Friday, January 26, 2007


Into Chile for the last time on this trip.


Rather battered old bus takes about 7 hours, heading over the Patagonian plains in glorious sunshine as the two Israeli couples in front of me fornicate and the Australian chap behind me bores everyone in the vicinity. I try to sleep.


Slightly hairy moment on leaving the country as the Argentine military quiz me about the Falklands (or Malvinas as they incorrectly call them!), and walk me along the road to this sign:

Officer, there appears to be an error in the sign. The word "NOT" is missing!

I decide it is not the time to make an issue of it, or express my opinions! I settle for calling in an SAS napalm strike minutes after leaving the border station. I hope the lovely dog made it out!

You have guns, I don't. I'll still 'av ya though!

Interestingly my Footprint has a small statement that "In accordance with the practice suggested by the UN, we are calling these islands by their English and Spanish names". Sounds a bit weasely to me. Who in the UN exactly?

Chilean Immigration is the usual farce. No questions, passport stamp, then customs ask me if I have a small backpack. Yes, I reply, back on the bus. Okay, can I get it, he'd like to inspect it. Not my big backpack with all the food which is of dubious legality to bring across the border? You want to look at my daypack with a couple of books and a jumper in it. Okay! I open the top, and he sees the books. Just books, he asks? No food, if that's what you're interested in, I reply. Free to go.

We arrive in Puerto Natales and it seems nice. A port (puerto), and lots of big mountains in the distance in all directions.

Presumably it means "Christmas Port"

Supermarkets, more than just bl**dy Banco Estado, and being a port there are lots of seafood restaurants! Yay! I wander down to a book-recommended hostel, Res Dickson, run by a very nice lady called Flor. I end up with a (twin) room for 8,000 per night, i.e. £8, including breakfast. Internet is free (and decent speed, I've got up to date on podcasts for the first time in a month, yay!), and generally it seems like a really friendly place, and is on the main street, between the "centre" (as such) and the port. I'll leave things here when I head to Torres, then can easily potter down to the port for my boat.

Today, coincidentally, is a "ferry leaving day" - and because of the problems Navimag are having, the departures are only once every two weeks. Everyone boards at 9pm, hence the town is swarming with gringos who will be leaving tonight. I'm doing the same in two weeks!

Damn gringos! After being told to go away at the Navimag office because they are too busy (all the comments on the web say they are chaos personified until you board the boat), I wander along to the seafront, then head in for a late lunch at El Maritimo on the sea-front. Wonderful! I'm so glad to be back in the world of restaurants with menus, maps of towns, and multiple banks! Civilisation!

I have a delicious thick soup with mussels and scallops in it, then perjerry fish with mashed potatoes and chopped up seaweek called "cochayuyo" which is the Chilean "nori". It's good, the fish is wonderful, almost melting in my mouth, and the soup is good too, though the scallops are slightly chewy. Washed down with some Austral "Calafate" cerveza from Punta Arenas.

Back to Res Dickson, a nice long shower, pop the two blisters on my feet (yucks), hoping that they'll heal in the next day (gulp) then out to wander the town. Initially I was quite excited about the place, but the more I wander, the more I realise that there is really very little to do here, and significantly, I haven't found a bookshop yet, though there are several book exchanges, which will do. My plan is to spend tomorrow getting food etc for the trek, then head off the following morning to Torres del Paine for 10 days! That then gives me a few days when I return before the ferry.

The one large church in town has a clock on its spire which is stuck at five to nine. I wonder whether this is a feature of the town, as a tourist agency elsewhere has a logo that includes a clock at this time!

You can't be serious? The high street is lined with these!

Next down to watch sunset at the waterfront. It's beautiful this evening, and I feel slightly jealous of the people taking the boat today. Apparently the trip is great if the weather is good, but if not, you see nothing! I suppose with all these things, it depends on the group of people you get to know. The Gecko tour I did in Egypt was great because of the mix, lots of Aussies and a few other nationalities to keep those good-natured fun-lovers in check :)


Lemme on

I begin to regret booking "cattle class", arf arf, why thank you, ladies and gentlemen

Good diving material

You would have thought such a pretty place would have nice postcards. But no. I have yet to find any that appeal. They're all old, faded, dodgy colours from the 70s. The ones in Argentina were much nicer, but I had a feeling that if I tried to post them here, they may get "lost". Chile and Argentina hate each other as much as us and the French. Perhaps more!

Refuses to stay still


Two weeks time. I'll be up on deck!

By the way, if anyone back home fancies a google project, can you work out what vineyards I should visit in Chile? I arrive in Puerto Montt on the 12th, fly on the 13th to La Serena, then am fairly free apart from (hopefully) a visit or two to some observatories up there, Valparaiso, and, err, that's about it till the 28th when I fly out of Santiago to Easter Island.

Speaking of astronomical things, there is a large comet visible in the Southern Hemisphere at the moment. I haven't seen it, will try tonight, but everyone is talking about it. Here's the spiel:

Two stories that have caught my interest in the news:

The dropping of the UK Serious Fraud Office investigation into the Saudi arms deal is a shocking acknowledgement of the corruption reaching right up to the Prime Minister's office. No longer can the UK claim any kind of moral high ground in world affairs. Very sad.

Gay adoption. Finally Faith rights meet Gay rights, whatever will our politically-correct government do? I've also always found it interesting that the British who are so keen on animal rights seem to have no issue with the cruelty of "Halal" methods of killing animals.

Am watching the weather here carefully now. Bizarrely several times in Chile I have felt spots of rain with clear blue skies. What's going on there then? Back to El Maritimo for grilled hake today. Again, yummy!

See you all after Torres!

Update on Navimag Chaos!

So I finally found the Navimag office on the seafront open at half-past three this afternoon. And just as well I insisted on trying to pay today, as it would seem that my cabin, number 308, which will also accommodate a Dutch girl and an American couple, is double booked! Oscar, for it is he, is going to sort this out, promises me I will have a berth, even if he has to upgrade me for no extra cost. Okay then, as long as he moves the Dutch girl too, hehe! I still haven't paid, which makes me a bit nervous, but at least he's aware of the problem and has two weeks to sort it out. Phew!

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