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Monday 24th May - Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales
By Claire
Wednesday, 26th May 2004 01:06

It was very windy in Puerto Natales. But the sun was shining for the first time, and the swirling leaves and fast-moving clouds made the place look abandoned. We took my films into the photo shop to be developed, and then bought a bus ticket to Punta Arenas. Our dog friends had found us again and followed us round the town. We stopped in a supermarket to get some lunch and a pack of ham, and then fed the pack of dogs, who seemed delighted with the offering. After checking our email it was time to pick up the photos, collect our bags from the hostel and get on the bus.

It only took three hours to get to Punta Arenas. As we past the harbour the sea, glass-flat yesterday, had waves a couple of feet high, and the bus was sprayed by sea water. It was a bright, sunny drive through scenery that had been fog-covered on the way here. By the time we arrived in Punta Arenas, at about 4pm, the sky had become a heavy purple and rain threatened. A lady from the hostel in which we were intending to stay gave us a map to her place, and, because it was some way out of town, we decided to find the airline office first.

Our tickets are very easy to change, and we had decided that, because it was very cold in this part of the country, we'd be better off finding things to do back in Santiago. We had two flights booked for a couple of days' time, one to take us to Balmeceda, a small town about 600 miles north, and one the following day to Santiago. We changed them both: we'd go to Balmaceda tomorrow, spend a night there, and then onto Santiago the day after. We tooka taxi to the hostel, which turned out to be in a plywood and corrugated iron lean-to in the back of a lady's house. She was surprised to see us, and said that she would have given us a lift here, we didn't need to have taken a taxi, but she showed us to a room right at the back. We told her that we would need to be at the airport by 7am and she said she'd arrange a taxi. Then we went for a walk back into town to find something to eat.

This hostel was really at the end of the world, the sea was just behind us, and there were only a couple of roads this far out of town. It was freezing and mostly dark, but there was nowhere to eat here, so eventually we made our way back to a restaurant we'd had lunch in before, and then took a taxi back. The driver told me I spoke charming Spanish, which was really sweet but a complete lie. As if to prove it I babbled some lies to him (like GCSE French, if you can't tell the truth, make it up) and because I only have three verbs and no past tense the guy was left thinking that we either wanted locking up or we would be spending the next week here. When he dropped us back at the hostel he gave us eight brochures for all the things that could be seen and done here in Punta Arenas (why had no-one told us that last week?) and said he hoped we'd like his town. I felt very guilty!

I was asleep by about 9 but Mikey read for longer. The heater was an inefective gas fire and all night long the wind threatened to shear the corrugated iron and plywood roof off the room and leave us freezing to death.

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