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Wednesday 19th May - Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales
By Claire
Thursday, 20th May 2004 19:25

We actually woke up in time for breakfast for once, so we had some. Then we went for a walk on the beach and I still didn't paddle. Took photos of cormorants though, and kept picking up little dead things to show Mikey. He didn't seem to appreciate them all that much.

There's a statue of Magellan in Punta Arenas whose toe you're meant to rub, but the whole town square was being dug up and repaved so we couldn't get near. We checked out of the hotel and did a bit of internetting before we had to get the bus. It left on time, at 1pm, and we left Punta Arenas for a few days.

The journey took us about 180 miles north, and started off almost entirely grey and yellow: grey road with grey gravel edges, yellow lines; dead-yellow grassland with grey gorse; mottled grey sky. Bleak and bare. There was an occasional horseman rounding up sheep, some giant birds that looked like geese and a big fat grey fox. Then, in the distance the grey sky turned to yellow and a couple of mountains popped into view. Like a tourist I took a couple of photos and the man in the next seat started chatting to me while Mikey snored softly. He gave me a couple of tourist films to watch on his laptop, adverts for a cruise line operating in Puerto Natales, and I was surprised to discover that he wasn't trying to sell anything, he was just being friendly. He pointed out Argentina and suggested some places to visit.

Without warning, the scenery changed again, to a mystical white frost-world: brittle white tree skeletons appeared, the grass and the sky lost its colour and frozen rivers didn't flow. It was just like Christmas and I wanted to stop and take photos but I had to make do with the view from the bus. And then, just as suddenly the fog lifted and the sun was shining through purple clouds, reflecting off the snow on the mountains and causing the sea to glow yellow. It was a really stunning journey.

We arrived in Puerto Natales at 4pm and it was twice as cold as punta Arenas.I know that doesn't make any sense, but it's true. It was freezing. Maybe it was just because the sun was shining, but this town had so much more colour than Punta Arenas: the sky was purple; there was green grass along the pavements; the houses were brightly painted and in a slightly better state of repair. Even the dogs seemed livelier. At the bus stop a lady offered to show us to a hostel which turned out to be in her house, and while it was a bit weird it was really cheap and we got a room with a bathroom, so we stayed.

Well, actually we went straitght out again while it was still almost light and went to find some more gloves for me (mine aren't warm enough!) and some supper. We also wanted st see the sunset, which was rather nice. A bunch of small bouncy dogs thought that we looked like possible bringers of food and followed us round the town. It was so cold that I felt really sorry for them and promised that if we didn't finish all our supper they could have it. We both had huge steak and eggs and chips (which, other than seafood seems to be the local speciality) and left the restaurant. One of the little curly dogs caught up with us almost instantly so, fullof guilt for forgetting my promise, we went into a supermarket to get him something to eat. Unfortunately the meat counter only had raw things, so we bought a couple of big rolls. He was waiting patiently for us and was at once disappointed that we'd only given him bread but ecstatic that he had something to eat. He followed us for a couple of blocks, carrying the roll, and then dived down an alley to eat it. We checked our mail for a while then walked back to the hotel, stalked once more by our little friend. We gave hin the second roll and ducked into the hotel so that he wouldn't find us. I hope he's not still waiting in the morning, I'd have to buy him breakfast.

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