Day 18 – National Lampoon’s Day Out

Patagonia is famous for its national parks which contain mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes and rivers.

We have previously visited Puerto Moreno near El Calafate and had a boat trip to the Serrano Glacier.

Around Puerto Natales there is a particularly famous mountain range (not part of the Andes but very close to them) which contains the extremely frequently pictured Torres Del Paine (Blue Towers) and the Los Cuernos (The Horns) mountains.

Walking the “W” or “O” are the well publicised walks (the Chilean Tourist Board do a good job) that many people follow to see these famous landmarks. However we had planned to do something different as these walks take 3 to 9 days and Nik had done some of this last time she visited Chile and wanted a new and different perspective (also I am a bit indifferent about long walks).

Instead had planned a kayaking tour of the national park instead. Sounds amazing, but sadly an activity more susceptible to weather conditions and due to wind speeds our trip is cancelled last minute.

With a spare day at late notice we book a day trip into the national park with a tour company.

We are collected from our hostel in a medium sized coach (22 seats) and undertake a National Lampoon style “if it’s Wednesday it must be Belgium” tour off he park! However it works really nicely, the guide is great fun and the size of the bus meant it could get down lots of smaller tracks in the park and we visited loads of great areas with amazing vistas.  We saw the famous and not so famous sights of the park including the Torres and the Cuernos (even cloud free, a rare sight apparently).

At one point we are looking at both the Torres del Paine (complete with Condor soaring between them), The Cuernos, a glacial lake and a waterfall – totally amazing scenery. Just look at some of the pictures for yourselves.

One part of the tour answered a question we had about Puerto Natales – namely what is with the giant statue of a bear with a tail in numerous places round town (outside a shop, in the middle of a roundabout and a decoration on every street sign)?

We visited a large cave where remains of the giant prehistoric sloth had been found (not a bear with a tail) named the Mylodon – a large creature that was up to 3 metres tall and weighing 200kg. They are still currently doing archeological digs looking for more remains and think there could be evidence of early humans.

Nik buys a bobble hat knitted by a local lady in the gift shop near the cave (she was making more as we walked in the shop).  I doubt this will end the trying of further ones on. We shall see. I base this on the number of wool hats I packed and put into storage.

A wonderful trip and a great way to see the park from lots of places that would be worth doing even if you did a 3 day walk.  We visited the area we would have kayaked in and I’ll admit the wind would have made that very challenging.

For some reason the journey on the bus back from the park that only lasts a meagre 3 hours, like popping to the local shops in comparison to our other recent bus journeys drags and drags….zzzz…we both run through the repertoire of iPhone games and I get frustrated with a level of Cut The Rope (which is about as stressful as life gets at the moment).

Last night in Puerto Natales and we decide to head out for for to a local pub/ bar called Baguales which is also a micro-brewery and based on the sign post outside I think might be the most southerly brewery in the world!  A wonderful IPA style beer called Rubio (‘blond’) goes down very nicely with a burger (me) and pulled pork tacos (Nik) – lovely end to our stay…

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