Puerto Natales

I really hate to leave the Rio Serrano Hotel, it is such a beautiful setting and waking up to the spectacular, unobstructed view of the mountains in the morning is a dream. The image will remain etched in my mind forever.   So this is the downside of group travel . . . when with a group you move with the group otherwise I could find reasons to linger here a bit longer.

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We continue south toward Puerto Natales, Chile this morning with a few stops along the way, first one not far from the Rio Serrano. We drive alongside a large waterway, not sure of its name as this part of Patagonia is made up of countless lakes and rivers that seemingly all flow into one another but I think it is Lago el Toro. Whatever the name the color of the water is a stunning, so blue and connected to the shore by a pedestrian bridge a small islet upon which sits the Hostería Pehoé, a hotel. Now I wouldn’t mind staying there for a few days either.

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Today those beautiful high mountain peaks are shrouded in clouds making for an eerie, almost dreamlike picture as the clouds swirl around the tops allowing us only brief glimpses.

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We pull off the main road at a waterfall and give those wanting a closer look the opportunity to once again brace against the cold winds and walk to the small cascade – it was really cold, really wet and really windy almost impossible to hold the camera still enough to get a photo but we gave it our best shot. Most stayed in the vehicle and the rest of us kept the visit short.

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A small herd of guanaco were spotted grazing in a field along the main road and the driver stops; there is no traffic so he pulls to the side and we spill out into the field. The guanaco were very tame, a little curious but mostly uninterested in us as we walk among the herd, they are more interested in eating and continue to graze.

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Guanaco

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Our guides Eduardo and Kris

Eduardo takes the opportunity to do a little more filming with his GoPro while Kris soaks in the scenery.

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Rheas next to the road

Arriving in Puerto Natales late in the afternoon we checked into our hotel and in spite of the wind, rain and cold we decided to go out for a short walk around town . . . it is not a large town and we needed a little exercise. Once a modest fishing port on Seno Ùltima Esperanza (Sound of Last Hope), Puerto Natales is the gateway to Patagonia’s Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.  Boutique beer and wine tastings have overtaken teatime and outdoor gear shops abound.  Small corrugated-tin houses are strung shoulder to shoulder along with cozy granny-style lodgings and flowers grow up like weeds through the fences.

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George had lost the wrist strap for his camera and we thought we might find one here. We were told there was no camera shop in town but we thought we might find something that would work. Walking against the wind was a challenge so we hugged the buildings for what little protection they might offer and in a few blocks we found a hardware store and went in. No English spoken so we fumbled around with charades trying to get across what we were looking for.  The proprietor had no idea what we were after but a young man came to our rescue, he didn’t speak English either but understood camera and was able to figure out what we were looking for . . . some kind of camera strap. We understood him to say there was a camera store in the next block. Apparently we still looked confused so he was kind enough to lead us to the shop, come in with us and explain what he thought we wanted. A lot of effort and still no camera straps . . . it looks like the extra bootlaces George packed will be repurposed for the rest of the trip.

Our hotel was very nice, right on the waterfront.  There were a number of smaller, cozy little rooms off the large lobby where one could sit and visit, read, enjoy a drink or light meal from the bar; a map room displayed nautical maps of the area for those interested in orienting themselves or tracing their journey through the waterways.

Our hotel room was a large corner room overlooking the water; we thought it was quite nice until we saw the room of a fellow traveler who was holding an open house of sorts at the other end of the hotel. Their room was in the turreted end of the building, a suite actually complete with a separate living room area, wrap around windows looking to the water and a spiral staircase that led to a second level lookout room; it was quite spectacular.

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