PUERTO NATALES

We arrived in Puerto Natales after 4 days aboard the Navimag ship and it was refreshing to be on land once again.  Unfortunately along with a couple others, we had booked our hostel online and failed to record its name outside of the confirmation email so our first hour was spent looking for somewhere with Internet so we could look it up.  I can’t imagine that was a problem travelling many a year ago!

Puerto Natales is best known as the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park.  For the most part, the whole town survives on the business of tourists visiting the park and you would be hard pressed to bump into someone who isn’t “about to do the ‘W’” or “just finished the ‘Circuit’”.  That being said, it is a quiet and cute little town with a handful of nice restaurants and a great microbrewery – so small that on our first night we drank them entirely out of their own beer!

Our second day consisted of getting ourselves organised for hiking the ‘W’, named due to the similar shape you follow as you trek through Torres del Paine.  We attended a briefing at Erratic Rock, which is held daily to prepare and somewhat intimidate avid hikers and afterwards we joined the numerous backpackers at the supermarket buying our packets of pasta and instant mash – fuel to survive the 5-day trek.

At our hostel – Backpackers Kaweshkar, owner Omar prepared us with all of the essentials: tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, cooking utensils and most importantly, what was most likely going to be my saviour – hiking poles!  By the evening we had checked most things off of the list, unfortunately physical fitness wasn’t as easily determined but satisfied we had one last hearty meal and were off to bed.

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NAVIMAG BOAT TRIP – PUERTO MONTT TO PUERTO NATALES

“The Navimag Experience – the good, the bad and the ugly” is the title Lonely Planet uses to describe the four-day boat trip through the Patagonian fjords in Chile.  From all accounts, your Navimag experience was ultimately decided by the weather so when we boarded the Navimag and were greeted with blue skies and calm seas we breathed a sigh of relief.

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For the most part, that weather is what followed for the next three days – the sun shined and we were able to spend as much time as we wanted out on the deck, taking in the scenery and relaxing.   We passed through various narrow channels, saw our first glacier, visited the small fishing port of Puerto Eden – where the local Indian tribe are considered UNESCO living treasures and looked out over the snowy mountain peaks as we headed south.

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Our accommodation on the boat was more like a storage cabinet than a room but they do remind you the Navimag is not a cruise ship!  We were in a 4-person cabin – two bunk beds either side with hardly a breath of air in between. Our roomies were Andreu and Elena, a really lovely couple from Spain however no matter how well we got along – it was always a little awkward moving around in the cabin with all four of us.  As well as Andreu and Elena, we met some of the other travellers and together we drank and played a whole lot of card games (as in 4 days at sea worth of card games).  There was also a massive chess set out on the deck, which was played under pressure with an onset of spectators.  Meal times broke up the day although the [prison] food left much to be desired.

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The ship put on a few different activities throughout the 4 days.  On the last night it was BINGO night followed by a ‘disco’ on the bar level’s makeshift dance floor.  One of the passengers on board was Jack, a 19 year old boy from the UK who works at TESCO and prior to this adventure – had never left the country before.   It was his birthday on the last night however as Jack had not really socialised with many others on the boat he decided to go to bed at 9pm.  The rest of us, considering this unacceptable for such an occasion took great delight in waking him up and getting him ridiculously drunk (which only took a few beers and multiple top ups from the rest of us as he had never really had a drink before!)  By this time, the ‘disco’ had commenced and this was Jack’s time to shine – it really is incredible the confidence that comes with multiple mixed alcoholic drinks (think Big Kyle in Road Trip when he dances at the black fraternity).

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In addition to the beautiful scenery, spending time hanging with the others on the boat made it just as worthwhile so to any of them reading this – thanks for the laughs and helping the time pass by! Side note from Will:  It was NAVIMAGNIFICENT!