Today we leave Puerto Natales for Punta Arenas, the most southerly point on our journey. You know you are in the less populated parts of the world when Google Maps doesn’t have the roads never mind street view (have a look at Puerto Nateles for yourself). However Punta is a much bigger town and has over 100,000 people and therefore Google has deemed they can have roads.
When booking our tickets we decided that we would bring a bit of financial rigour to our trip and looked at all the bus companies available and bought the cheapest ticket with Buses Pacheo – saving $1000 Chilean Peso. Result.
As we approached the bus station we walk past the more expensive Bus Sur which looks swish and modern compared to our slightly older transport for the day. Boarding the bus we are greeted by the sight of an open engine compartment. Always encouraging. We sit patiently in our seats watching Bus Sur pull serenely out of the station with an almost Germanic timetable adherence whilst listening to the sound of hammering, drilling and the cracking of a soldering iron before we are eventually told that the bus has mechanical issues and is not going to Punta Arenas.
A mad dash ensues as people make their way for refunds and other bus companies – we can split the task and thankfully bag the last 2 seats in the next bus leaving so we are only delayed an hour but end up paying the extra $1000. But when that works out to be £1.20 it’s not too bad – think we might book a more modern bus next time.
We arrive at Punta Arenas airport where our accommodation host collects us and 2 other bus passengers staying at the same place and we drive to the B&B.
It’s a way out of town but a beautiful location and find a selection of log cabins in the woods complete with log burners and a beautiful but shy puppy called Hugo. The buildings and almost all the furniture (beds, tables, chairs etc) have all been made by the owner out of wood – very impressive.
The people that run La Casa Escondida (literally the house that is hidden) are incredibly welcoming and helpful, and nothing feels like too much trouble. This extends to Mauricio offering a personal chauffeur service to guests for the duration of their stay, which given that the ‘Hidden House’ is quite a way out of town is very useful as taxi costs could soon add up.
We had booked to visit a penguin colony on an island off shore but the Chilean Navy (who are in charge of allowing access) deem the weather conditions to be unsuitable. The second time in a week that the Patagonian weather – in particular the wind – has scuppered our plans. Perhaps not that surprising given we are at ‘the end of the world’, but still disappointing.
Our fellow guests (that we shared the transfer with) are Joe and Christina from the USA, who normally live in San Fransisco, but are at the very end of their own ‘Big Trip’ having spent 3 months in S.America. They were also scheduled to be on the same penguin tour so we all get our ‘chauffuer’ to take us into town to look at other options and grab some food.
We both book on a afternoon tour to a land accessed smaller penguin colony for tomorrow, but Joe and Christina’s flight time out of Punta Arenas on Tuesday means that they get another ‘shot’ at the larger island colony.
Mauricio has given our ‘group’ a mobile phone so that we can contact him when we need picking up (told you the service was good), and we have both booked to have dinner at La Casa Escondida at the same time. All of a sudden Joe & Christina and ourselves are ‘stuck’ each other for a reasonable portion of the next two days….just how will the ‘Limeys’ and ‘Yanks’ get on?
The simple answer is, very well indeed – though I have to say nice things about them as we exchanged ‘FaceBook’ links and they might be reading this blog 😉
First we have a bit of lunch (with some laughably slow service at times) and then have a short walk and see the sights of the town. Not that Punta Arenas has many if we are being honest – it’s a working port town and used mainly for the airport to enter/leave Patagonia, however we do find a comedy statue with bin bags (under construction) and a lovely old wooden jetty.
In the evening back at the accommodation we share a traditional Patagonian BBQ and chill out on the sofa in front of the fire.
We knew at the start of the trip that language would be a challenging (especially for me) and interesting part of our travels. What is more surprising is that it’s just as difficult talking to people that claim to speak the same language! I am not sure how far we set back Anglo-American relations during the day but some highlights included explaining cockney rhyming slang (http://londontopia.net/londonism/fun-london/language-top-100-cockney-rhyming-slang-words-and-phrases/), trying to explain Marmite to our Chilean hosts and mocking the use of zip locked bags (Christina would give our friend Judith a run for her money in terms of OCD organisational systems).
To end the day here is a summary of some very normal English phrases that caused either genuine confusion and/or laughter amongst our friends from ‘across the pond’:
- Should we give Mauricio a bell? (Why would he want a bell?)
- (When asked the time) It’s half five (Isn’t half 5 2:30?)
- Bin bags
- Torch (I didn’t think you needed one of those unless you were storming a castle or burning a witch)
- Christ on a bike – which I think Joe might try to introduce into the San Fransisco colloquial vocabulary. I hope so.