Friday, December 10, 2010

Hola Patagonia

I´m typing this post from the computer at my hostel in Puerto Natales. 

The trip to get here was an adventure, as always.  I booked one night at the Yaganhouse hostel in Puerto Natales, and my thought was that I could always extend my stay there for two more nights if I didn´t find a tour with a few nights in Torres del Paine.  I tried to reserve a seat on the bus from Punta Arenas (where I was arriving) to Puerto Natales (the city closest to Torres del Paine), but I did not have success at first.  This is what the phone conversation with Buses Fernandez sounded like (translated into English):

Buses Fernandez: Hello?
Me: Hi, is this Buses Fernandez?
BF: Yes.
Me: Can I get a reservation for the 8 AM bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales?
BF: We don´t do reservations by phone.
Me: Ah ok.  Well perhaps you can help me with this.  I´ll be arriving on a flight from Santiago at ...

I then hear music and realize that I was put on hold.  I waited a few minutes, and no one ever came back to me.  I then tried calling back, but I got no answer.  I wanted to explain that I was arriving early in the morning and was wondering if a bus could pick me up at the airport since they pass by there.

I took a friend´s advice and called my hostel, and they purchased a seat for me on the 8 AM bus with Buses Fernandez.  (Or so I thought, read on to find out what happened)

My flight from Santiago was at 1:25 this morning, and since I wasn´t sure when the last shuttle to the airport was, I left my apartment around 9:45.  I made it to the airport by 11, and so I camped out for a few hours before getting my flight.

The flight was uneventful, and I arrived in Punta Arenas at 4:40.  For some reason I thought I was going to arrive at 5:40.  I camped out and slept until 8:15, and I stood outside waiting for my bus.  When they arrived I told them my name, but they said that there was no reservation and asked me what seat the hostel purchased for me.  I told them that the hostel didn´t give me that information and called them, but they didn´t answer.  The bus attendant allowed me to board anyway.

After about half an hour, the hostel called me.  They wanted to confirm that they had purchased a seat for me on the 11 AM bus with Buses Pacheco.  I told them that I was already on the 8 AM bus, as that is what they told me about yesterday.  The hostel told me that the bus company said they don´t pass by the airport, so they had to go with another company and that there weren´t any seats until 11.

I can laugh about it now, but the whole process seemed very confusing.  I mean, why would you confirm with someone that they have a reservation on a bus if they didn´t?  And if something changed, why wouldn´t you call them to inform them of the change?  I can smile about it now and I arrived without a problem, but this is one aspect of Chilean culture that bothers me a bit.

After getting checked into my hostel, I dropped my bags and decided to walk around and explore Puerto Natales.  It´s a small sleepy town, and since I¨m so close to the South Pole it´s actually pretty cold here.  It will be between 40 and 60 my entire time here, and the wind is pretty strong.  The city is pretty small, and it´s along the lake.  I was walking along the shore, and the brisk air reminded me of La Serena. 

I settled on a full day tour of Torres del Paine (a famous national park here) for tomorrow, and I visited a few souvineer shops and peekd into some restaurants.  After coming back and making lunch, I went out walking again and got some hot chocolate to warm me up. 

As I was sitting and writing some postcards, a woman started up a conversation with me.  It turns out that she´s from Santiago and owns a jewelry shop in the Radisson where my dad will be staying in February.  She´s an avid traveler also, and we talked about our travel adventures and exchanged contact information.

I´m excited for the trip to the national park tomorrow.  And I almost forgot that today marks 10 months of traveling since I left home.

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