Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales

Hostel:  Casa Lili

Room type: Double

Cost: 7700 Chilean pesos

To get to Puerto Natales we had to leave our rented car in El Calafate and take a 5-hour bus across the border. We arrived late and booked into a hostel, Casa Lili, that was more house than hostel. As such, we were expecting all the homely comforts one might expect from a family-run place: wholesome home cooking from the buxom wife; thick carpets and a roaring fire; the happy cries of children playing with the dog; a relaxed attitude towards paying for the rooms.

Instead, the owner ripped us off.  We’d stupidly entered Chile without knowing the exchange rate, and since we’d arrived so late we had no means of changing money. This wouldn’t have been a problem if we’d been around the next morning – the bank would have been open. But the bus for the National Park was leaving early, before dawn, and to pay for it we needed Chilean pesos. Bugger.

We had no choice but to exchange money with the hostel owner. He gathered his family around and then began counting out the Chilean pesos he was going to give us. Even with all the zeros it didn’t seem like enough, but we felt awkward arguing with him in front of his kids because we didn’t want them to grow up knowing that their father was a conman. That said, they probably already knew and were in on the plot to deceive us, smiling angelically and with unquestionable innocence as their father stole what we later calculated to be around $100 US.

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

This may well be the most fantastic view in the world. An emerald green lagoon, suggestively transparent at its mouth, lies calm at the bottom of a wall scarred with waterfalls and dark lines of waters past. This curves into a long steep slope of rock, in parts coated in glacial ice. Then, erupting out of the ice like a petrified blast of sound the towers themselves. Sublime, fantastical, incomprehensible teeth set into the prehistoric jaw of a divine beast. We sit in the bottom of its terrible mouth. A cloud passes over swiftly, afraid to linger too long.

I assumed that the name ‘Torres del Paine’ came from the Spanish word ‘peine’ meaning ‘comb’ – if you were to turn a comb upside down, blow it up thousands and thousands of times (the tallest needle is 2884m) and then petrify it, you’d end up with something not far off these towers. But apparently combs have nothing to do with it; ‘paine’ means ‘blue’ in the indigenous Araucanian language.

Torres del Paine

Approaching the final lip after the long uphill climb.

DSC_2426

The greenest lagoon I’ve ever seen.

Torres del Paine

This is the Torres on a different day, when I visited with my parents in March 2013.