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Patagonia – getting there
Posted by pdittman on February 10th, 2016 in '16 - Patagonia, Chile, Hiking/Trekking

Just getting there was an adventure!

Having finished the planning and with travel day finally upon us, we loaded up our packs and decided on public transportation to the airport, figuring no time like the present to get accustomed to carrying our gear.   While seeing people walk around with full hiking gear in Boston is a bit unusual, as we’d come to experience at the other end of our journey, it was almost 100% the opposite at the other end of the earth, where it was unusual to see people without hiking gear.

Packed and ready to go
Packed and ready to go

Our flights were mostly uneventful, but with an hour+ delay in Miami and including the time to grab our gear and get through customs in Santiago, we missed our planned connection to Punta Arenas. It didn’t bode well as the start of our adventure, the concern being that if we missed getting into the rhythm of our itinerary, we’d mess up the whole trip.

So off we went to the ticket counter to make alternate flight arrangements to Punta Arenas. Thank goodness that Jeanne had studied her Spanish – this was the first of many times where it was a huge help. Fortunately, we got onto a flight that connected through Puerto Montt later in the afternoon, and we’re able to stay on our itinerary, just arriving a bit later in Punta Arenas.

Our Experience Chile guy had booked us into Carpa Manzano, a non-descript guest house that was relatively close to the center of town. Nothing to write home about, but it was nice to be able to drop our gear, wash off the travel dust, and get into the adventuresome spirit.

The desk recommended La Marmita for dinner – and with no other suggestions, we headed out, first to a cash machine, then to the restaurant which turned out to be a wonderful little place that served tastefully decorated and delicious meals – highly recommended. This was also our first taste of the local rhythm – dinner time is generally much later than we’re accustomed to in the states’ starting well after 8 and often near 9 pm. In this area, darkness didn’t really set in until after 10pm, so it all seemed fine.

At the Punta Arenas the bus depot
At the Punta Arenas bus depot, about to depart for Puerto Natales

A good nights rest for both of us, geared packed, we walked to the bus station for our 2+ hour ride to Puerto Natales – often touted as the gateway to TDP park. And this is where we got our first taste of the hiking culture that is so much a part of the economic driver in the area – virtually everyone on the bus was equipped for hiking, big backpacks, poles, etc.

While waiting for departure, we met up with a Dutch couple, Mark and Caroline, who were following a similar itinerary, heading northward toward TDP to follow the “W” Trek, though traversing from east to west – our plan was the reverse; perhaps our paths would cross sometime later during the week.

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This bus trip was also our first taste of just how remote this portion of the world really was – once we left town, there was nothing, other than the rolling hills and the occasional sheep or livestock.

Arriving at the Puerto Natales bus depot, you would have thought you were at a hiking/trekking gear convention – 20 and 30-somethings everywhere, in various stages of dress and cleanliness. Our Pto.Natales accommodations weren’t too far from the station, so we headed out and on arriving at our home for the night, we got our first real taste of the natural beauty of the region.

common space at Keoken Patagonia B&B, with a view of the Ultima Esperanza sound
common space at Keoken Patagonia B&B, with a view of the Ultima Esperanza sound

The Keoken Patagonia B&B is only a few blocks from the waterfront, sitting on the edge of the hill that ended at the water, and is a beautiful little place run by Rodrigo and Gloria. Only a few rooms, but nicely appointed. Breakfast was a treat, sitting in their kitchen, as if we were home, while Rodrigo cooked your eggs to order.

Besides being the primary gateway into TDP, there’s an amazing beauty and quietness to the town. The water, so prevalent at the edge of town is, in fact, open to the Pacific Ocean, though it has the milky turquoise appearance from its glacial feed. Part of the Last Hope Sound, the waterway is part of a large array of fjords and glaciers that make up the Region.

Puerto Natales, Last Hope Sound at sunrise
Puerto Natales, Last Hope Sound at sunrise

Soon enough, the car came to return us to the bus station for our trip into the park. Some quick goodbyes to Rodrigo and we were off.

Read more:The “W” trek

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