Puerto Natales, Chile
Dependent on its wool, mutton and fishing industries, this port of 18,000 people is the southern terminus for the scenic ferry from Puerto Montt and an essential stop-over for hikers and other visitors en route to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. It also offers the best access to Glacier Serrano in Parque Nacional Bernado O'Higgins and the famous Cueva del Milodon, and many travellers continue on to Argentina's Parque Nacional Los Glaciares via the coal mining town of Rio Turbio.
The visitor season starts in October and runs until April, although the peak is January and February. During the rest of the year access to attractions such as Torres del Paine and the Balmaceda Glacier may be reduced.
7 Dec 2001 - Puerto Natales, ChileFour days after setting out on our trek we returned - desperate to eat some real food like meat, not packets of pasta with bits of minced chicken in. We also returned a lot trimmer around the waistline so it was time to visit the restaurants of Puerto Natales. We chose a restaurant named La Tranquera that looked like a meat eaters paradise. OK, this one didn't have a split open crucified lamb over an open fire but it did have an open fire. In our famished state steak wasn't enough so we erroneously elected for the parrillada (a sort of meat platter) after being recommended it by the ever so helpful owner. Variety certainly can be the spice of life but not on this occasion.
The dish came and it made for an interesting sight. Steak, chops and sausage was fine but then the other items had to be identified. It turned out that there were also twisted intestines with something white and creamy contained inside, stomach and udder. None of it looked nor tasted good. Never mind, the more conventional food was nice, the wine good, the service friendly and like everywhere else, very cheap.
The next notable night we had here before returning to Santiago was one of those on the 'silly water' nights. We tried a few bars, nothing exceptional but then went to a karoake bar and saw how the locals enjoy their Friday night. While sat at the bar we consumed many a beer and strange liquor while listening to the surprisingly tuneful singers. After consuming some more liquid courage we decided that it was time to show these people how the Brits do it. A couple of Beatle's songs and then a finale of La Bamba (sang in Spanish) before we left brought us an applause and many invitations to stay longer and give more entertainment.
Our last place was the single club in Puerto Natales - Abracadabra. This cheesy club full of weather beaten, poor looking people lagging a few years behind in the fashion stakes gave a great night. OK one bizarre practice was having to queue up at a single point to buy a ticket for a drink before queuing at the bar to exchange the ticket for said drink. The music was Spanish or should I say South American and we didn't know the dances but alcohol fuelled exuberance knows no bounds when it comes to hedonism.
We were very popular - to the annoyance of the local males and had women all around. One of them even had the cheek to ask us for a drink almost immediately after meeting us. Maybe it was the only English she knew. Perhaps the reason for our popularity was for the bulge in our trousers - didn't know bank notes made much of an impression though. The night ended in a blur. I lost Adam and returned to the hostel at 6AM only to be woken by a grinning Adam with a glint in his eye at 8AM.
Chile - Puerto Natales, post-expedition
A ravenous return and the dubious delights of parrillada.
2 Dec 2001 - Puerto Natales, ChileUpon arriving we were immediately set upon by people handing pieces of paper offering budget accommodation, almost all including breakfast. Apparently the quality can be excellent but we already knew our destination - the Residencial Patagonia Aventura. At less than £5 per day this was an absolute bargain. Other hostels were a slight and insignificant amount more. But as a stopover for a visit to the Torres del Paine why pay more? As well as being cheap the hostel was of a high quality. It was clean, morale refreshing, warm (essential while in cold, windy Patagonia), had hot water and an extremely friendly couple who ran the place. It also provided us with equipment such as a groundmat and gas stove for our trek into the Patagonian wilderness.
After settling in we made arrangements to travel to the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine the next morning. Wise that we had thought ahead in Punto Arenas and did our provisions shopping there as the cost of food in Puerto Natales was quite a bit more. All that was left to buy now was stove gas, plenty of sachets of coffee, sugar and a small bottle of the famous Chilean drink, Pisco Sour, pisco spirit mixed with lemon. Then, after trying one of the local bars it was off for an early night as the bus to take us to the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine was due the next morning at 6:30. (Read about it in the Patagonia section - yeah this is Patagonia as well, I know!)
Chile - Puerto Natales, pre-expedition
4 days of provisions - bags of pasta, bread, sachets of coffee and sugar, a gas stove and a pot.