Preparations....

Puerto Natales Travel Blog

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Onwards and upwards as they say, and after a night's kip in Che Lagarto Calafate, I was up early again to get my international bus with Zaahj (A$60/£10/$16) over into Chile.  Puerto Natales is the main hub for trips into Parque National Torres del Paine, and so most people arriving here are looking to plan trips and you can see the Gore-tex a mile off, some of the tourists walking round town look truly ridiculous!  The journey took about 5 hours, most of which was taken getting across the border.  Given that they have so many border points and the crossings are so frequent, it has amazed me how long it takes to get across.  They seem to take forever to stamp a few passports!  It doesn't help crossing on a bus load of 50 tourists mind.  Finally we arrived in Puerto Natales at about 1.30pm.  The weather had distintcly changed, and it felt a lot more like the Patagonia I was expecting - cold and windy!!

I walked to my hostel, Erratic Rock and the amiable and extremely helpful Bill checked me in and showed me round.  Its not a big place, but it had a real warm, friendly feel to it.  They run a information session at 3pm everyday at their 'Base Camp' building next door to the hostel, so that you can find out everything you need to know about Torres del Paine - its open to anyone, not just Erratic Rock guests.  I went along and Rusty, the speaker, had his patter off to a tee.  He gave a very informative and entertaining (lots of well rehearsed one-liners) chat and explained all the different trails, refugios, equipment and food questions.  They had maps with suggested itineraries for 2,3,4 days and the longer 9 days treks.  All very good I thought.  They hire out equipment if you need it and Carla (from another hostel nearby) can arrange bookings of campsites and refugios (the hostels out in the park itself).  She helped book me bus tickets, flights and nights at the refugio I wanted.

A word of warning though about Carla's service: she claims not to take any commission - this isn't really true though.  She increased my flight price by 5% 'for the cost of the bank transfer' (!) and overcharged me for my refugio at Paine Grande (which I only realised later) - foreigners do not have to pay Chile's 13% hotel tax if they pay in US dollars rather than Pesos.  I paid Carla in pesos (CLP 55,000 a night full board/£70/$110, which is a lot of money!!) but she says she'll pay the account of the refugio in dollars....yes, I only found out about the hotel tax thing when I checked in at the refugio.  So its a cunning way for her to make 13% commission on each booking!

Anyway, I digress!  With everything booked, I went for a pizza with Rich who I met in the dorm and came back to pack my bags and get everything ready.  It was then I realised I had ballsed up my plan - I had booked the Paine Grande refugio for two nights instead of one night and one night at Las Torres refugio - shite.  It was 11pm by this time and Carla had already left - I had no choice but to wait until the morning to try and sort it out.  This was going to be difficult, given I would be leaving at 7.30am to go to the national park....

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Puerto Natales Hostels review
Friendliest hostel ever!
You will not find a friendlier hostel than Erratic Rock in Natales. run by Bill and his brother, they go out of their way to make your stay as enjoya… read entire review
Puerto Natales
photo by: scacos2006