Patagonia state of mind – part 3. Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales
28th of December was the official beginning of our trip to Patagonia. Naturally, we have started on its Chilean part since our first stop was Santiago.
A trip down South to Punta Arenas took us a few hours. The flight was great – many people complain about LAN airlines and indeed, buying tickets online was a major headache but the plane and the service and the trip itself were more than a pleasant experience.
We got Havanna lunchbox as a refreshment snack. Havanna is an Argentinian confectionery famous for its Alfajores – chocolate pies with dulce de leche (caramel cream) inside. It was so delicious we couldn’t help but stock on them on our last day in Buenos Aires and then ordered some extra on ebay a week later. ^-^
By the time we landed in Punta Arenas international airport it was raining. When you travel in a bad weather in a foreign country without all the logistics fully booked, your survival instinct takes over and makes you go for the fastest way that can guarantee your safe arrival to the haven of a hotel. That is exactly what happened to us. Instead of trying to find a bus that would take us directly to Puerto Natales, we let the local taxi drivers convince us that going to the center of Punta Arenas is the only way to catch a bus back North. Only after our colectivo – a minivan taxi took off and made a run towards highway, I saw a big tourist bus approaching the airport with its destination plate that read “Puerto Natales”. But, the short taxi ride to the center was cheap and gave us a great opportunity to see the city so I am not complaining. ^-^
Punta Arenas is the capital of Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region and one of the biggest settlements in that area. It is located on the strait of Magellan and is the ultimate astral destination in our entire trip. The area, besides being a major connection port is mainly famous for its tours to penguin colonies. Every spring Magellan penguins come to their place of breed so if you are traveling in December – you have a great chance of spotting them along the shore.
After a nice lunch at a local sandwich shop and my second South American milkshake, we boarded a bus and started our 4 hour trip to Puerto Natales (250 km from PA). On our way, we saw nothing but this – a never-ending land of dry grass, mountain shadows on the horizon and low, heavy sky – an amazing nothingness that is absolutely grandeur and breathtaking.
Puerto Natales is the capital of Última Esperanza (Last hope) province and is the main transit point for everyone going to Torres Del Paine national park. The city or rather a village is tiny but has everything you need – supermarkets, banks, souvenir shops, travel agents, post, hospital etc. Be careful with the ATM machines though as they often run out of cash especially on weekends but never fail to charge your credit card for the full amount.
Our hotel – Indigo Patagonia was the very first thing I have found when researching the trip. The address read : 51° 43′ 39” Southern Latitude Puerto Natales, Patagonia. I have never before been to anywhere that would define its location with the angular distance to the center of the Earth. That was super cool and it made me immediately fall in love with the whole end of the world concept for the trip. At that time I was still deciding between Patagonia and Morocco for the honeymoon so thanks to the Indigo, the astral destination took over.
Indigo’s architect Sebastián Irarrázaval implemented intricate design elements into the simple, natural setting of a log house creating a visual and physical comfort you can’t get away from.
The rooms were distributed around a huge central space divided by a vertical curtain made of eucalyptus. All corridors were connected through a system of bridges and ramps making you feel like a wooden creature inside the trunk of a big tree.
The rooms have no TV or mini bars to welcome the use of public spaces and social communication between the guests and locals.
Our room had a view on fjord of Last hope. I used to watch it through a web cam months prior to the trip. In the evenings, the sunsets were gorgeous. You can watch it here : http://www.indigopatagonia.com/live-indigo-web-cam/
The room was simple but had everything you need, including spa products of highest quality.
Upon our arrival, we had our free cocktails in the lounge area and then went for a little walk along the shore of fjord.
The city landscape was quite remarkable considering its size and population. I mean it even had some forms of art here and there popping in the least expected places.
This is my favorite spot in the entire Puerto Natales. It used to be some sort of bridge or mooring but now harbors only seagulls and flamingos. I framed this picture in black and white and put it on the wall right next to my iMac at home. Every time I am working and need a minute to rest, I look at this tranquility and recall the wind and gray water and heavy clouds of Patagonian sky..I’m so glad that now I have this memory that I can use, whenever I need to go somewhere peaceful in my mind.
That reminds me, I have a theme song for this trip. I stumbled upon it while researching Puerto Natales hotels and Indigo in particular. It was set on loop as a background sound on some travel site. I usually turn all the sounds off but because the song was beautiful I let it pay on and on so eventually it stuck on me. I downloaded it to my iphone and listened to the entire time I was in Patagonia.
In the evening, we had dinner at hotel’s restaurant called Mama Rosa. It was a blend of Italian and Chilean food and everything we ordered was delicious.
As I probably mentioned before, South Americans like to snack while waiting for their food. This is what you usually get and if the main course takes time to be prepared, you pretty much become full eating anchovy buttered bread and olives.
My crab risotto was great – it had as much crab as it had rice and the flavors were amazing. My husband ordered green ravioli with Parmesan and it was delicious as well.
After a bottle of wine and some cocktails, we went up on the roof to check the spa.
The lounge area was warm and smelled of coniferous branches burning in the stove. The jacuzzi baths outside were quite chilly so I didn’t dare to dip in.
However, after our trip to Paine, I met the challenge face on and stayed the whole 10 minutes or so in a lukewarm water under the unforgiving Patagonian wind. You can probably recognize the pain on my face.
The next entry will be on our trip to Torres Del Paine national park so stay tuned.