it is quite good and it has a little bit of a bite that you don’t get from Quillemes back in Argentina. It’s funny how Buenos Aires feels like home now after living there for almost four months. I had a lot of experiences there, mostly good and some a little challenging. They were good challenges though because now I am a lot more confident travelling in South America. There are some Czech people staying in my youth hostel who I also ran into at the bus station today. They asked me if I arranged the busses in English, and I said no, I did it all in Spanish. At that moment I realized how far I have come since I arrived and I only spoke a little California Spanish. Travelling solo is great for practing because it forces me to interact and do everything myself. So far I have been very successful, and hopefully the success continues for the rest of the trip.
2:30 – Ha, I just ran into the lady I was sitting next to on the bus from Rio Gallegos. Small world…
2:43 – Whoa, walking around the mall I just now that that it is decorated for christmas with a tree and everything. Christmas in summer is strange, but it’s actually cold enough to be winter now.
Nov 21 1:11am Punta Arenas Hostel
The other guy in my dorm room is talking on his cell phone. He already got two calls. Now he turned on the tv. Awesome.
8:50am Punta Arenas inside Bus Sur
I am now sitting inside of the bus after a brisk 15 minute walk from the hostel. The bus is not very comfortable. It is old and the window side armrest is a thin sliver of leather wrapped metal attached directly to the wall so there isn’t any room for my arm. However the bus is quite empty so I will change to the aisle seat. I think I have too much stuff for backpacking and I will have to move things around and repack when I get on the trail. Right now I have a big pack, a small day pack, and a camera bag. Somehow I have to get the day pack inside of the big pack. Last night I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to plan today’s adventure because I spent an hour or two talking to a nice couple from Holland. As of now I have an idea of where in the park I want to get dropped off and picked up, but I’m not sure if there will be enough time to hike between them. Hopefully I will meet someone today who will be able to help me with the logistics. I also want to buy some gloves so hopefully there is enogh time between buses in Puerto Natales to find a pair. My shoe search yesterday was unsuccessful. I have reached the conclusion that there are no people in Argentina or Chile with feet bigger than European size 46. Or maybe there is a secret store somewhere for big people but I have yet to find it. If you have big feet, buy your shoes before you get here.
2:27pm Bus to Torres del Paine
Gloves – check, extra tent spikes and rope to hold the tent down in the wind – check, bank robber style face mask to keep my face from freezing – check. I think I have everything that I need. It would be nice to have some of those sweet tech pants or real boots that everyone has, but I think I will survive.
Nov 22 11:45pm Torres del Paine
The Torres greeted me with great weather today. It was a little windy but the sun was shining. The hike to Campamento Torres was a little more difficult than I expected with a tough ascent. I met cool Irish guy in the campground shelter and we had some good talks about our past treks. Tomorrow I may try to wake up at 4 am to see the sunrise but I don’t know if I will be able to get up that early.
Nov 23 6:55pm Torres del Paine Campamento Italiano
The wind is wailing like crazy outside. The last hour or so was spent in my sleeping bag in my tent trying to delay tying anchor lines onto my tent. Sometimes the wind sounds like a jet plane. I hope my little tent will survive.
Yesterday was quite a miserable day. I spent maybe ten hours walking over 20 kms in the rain. I have three pairs of waterproof pants, but none of them are with me in Patagonia. I have a very expensive pair of waterproof boots, but they are in California. My legs were wet, my feet were soaked, and rain even went between my back and my backpack so half of my stuff was semi wet. It was terrible. Luckily I had a good base layer so I was warm even though my bottom half was wet and my shoes were sloshing with each step. Today the weather was much nicer. The rain stopped and the sun came out a little. I hung up my clothes and they are mostly dry now. After laying in my tent for half the day I found some motivation to put on my wet shoes and attempt a hike up to Camp Britanica and the view point up there. I say attempt because I couldn’t do it. I stoped less than an hour away because the wind was crazy and my shoes were still wet. On the way down, my camera ran out of battery, so I wouldn’t have been able to take any pictures at the viewpoint anyway.
Tomorrow I will do a very short two hour hike to the next camping place, and I hope very much that it won’t rain.
Nov 24 4:41pm Torres del Paine
Three nights are more than enough Paine for me. Tonight I will go back to Puerto Natales rather than camping one more night in 70 kph winds that will probably rip my tent apart. I can’t say that this was the most enjoyable trip of my life. The first and third days were good. The second day was torture by rain and today was torture by wind. It’s not fun walking along a ledge with huge gusts pushing you around. The landscapes are incredible when you can see them, but the weather and the power of the mountains are a constant struggle. One of the guys who I met on the trail said that hiking in the wind is better than hiking in the rain, and I have to admit that is true.
Nov 25 2:52 Puerto Natales Hostel Nataley
Back from the pain. Waiting for my laundry to be done. Just relaxing here after the hike. I found some size 13 shoes but they are all over $150 USD. It looks like it will only rain one day in el Calafate so I will risk the wet feet.