Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Puerto Natales : Hacking Coughs and Gloopy Internet

Been out of touch for a bit. Had a mobile phone signal in the last couple of places but couldn´t send SMS. Down in Puerto Natales now and absolutely no signal here. Oh well. Internet has been a bit of a hit and miss affair too. Tried a netcafe in El Calafate which was about 4x more expensive than the other one´s we´ve tried. Had a terrible keyboard and the connection was so bad that I just wasn´t able to reach some sites (e.g. blogger). When we complained, the guy just shrugged his shoulders and said it´s the same for all of the places in that town. Great.

To be honest, I wasn´t too keen on El Calafate. Don´t get me wrong, we came here for the glaciers and they were amazing (more about that later), but the town seemed to be very pricey for what it offered.

I may also have been influenced by the terrible cold/flu I have right now. I believe it´s going away but yesterday was very bad. I think I picked it up after standing close to the Iguacu waterfalls, getting soaked and then sitting in airconditioned rooms, planes, buses for a few hours. Yesterday I could hardly eat anything (painful to swallow), blocked up nose, head about to burst and a hacking cough that just wouldn´t stop. Plus I was getting very very cold.

So of course the best course of action is to stand on the deck of a boat, ride it out in icy winds to a massive glacier, don crampons then trek across the glacier for a few hours. Maybe not, but that´s what I did anyway. The glacier is huge in a way I don´t think the photos will explain. I was also surprised at how blue it all was. With the light shining through thinner parts of the ice, you get great colours. And then there´s the loud cracking, popping noises as huge chunks of ice fall off into the water below. The odd thing is that everyone´s waiting for the next chunk of ice to fall and listening to the sounds (which really are very very loud), but the volume of the noise doesn´t seem to correspond to the size of the ice chunk. Ok, I´m wittering on now.

The glacier trek was finished with whisky on the rocks with the guides. A nice touch. As soon as we got back from that trip, I took a shower and went straight to bed. I felt terrible. Eva went out for dinner with the two Belgian brothers we´d hooked up with back up at Puerto Madryn.

So we went from Puerto Madryn (whales, penguins, elephant seals etc) to El Calafate (glaciers, overpriced restaurants) and took a bus (about 5 hours) down further south to Puerto Natales. Here´s the place to go trekking in the national park of Torres del Paine. Most of the treks take several days and you can either stay in hostels inside the park (bloody expensive) or camp (cheap). Originally we were planning a few days in the park but I´m more concerned with getting well again, so it looks like we´ll rest up a couple of days and then just do a quick one day tour and not sleep in the park.

Oh just a point of interest. The tourist information places have normally been very good, but here, although they seemed helpful giving a list of nearby hostels it turned out to be crap. 2 of the places weren´t open and absolutely none of them had rooms anything near the right price. We wandered around a bit and then went into one of the hostels that approached us after we´d got off the bus. It was a bit more than we wanted but after visiting about 5 other places, it was obviously worth paying the extra for a bit of cleanliness and comfort.

Photos, yes photos are on the way. We got them burned to a CD in El Calafate which was a bit of a mistake as if we´d waited a couple of days then it would have been a lot cheaper to do it here. Oh well. Anyway, we only popped into the netcafe now on the way back from the shop (I needed my hot tea!) so don´t have the CD with me. I promise to bring it with me next time.

I´ve also got a load of stuff to write up from my notepad that I jot notes into while on the road / in the sky. Maybe that will come soon too.

Thanks for the comments guys and hope all is well whoever and wherever you are.

Updated with photos (29-Nov-2005) - Click for pics

Most of the pics for this entry are already up in another post but there are some new ones just below.

Waterfall in the Torres del Paine park

Lakes so clean and calm that they look like mirrors. Plus an incredibly expensive hotel.

A bizarre landscape of mountains, beach and icebergs

Punta Arenas was the furthest south we got. Not much there but they do have a nice cemetry (full of Scots) that looks out onto the Magellan Strait.


At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Doctor Pockless said...

Glad to hear that no matter how close to death you are you're still willing to stake out glaciers in the interest of all us armchair travellers!


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