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Saturday, 01 July 2006

Land of Ice and Fire: Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego - Page 2

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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We began our journey deep into Patagonia from Carretera Austral with a three-and-a-half-day journey past fjords and glaciers on NavimagNavimag is a large barge that carries all the supplies down to the southern part of Chile.  The trip used to be solely for transport, but occasionally backpackers would hitch a ride until it became so popular that the company built many cabins where there used to be cargo; now their business is largely a tourist enterprise.  It is the cruise for those who can’t afford to cruise.

paine mistAfter our too-short stay we were off to the main road again to meet our mini-bus tour to Torres del Paine.  We decided to take the tour because the park is so huge and it’s difficult to see it if you only have a couple of days.  The tours are quick, but cover a lot of ground. Ours stopped at all the major lookouts, and we saw all kinds of rare animals like Guanacos and Chilean Elk and incredible views everywhere we turned.  We also did a short hike at Lago Grey to see the icebergs floating in the lake near Glacier Grey.  On our return trip the mini-bus dropped us off at the footbridge to our hotel, Hosteria Pehoe, which was on its own small island.  Our guide even helped us across the long bridge with our luggage and made sure we were all right; she was very helpful, informed, and considerate.

The hotel had our reservation but somehow hadn’t assigned us a room, and there were no more rooms available in our price range.  They did, however, have a few more expensive rooms available, but instead of giving us an upgrade to compensate for their mistake, the manager insisted we pay for the higher-priced room.

Faced with the possibility of having nowhere to stay we were tempted to give in, but we held our ground until he finally gave us a room at the price we’d originally agreed to pay (which, at $175 a night, was already the most expensive hotel on our trip).  This manager was one of the few people we met in Patagonia who seemed dishonest and unfriendly.  Hosteria Pehoe was worth this challenge, though -- it had the most gorgeous location of anywhere we stayed.  It is on an island of black rock and sand covered with green brush and small yellow flowers, perched on the shore of the electric-blue Lago Pehoe with the Cuernos towering overhead.

Most striking was the quality of the silence. ‘This is the high season’ I kept reminding myself, but there was an incredible stillness.  The day tours and buses had gone and there were still hours of light.  If there was ever a place made to meditate, we’d found it.


For dinner we ate at the hotel’s restaurant (good, but overpriced).  Breakfast was a buffet plus eggs (adequate, but nothing like at the Estancia -- here crackers and canned fruit salad replaced pastries and fresh juice).  But the view from the restaurant was a feast for the eyes.

We took a hike up the road to Salto Grande, the largest, crashing, foaming waterfall in the park and then on to the lookout across from the Cuernos.  It was a lovely short hike on narrow paths that wind through low native shrubs and flowers.  We took the last bus out of the park around 6:30pm and arrived back in Puerto Natales at 9:45, had a good meal in town and stayed the night at a hostel.

(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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