January 15, 2006
Today I temporarily said goodbye to Argentina as I took a bus to Puerto Natales, Chile.
When John and I got settled in our hostel, we met Tony, a young Englishman who is taking a year off to volunteer, teach, and travel before going to college in the fall. Tony was also interested in doing the eight-day trek (known as "The Circuit") through Torres del Paine National Park, and he had his own tent. I think it will work out well with the three of us going together because there will be enough room in Tony's tent to store our bags at night.
Most of our day was spent planning for our trek. First we had to buy bus tickets to take us to the park, which is 150 KM from Puerto Natales. Omar, the owner of our hostel, tried to sell us round-trip tickets to the park for 15,000 pesos, which is about $30. We said that we'd look around at other tour companies to see how much they were charging. The cheapest offer we got was for 12,000 pesos, so we took it. Later, when we told Omar that we got a better deal, he got mad at us. He said that he would have reduced the price to match whatever offer we got. I couldn't understand his logic. We told him flat out that we were going to look for a better deal. He must've known that we would find something better, so why didn't he just offer us the tickets for 12,000 pesos in the first place? Oh well, it's his loss I guess.
Next, we had to buy food. This was a daunting task because we had to make sure we brought enough to last eight full days to avoid going hungry, yet we wanted to bring as little as possible to keep our backpacks light. After shopping for over an hour, we figured we were done, but we won't know how well we planned for a week or so. It looks like every day we'll be eating porridge for breakfast, cheese and salami sandwiches for lunch, and either spaghetti or soup for supper. We also each got our own bag of snacks to eat along the way. John laughed when he saw how full my bag of goodies was, but I have a feeling I'll need them all.
We also had to get white gas for John's stove, but it was difficult to find an open store because it was election day. Walking down the streets, it was obvious that Michelle Bachelet had won the election because cars plastered with pictures of her were slowly driving around town honking their horns all afternoon. Now I have had the great fortune of being in Chile for two elections, both of which shut down most of the country for the day. Anyway, eventually we found a place that had white gas and was open, so we were set for the trek.
Tonight, the three of us went out for a steak dinner. I was quickly reminded that I was back in Chile because they just can't seem to do steak quite like the Argentines. Still, I savored every bit of the last steak and beer that I would have for a long time. I think our food portions will be pretty meager for the trek, so it was good to get fattened up a bit before leaving.