Puerto Natales – 22 Nov 2016
The last time we visited Puerto Natales, we were in a hurry and we could not see the town at all. As you might remember from our previous post, we were busy getting ready for the Torres Del Paine hike and we missed the bus connection that day. On our second visit, we were back from Torres and we had to catch a bus next day to El Calafate.
Sadly, in our third visit to the city, we also did not get that much time as we had to catch another bus to Punta Arenas. But, we made some time for walking around this time. We were able to leave our bags in the bus terminal for couple of hours, they charged 3500 chilean pesos for it. We also got a tourist map from the information desk in the bus terminal and we started walking towards the city center.
Puerto Natales city center has two main streets parallel to each other. While we were walking down the street, we realized that everyone was in their summer attire this time. It was a beautiful day and we were in t-shirts and shorts too. One thing we realized in Patagonia region is the use of colorful paints for the residential houses. Most of the touristy stores already uses a lot of color but even the residents really like painting their homes. We can also see how harsh the winter supposed to be as most of the houses needed a fresh paint. So we will remember this town with its small colorful boxes of one-floor houses.
We were both starving so we started looking for a place to eat. Our target was to find a place to grab some sandwiches and eat them by the water. This is a habit we have developed for a long time. During all our vacations, we like to grab quick bites and eat them while looking at some scenery. We debated if we should withdraw some money as we were low on cash but tought that we can survive till we get to Punta Arenas. We were wrong =). We got our sandwiches from a place called la crepier (we might have remembered the name wrong). B could not resist to get a coffee and M thought that they will have enough money for it. But we forgot the taxes. M had to run back to the bank after trying to explain that he needs to find a bank in his broken Spanish. Well, in the end it was all fine. We realized that waitresses were talking English but we will stick with our horrific Spanish until we get somewhere.
Then, we saw the church in the city center, next to the old historical building that we did not have time to explore. The churches that we have seen have been very different from the ones that you see in Europe. These are more colorful buildings that are mostly brick. We did not see any stone or marble church yet. In front of the church, there is a small square where a lot of school kids hang around. The kids were waiting for the water fountain to get wet and play.
Our next stop was the water front where the tourist information desk also is. We had our sandwiches here and watched the view of the water and the mountains behind the gulf. We walked by the water and visited the man and woman statues. The statues depicted them as hanging to a bar and just about to jump into the water. We cut our tour here and started heading back as we did not want to miss our bus. While we were heading back, we passed by the artisan mall with the wall paintings. These paintings were showing the daily routines for the native Americans where they hunt, play, interact with different types of local animals, have their rituals by the fire, etc… Then, we were out of time, and headed towards Punta Arenas.
Punta Arenas – 22-23 Nov 2016
We got to Punta Arenas around 20:00 and headed from the bus stop directly to our AirBNB host’s house. We walked along Av. Cristobal Colón and saw some statues and trees trimmed in different shapes. We took advantage of the fact that it is still light outside and took this as a chance to see some part of the city. Our host was a very nice family. They didn’t speak English, but we could communicate using M’s broken Spanish, signs, phone’s alarm clock to tell each other the times, and the Spanish-English app in their phone =)
The house was located up the hill looking down to the city center. The father of the house suggested us to first look at the view of the city from the Hill of the Cross, which was very close by. It was indeed one of the oldest monuments of the city, and the view of the town looking towards the Magellan Strait was very impressive at the lighting of the sunset. We have also realized that this is a favorite meeting point for young couples who wants to have some romantic sunset views.
Then we walked down to the city center, we saw the big Cathedral and the Plaza del Armes with the statue of Magellan. We walked up to O’Higgins street, where our host suggested a few good restaurants. We really liked the meats we ate in Argentina, but we were really looking for a change tonight. We saw a meal with cevice (a dish like a salad with seafood, this specific one came with salmon and octopus) and B really wanted to try that one, so we entered the Jekus Bar. There, in the menu M saw the king crab starter. He had wanted to try the king crab since Ushuaia, so we both knew what to order with our Austral cerveza (B got a lager while M got calafate, brown ale). They were all very very delicious!!!
Then we walked the same way back home and decided to head to bed, because we were supposed to catch a tour the next morning at 6:45! We were really lucky that our host not only offered to give us breakfast at 6:00, but also to give us a ride to the tour agency in the morning! He also suggested a cheaper tour company (tabsa), but they only had tours in the afternoons, and that didn’t work for us, because we had to catch a flight to Santiago tomorrow evening.
Isla Magdalena & Isla Marta – 22 Nov 2016
This morning, we really really appreciated the breakfast with dulce de leche and the ride to downtown that we got from our host. We had made a reservation (back when we were in Turkey) for Solo Expeditions for a tour of Isla Magdalena and Isla Marta to see the penguins and sea lions. We paid 63000 Chilean pesos per person, which was not cheap, but in the end it was worth it in our opinion. They seemed really crowded and we didn’t have the chance to book while travelling, so we were happy that we had made a reservation earlier. We paid for the expedition today. Then we got into a minibus to go to the small port in front of the Islands, and started riding in the boad on the Magellan Strait. We have sneaked outside and enjoyed the sea and the small waves (M was really happy that sea was quiet).
The Magdalena island is quite big, and is completely full of penguins. There is a path that starts from the small port, goes to the lighthouse, and back to the port. The whole thing takes about one hour. There are penguins, who want to reach the water from their nests, crossing our path, so you can get really really close to them. However, you are not supposed to get more than one meters close. M was particularly sad that we couldn’t hug them or tickle them =P B took thousands of photos again and it was really a great experience! We could observe them swimming, playing with water, hanging on the beach, going to their nests, plugging grass to take to their nests, sitting in the holes in the ground (i.e their nests), movement of their chest when making noises. We could even see a tiny newborn in one of the holes, hiding under his mother. There was also one with a nest very close to the path, and we got a very cool photo with our new best friend =) In addition to penguins, there are a lot of sea gulls and other birds sharing the island with the penguins. But of course, for us the highlight was these funny walking, fast swimming birds.
Then we had beautiful weather and we headed towards Isla Marta to see the sea lions. It is possible that this part of the trip can be cancelled if you don’t get good weather with this company. We couldn’t get too close to the shore, but the shore of the island was full of them. It was nice to observe them again. Here, there were more than one male, and many many more females. Now, we can tell the difference =)
As compared to the tour in the Beagle Channel, these places had more animals. The advantage of this one was that we could get on the island to observe the penguins better, but on the other hand, the advantage of having the sail boat was that we could get much much closer to the islands, so there, we had a better took at the sea lions. The two tours were complementary to each other, and we were glad we did them both!
As we were heading back to the shore, we again preferred to stay outside and enjoy the sea. It totally paid off, because we saw two dolphins very very very close to the boat for a good few seconds. They had white chests and black backs, and it was so great that all we could do was to point at them and shout “that was amazing!”; and it totally was amazing!!! We also had a chance to discuss some Turkish/Chilean politics with one of the crew members (Sebastian).
When we headed back to Punta Arenas, we stopped by the tourist info to get a map of the city. We still had two more hours to explore more. This city is much bigger than Puerto Natales, but the historical center is small nevertheless. We in fact realized that we had seen most of the main attractions the night before =) We again passed by the cathedral, and Plaza del Armes. Then we walked towards Sara Braun Palace, which is on the other side of the Plaza del Armes. There are many more historic buildings in this area and we walked by the ones pointed in the tourist map. It was nice to see the characteristic historic buildings, which almost always have a large balcony on their second floor.
We were getting quite hungry, so we randomly sat at a cafe (Cafe Montt) and had some sandwiches for lunch. B had a mate and M tried to get their house coffee but got a mocha instead. B’s mate was too bitter, while M’s coffee was too sweet =P As we were sitting, all of a sudden, the Spanish guy that we had shared the room with in Puerto Natales, just before we had started the W track in Torres del Paine, walked into the cafe. We were all very surprised with this random meeting, so he sad down with us and we chatted for a while. He was looking for a barrista job at a cafe to stay here for couple of months and earn some money. Him speaking English would be an absolute plus for finding a job for sure! We talked about some more of our respective travels, then we wished him good luck finding a job he likes, and he parted ways.
After the cafe, we wanted to look at the beach for one last time, and walked to the seaside. There was another nice statue there, then we touched the water of the Magellan Strait, and walked on the beach for a while. While we were making our way back, we realized a small shop with a lot of people in it. This was Kiosco Roca. It is a small shop where you get sandwiches, pastries and coffees for almost nothing. Compared to what we paid for our lunch this place is 400% cheaper and more crowded, so make sure you do not miss this place as we did. Realizing our time was coming to an end here, we headed back to the Solo Expeditions where we had left our backpacks. We took the taxi and headed towards the airport. On the way to the airport, we again passed through one of the main streets, and passed by the cemetery, the university, and the naval base. We could even see a replica of Magellan’s ship from very far. We would have visited this museum if we had more time here. Then we got to the airport and departed for Santiago.
We should write one last section for the flight to Santiago from Punta Arenas. The view from the window was really great. (I don’t know if it matters, just by luck, we were sitting on the right side of the plane :) We had passed over Torres del Paine, could see lots of glaciers from above, could locate Lago Argentino and Lago Viedma, could see Perito Moreno and Viedma glaciers, AND could see Fitz Roy from above very very clearly. It was like, they were all saying goodbye to us collectively. Flying over the Andes was overall a great experience.