Grey’s Glacier

14 02 2010

It absolutely tipped it down overnight and the tent sounded like it was going to be ripped away any minute by the wind but our tents had been well pitched and we had no problems. Given the weather conditions I couldn’t really face going for a shower so I just had a French shower (a generous spraying of Axe deodorant). I then looked for my waterproof pants and discovered that I’d lost them somewhere. Luckily by the time I managed to get out of the tent the rain had already stopped and it held off for the rest of the morning.

At breakfast Per mentioned that the rented walking poles that he’d left on the main porch of the refugio were surprisingly gone. Ana couldn’t believe that he’d left them there all night and not put them in his tent but she asked various people around the campsite: all to no avail. Zoran and Gordana decided to stay back at the campsite (God only knows what they found to do there) whilst the rest of us hiked up to first viewpoint of Grey’s Glacier. It was quite a short trek – just as well since we hoped to get the midday ferry back across the lake.

View of the glacier (if you look hard enough it's there!)

On the way back down we came across some geese with their goslings. Here I was able to snap one of my favourite shots of the whole trip. Whilst on the catamaran, Ana suddenly turned up clutching Per’s poles. Apparently one of the other guides had found them and put them somewhere safe.

The gander looking after his brood

We then headed back to the Southwind Hostal in Puerto Natales and got there in the late afternoon. There was a lot of confusion with the rooms after Gordana and Zoran both took a different room key each. This was because there were apparently two matrimonial rooms. Per and I ended up in one of these – luckily it also had a single bed in it too; which I took. It was only the next day that I realised that the single bed was in the shape of a toy car! After a much needed shower I wandered around the town; but being a Sunday there was not a lot open.

At around seven, Per, myself, Jola and Kaśke decided to go to dinner. Jola had picked a restaurant from her Footprint guide which she fancied trying but (like most of the restaurants in town) it didn’t open for dinner until half seven; so Kaśke bulldozed us into going to a restaurant she’d been to a few days earlier. It was quite a nice restaurant with a homely atmosphere. I had king crab and avocado to start (it was only on my return from Patagonia that I discovered that the king crab is overfished there) and I think a Milanese escalope for my main. We walked around town a bit after dinner and finally found the seafront and then headed back to the hotel for some shuteye

Thank you for the music

11 02 2010

At four am there was apparently a big enough crisis in the Norwegian procurement department of Coca-Cola that Per had to phone in to join a conference call whilst on holiday. Perhaps an elk was blocking a vital sugar consignment on a Norwegian highway. Still, at least Per had the foresight to take the call in the bathroom which meant that I could hear every word of the conversation with a nice porcelain echo (don’t worry Coke, the call was in Norwegian so the recipe is still safe).

At a much more reasonable hour I headed off to breakfast and then returned to my room to pack my bag. As always it was a major struggle and I was quite late running out to the taxi that would be taking us to the bus station. Since we were going to be on the bus for a long time I decided to fill up my camel pack with water but either I didn’t close it properly or the bottle of water that I also had in my bag was not sealed; before I knew it my daypack contained a sizable lake. My laptop, protected by its water-resistant sleeve came out of the ordeal unscathed but my iPod was not so fortunate and died in its sleep. Despite numerous attempts at revival – including premature connection to a power supply – my iPod never showed the faintest spark of life again. Long may she rest in a place of musical harmony (probably something she never found with my music collection).

The bus journey took us across the border from Argentina into Chile. This involved us getting out the bus twice – once to get our exit stamp and the second time to get our entrance stamp and go through customs. The customs check meant that we all had to get our bags out of the bus and lug them into the immigration office. There was a small table with 2 women behind it and they were opening everybody’s bag to look for contraband fruit, vegetables and meat products. Since there was a coach load of us with heavily laden bags this took a very long time: we must have been there for a least an hour. When I opened my bag, the woman took one look at how tightly packed my bag was; shrugged her shoulders and let me go. So if you do need to smuggle something into Chile across land borders make sure you bag is stuffed full and looks impossible to search through.

Argentina emigration checkpoint

Once through the Chilean border we headed to the town of Puerto Natales where we were free for the rest of the day. We were staying at the Southwinds Hostal which was clean enough but didn’t have the homely ski resort charm of our previous abodes. After we’d dropped our stuff off it was time for a late lunch. We found a basic-looking fish restaurant on one of the main roads: I had a paila marina which is a traditional Chilean seafood stew. It was absolutely crammed full of seafood and I was quite glad that it was all I’d ordered. After lunch Jola and I wandered around town looking for the main seafront but we completely messed up the direction and ended up in the dock area. Some of the streets we walked down looked quite ropey. After trying to enter an area that was apparently sólo los empleados we gave up looking for the seafront and headed back. We then decided to head back out for dinner and went to a loungy vegetarian restaurant called El Living with Per. It was really relaxed but I felt they could have dimmed the lights a bit to really create a bit of ambience.

Old boat down by the dock area

Kaśke was also supposed to join us for dinner but she wasn’t at the hotel when we left. I decided to run back and leave her a note. It took me about 10 minutes to tell the guy that I needed a pen and paper (yep – the Spanish is coming on well!) and then I finally managed to persuade him to put the note next to her key. As I was leaving the hotel I ran into Kaśke anyway so it was a waste of time in the end. She’d already eaten so she didn’t join us. After dinner we headed back to the hostal so we could get a good night’s sleep before the trek the next day.