Tuesday, 19 January 1999
The plane flight was pretty much as normal: Anna thought she was going to die in a plane crash, I thought I would die of boredom. I should also skip through Easter Island of which we saw little more than the rather ramshackle airport. Instead I will start from our first glimpse of South America proper. The mountains around Santiago probably are not that high (the Andes have a reputation for being high but it is not a continent long chain of seven thousand plus mountains) but even so they looked pretty dramatic. Below villages and cities were laid out in miniature and motorways stretched out like ribbons into the distance.
After we landed we sorted out our accommodation and then caught a bus to the centre of town. It was about nine and the sunset took on an amazing colour, it was probably due to the pollution but the entire sky took on a dirty orange colour and with the black silhouettes of the mountains in the distance it indeed looked like a postcard of some nowheresville South American or Mexican town.
We had difficulty picking a hotel. The first surprise was that a lot of hotels were full, the second that none of the hotel owners spoke English. This sounds a bit arrogant but to explain despite our three months in China I still maintained a belief that English was a commonly spoken language. I think it was our time in South East Asia that restored my faith. However I also believed that the recent tourist boom in South America would have somewhat boosted the number of people with a few words working in the industry. However out of six hotels we called only one spoke English. We were stunned. Anna had been learning Spanish in Australia and after the initial shock was able to get us a room. Neither of us however had expected that her Spanish would have to be put into play so early. At $30 a night the Resedencial Mery was expensive for what it was. We had a bedroom with four beds stuffed into it and some nice full length windows which opened onto the balcony. The bathroom was shared and accessed by walking through the hall which doubled as a TV lounge.
It was getting late so we decided that we should have dinner nearby. We headed up the road to the Barrio Brasil walking through wide avenues surrounded by old colonial buildings. We liked the feel of the place, it had an air of decadence and shabbiness that we had not seen for a long time - it reminded us of Europe. We passed over some very Chilean places because we were not quite ready to be fully immersed, instead opting for a Mexican where we would at least know what everything was. It was superb and we began realising that Santiago was a pretty civilised place.
Wednesday, 20 January 1999
For the first time in my life I had got jet lag bad. We had gained seven hours and my body was not getting with the program. We finally stumbled out into the streets at half eleven and set off in search of food. Our guide book had written that the Central Market was a good place to eat with a couple of restaurants set in between the market stalls. We soon got there on Santiago's very efficient French style metro and walked in. In the wake of its write up the numbers had somewhat reversed, it was more like a couple of market stalls wedged in between the restaurants. We ran he gauntlet of restaurant owners all claiming to be the restaurant recommended in the guide book and got back outside. Here we found a shop selling Empanadas (a sort of Spanish pasty) and for very little money had a couple of these standing outside in the streets.
We then started to walk around, we found the beautiful Posada del Corregidor first and then walked down to the Plaza de Armas. This seemed like it would have been nice if that was they had not dug the entire thing up for some public works. This meant that we had to look at everything either from afar or from just below so we could not get the full effect. We then saw the very Arabic Palacio La Alhambra and finally flung ourselves into the pedestrianised shopping areas.
It was all very well looking around but it was shockingly cold (months of thirty plus temperatures do not prepare you for a return to London like climates) and we had things to sort out. We went up to Providencia to trade in our books. Again it was a total rip off: They wanted to buy my Lonely Planet to French Polynesia for approximately one pound. However it was the only bookshop to trade in. We then found a grossly over priced pub which was not exactly full of British ex-pats so after a pint we got out of there before we got bombed (Pinochet having been placed under house arrest in the UK just three months before). Finally we went to the state tourist office who were not amazingly helpful furnishing us with unreadable photocopies and out of date leaflets.
Next we headed back towards town to climb the Cerro Santa Lucia, basically a rock and a somewhat ornate fort from which you can see out over the town. I had in my mind to get a picture of the orange sunset but naturally enough it was cloudy and it was pretty clear that there was not going to be any picture. Back at the base of the hill we found ourselves in the expensive restaurant area of Santiago so we shopped around until we found a not too pricey Italian but regretted it afterwards since it was not that nice, the Barrio Brasil seemed like the better option.
Thursday, 21 January 1999
Jet lag again. It was painful but I managed to get out of bed early enough to get to the offices of Navimag before lunch. To explain Navimag is the Chilean ferry operator which pretty much has a monopoly on anything that wants to go to the bottom third of the Country. Several years ago travellers used to get to Chilean Patagonia by begging truck drivers to give them the bunks that the drivers were entitled to on ferries but did not use because they had much more luxurious truck cabins. Navimag finally got clued up to this and realised that they could make a bit of money diversifying into tourism and refitted their ship the Puerto Eden so that it could take a limited number of passengers as well as cargo. Since then their four day, three night "cruise" of the Chilean Fjords has taken off like wildfire.
Which is why we were not surprised when the English speaking girl at Navimag informed us that the ferry for the 25th was completely full. We asked her if there was any chance for the 1st and she went off and consulted her computers. No she said, the only chance was a number of bunks that could only be booked by us ringing Puerto Montt directly. This got me riled and I pointed out that for two hundred plus dollars a head she could actually get off her arse and ring their other office. More than anything we did not speak good enough Spanish to deal with the whole thing. This seemed to kick her into action and she took us over to her computer terminal. Here she revealed that there was one chance, there was an A cabin free. This amazed us, in my book having a free cabin was not exactly one chance it was a firm option. It was as if she had assumed from our ragged appearance that we would not be interested in paying the bare minimum so the cabin were not an option. With this in mind we bullied her into looking at the manifest for the 25th again and saw that rather than being impossible there were also quite a few cabins free on this date. Inwardly sighing we asked her to book us in for the 25th.
After this we went off to the Barrio Bellavista for lunch. We had lunch at the first place we came to and sampled Patel de Choclo which is a traditional Chilean dish somewhat like a shepherd's pie topped with mashed maize rather than potato. The not altogether nice thing was that the maize was sweet but it was very filling. The reason we were in the Barrio Bellavista was that Anna wanted to see Pablo Naruda's house there. We walked on a bit further and found ourselves in what I could quite confidently describe as the Islington of Santiago. The houses were large and beautiful and interestingly painted with vivid colours. We found Naruda's house quite quickly, painted bright blue it was a nice collection of buildings at the foot of the Cerro San Cristobal. We were not there within opening times but we had a nice walk around the area.
Trying to make the most of our time we headed next for the National Museum of Pre Columbian art. This was better than the usual collection of pots we had experienced in most museums. They had chosen a few choice items and presented them flawlessly with huge (Spanish) explanatory texts. We managed to look around in a couple of hours before heading to the Cerro Santa Lucia for the second time in two days for that all important sunset shot.
When we got to the hill all was not okay. Anna realised that her glasses case was missing from her bag together with her clip-ons and my glasses. She ran back to a cafe where we had stopped for tea but could not find them. We will never really be sure what happened but she found her bag open when we got to the cafe and it was clear that somewhere between the museum and here the glasses had either fallen out or had been removed. Anna was distraught, she had only had the glasses since Singapore and was getting used to the fact that the clip-ons effectively gave her a pair of prescription sunglasses.
The sunset itself was marred by the fact that it took place behind a skyscraper and that during it we were kicked out of the park. I still managed to get a couple of good photographs. We then retraced our steps all the way back to the Museum to no avail. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we would not be finding them and went to drown our sorrows. We returned to the Mexican we found in the Barrio Brasil which was a good choice because the food was superb and we had an excellent bottle of cheap Chilean wine. To top it all we had a few half litres of Escudo beer and then went to sleep.
Friday, 22 January 1999
We had meant to do something in the area surrounding Santiago this day but the glasses took priority. After picking up a film we had developed we paid a visit to the Bombaderos. This went badly at first then improved. The first station we went to we explained in broken Spanish what had happened and they just looked at us and said "what do you want us to do". This was pretty amazing but we persevered and told them that we needed to report it for insurance purposes. This threw them totally and they started asking to see our insurance. In the end they went into a huddle and told us to go to the premier precinct police station. Here we actually found someone who spoke English and after going through the story he typed it up then delivered us a piece of paper with a case number and an official stamp on it, exactly what we needed. Our first brush with the police had been surprisingly pleasant.
We then had a whirlwind shopping trip to replace some of the things that went missing. This was easy enough and very soon we were settling down to an early dinner and a wait at the bus station for the bus to Puerto Montt.
Saturday, 23 January 1999
Puerto Montt, Los Lagos, Chile
Long distance buses in Chile only rank second to the VIP buses in Thailand. The biggest trauma you are faced with is getting a ticket. Infinite amounts of companies seem to ply the same routes from Santiago and each of these companies has a tiny kiosk office in the bus station. So you are faced with walking backwards and forwards between them trying to work out why there are so many buses and why they are identical and how to pick the best one. In the end we went with the cheapest because there did seem to be no difference. The bus itself was superb. Boatloads of leg room, pillows, blankets and tea. It was better in terms of comfort than its Australian equivalent and the selection of movies was a thousand times better with the ultra violent John Woo thriller Face Off being shown first thing in the morning.
I had told myself not to expect too much from towns in the South of Chile. Most of them were established relatively recently and due to a lack of building materials the houses are mostly wood shingles and tin roofs. Puerto Montt initially fulfilled my microscopic expectations but it later began to grow on both of us. When we arrived at midday on Saturday everything was shut, wind whistled through the streets and hardly anyone was to be seen. We walked around trying to find cheap accommodation, the first place proved a little too cheap so Anna left me at the top of a hill while she went to check out another.
I was just standing there when suddenly a demonstration rounded the corner and reading their banners it was clear that they were demonstrating against the felling of trees in Southern Chile. I took a picture which got me a cheer and as the demonstration filed past it seemed that everyone that lived there was involved in it. On our way to the third spot we got a bit lost as roads that were meant to be on the map suddenly disappeared. Whilst trying to sort it out we spotted a place up on the top of a staircase that looked somewhat like Norman Bates' Motel in Psycho. It turned out that it had a good view over the town to the sea and was very light so we took it.
Probing around Puerto Montt we failed to turn up any more people or much to do and we started to get a little depressed. So we decided that the next day would be spent out of town. However it turned out that night we had spoken a little too soon. We explored Puerto Montt's port Angelmo which was about two kilometres along the sea front and it turned out to be much more picturesque with a seafood market and tons of tiny fishing boats. We had dinner there and retired for the night.
Sunday, 24 January 1999
Puerto Montt, Los Lagos, Chile
We stuck with our plan and got up early. It was freezing cold and pretty desolate and we had to put our fleeces on. We got on the bus and I feel asleep for an hour until we boarded a ferry for the island of Chiloé. We were heading for Ancud on the North shore of the island because they were on the last day of a three day festival celebrating the founding of the city. We were considering returning to Chiloï for Anna to record some of their music and so wanted a sample.
Ancud was a photogenic place when you penetrated beyond the outskirts. The wooden shingled houses were painted in an amazing range of bright colours, orange, blue (I think you are familiar with them) and the central Plaza del Armas was a leafy place surrounded by very low key buildings. Absent were the scattering of tower blocks and shopping centres in Puerto Montt. It took us a long time to persuade anyone to tell us where the festival was actually taking place and when we finally did find out we realised that we were going to miss the potentially more riotous evening session. Despite this we decided to go along for lunch (it was supposedly a gastronomic as well as music festival) and walked out of town to a small cove and beach where it was being held.
By now the weather had changed, it had gone from arctic to tropical in the space of a morning and people were sunbathing. We decided to get some Empanadas and beer and sit in the shade of a canteen for a while. The food was by no means cheap, worse than that we had already had better and by the time we finished the music showed no signs of coming on. Instead of staying put we stupidly decided to leave the restaurant and of course sitting out on the amphitheatre style seating I got sun burnt (and was still peeling five days later).
The music, when it finally came, varied enormously in standard. The first group were all out of tune and every song they sang was identical. The second group were a bit more together but the songs they sang were indistinguishable from the previous groups'. We were about to abandon all hope when like the Three Amigos a bunch of guys dressed in white jackets, red shirts, riding trousers with tassels, spurs and huge sombreros turned up. The only thing missing was the droopy moustache. When they finally got on they were brilliant. They upped the tempo and had eight very professional dancers with them. The final (rather nationalistic) flourish was producing Chilean flags and making a star of Chile from tape. It was great but sadly it was the last band and although we were not sure we could not work out if it was actually Chilote music, anyway they had a horse's jawbone so it seemed authentic enough. Going back was pretty uneventful and it was not long before we were fed and tucked up safely in Chateau Norman Bates.
Monday, 25 January 1999
Puerto Montt, Los Lagos, Chile
Navimag had told us to get to the docks for one. We wrote a postcard for my mother's birthday and bought a few last minute things. After not finishing our beers on the Condor we decided to go for a more conservative estimate on the alcohol front. For lunch we chanced Curanto, a Chilote dish which is basically a big bowl of sausages, potatoes, mussels, scallops etc. and it was great. We then went to the docks on time which was a big mistake because we had to wait three hours before anything happened. The anticipation of the two hundred odd people waiting was electric and they hung on every word of each announcement. When the call finally came we marched through the boarding gate out onto the docks and joined the back of a massive queue of what can only be described as backpackers. Every make was present, Lowe Alpine, Karrimor, North Face and a hundred others. As we looked at the assortment of cooking equipment, ice axes, ropes and even sleeping mats we began to feel rather under equipped and amateurish. We piled into the cavernous hold of the boat and were raised, one hundred at a time to deck level on a aircraft carrier style hydraulic lift.
On the boat the excitement was soon to wear off. We dumped our bags into our four person cabin then went onto the upper deck. The first thing that was noticeable was that the ship was leaning heavily to one side. This was due to the fact that over half of it was empty. Anna bet me that we would be off within an hour but it soon became clear that we were not going until the boat was filled, and as each container had to be driven into position and secured it was also clear that this would not be for a while. In fact we did not get underway until nine, well after dinner.
After dinner we bought the remains of our wine up to the top deck and were watching for any signs of a move. We were chatting away, being cynical about the long drawn out process of undoing the ship's moorings, and got talking to an English couple Janet and Jon Bannister who we ended up spending the next two weeks trekking with. The thing that I guess initially surprised us was that they were English and what with the arrest of Pinochet in Britain we had presumed that British tourists would be a bit thin on the ground. It turned out that they had been working in Hong Kong for five years and in the gap between this and relocating to London were travelling for five months in South America.
We chatted about Pinochet, they had as much experience as us but had learnt that any animosity there was strictly confined to people we were very unlikely to be hanging out with. We also chatted about our mutual experiences of the Chinese in Hong Kong. They agreed with our perception that there was an enormous divide between the Chinese and Europeans in HK but I think were a little taken aback by my sweeping generalisations about the Chinese being a pretty rude bunch.
Chatting away we saw little of the departure of the ship however since it was already dark there was very little to see. We retreated downstairs once it became clear that it was going to get very cold and continued swapping travelling stories (they were coming to the end of their trip and so had a lot of info on what was ahead for us). Upstairs we had also met Tony, an Australian who had been travelling with them for a while, and we told him our impressions of Australia. Everyone eventually (after a well boring slide show to the strains of "Dead can Dance") retired to their bunks apart from Anna and I who briefly braved the piercing cold on deck and chatted to a group of Americans before eventually giving in.
Tuesday, 26 January 1999
Golfo de Penas, Aisen, Chile
Make no mistake the Puerto Eden, despite all Navimag's pretence about us being on some luxury cruise and the somewhat inflated prices, is a somewhat weather beaten ferry. Our "A" cabins were comfortable but basic, entertainment was limited to videos and the food was edible but would only be described as good by someone who was nostalgic for school dinners. If "The Love Boat" had been set on the Puerto Eden they would have had difficulty explaining away the three truckloads of cattle being transported on the open cargo deck and the associated smell. Whether it was overpriced is a complex issue since real luxury cruises cost a whole lot more than 350 dollars and real ferries a whole lot less. Nevertheless the four of us, in a typically English way, complained about it cynically to each other and not to the staff. This turned out to be pretty much the best thing to do as the staff could not have cared less and seemed to be more depressed than us about being stuck in a cruise-cum-ferry-no-man's land.
So after a breakfast that we wished we had not bothered to get up for we all sauntered on to deck to find that the view, with Chiloe and the mainland both being quite distant, was not really worth the saunter. So we ended up playing cards for most of the day. Janet and Jon knew a few games as did we and this kept us going.
That night we were due to enter the dreaded Golfo de Penas or Gulf of Punishment. The route of the ship was such that we hardly ever ventured out into the open sea and kept ourselves tucked up in the fjords. Sadly the point at which you do have to venture out is at the Golfo de Penas, and the swells here are apparently guaranteed to make even the toughest of sailors seasick. We decided to disobey orders and get drunk, as Jon said "if we are going to be sick anyway we may as well enjoy it". The pitching and rolling of the boat increased in intensity and it got to the point where walking around was a bit of an art. However none of us were sick and we were told later that the Gulf was unusually quiet that night. I personally thought it was a bit of a shame since it would have made the journey much more of an epic. Most people took it with relief and to take their minds off it we were shown the movie "The Saint" which was so mind numbingly dull that it took very little effort to get to sleep afterwards.
Wednesday, 27 January 1999
Puerto Eden, Magallanes, Chile
It was like being rocked to sleep that night and we woke up feeling massively refreshed. Getting up on deck we were pleased to see that the scenery had somewhat improved over the night. The channels we were travelling through were a lot narrower and mountains hemmed us in on all sides. In addition around lunch time the sun made an appearance and it got so hot we were having difficulty sitting on the metal deck. However like most people we spent most of the day on the deck, reading, talking, watching, photographing and of course playing cards.
One particular high point was our passage through what I seem to remember was called the English Narrow. As if to serve as a warning a while before we went through we passed the rotting hulk of a boat that ran aground many years ago. The Narrow itself was just that, narrow, probably forty metres wide, the boat being twenty-five. To make matters worse the navigable channel snaked through a string of islands and so some pretty nifty steering was required. It probably was not as dramatic as it seemed since from our visits to the bridge we had ascertained that most of the time the ship was on auto-pilot and rather than relying on the posts placed to mark the line of the channel everything was done by GPS.
Our last night on the boat was marked by a party. It took a while to get going but once it did it was rocking. It seemed oddly appropriate that after the day's manoeuvres that the DJ should bring out the limbo stick... apart from this we spent most of our time dancing, drinking and trying to pair Tony off with an American girl who seemed keen on him. To much consternation the music was stopped at two. Jon jimmied the door of the DJ booth open with a credit card but stopped short of switching it back on. After a lot of abuse Marcello, the half hearted attempt at an entertainments officer, let us continue with slightly less volume in the bar and we passed what was left of the night chatting to some of the truck drivers who had joined us.
Thursday, 28 January 1999
Puerto Natales, Magallanes, Chile
We all woke up to almighty hangovers and Janet and Anna woke up to the realisation that they had left half their personal property in the common room the night before. This kicked off a saga that was to dominate most of the day. What happened was that we first went to the lost property and found nothing there then were taken to the kitchens where we found one of the staff had hung up Anna's fleece. We shouted at Marcello a bit more and with a lot of reluctance he announced that some "items" were lost. At some point Jon found one of the truck drivers drinking from a mug that they had left and sneakily recovered this. After a while Anna and I realised that the all important playing cards had been left downstairs and so on a whim we went to the kitchen where sure enough they were retrieved from a drawer. It was at this point when I went a bit ballistic and pointed out to them that there was not much point having a lost property if nothing was ever put in it. I told them that we were going to have to get the police involved for insurance purposes and that if they had any other items in drawers they better start thinking about giving them back. This had two effects: one, half of the previously mute staff turned out to speak passable English enough to inform me that I was responsible for all my personal effects; two they looked slightly more concerned but still kept their heads down in the hope that if they ignored me I might go away.
The final piece of the jigsaw clicked into place hours and several card games later. I had a crazy thought that maybe on a boat you would be out of police jurisdiction and, in the same way that he is the priest, the captain might be the "law". More importantly the police in Puerto Natales would tell us this and refuse to report the loss. I collared Marcello and he said we should go to the Purser. We got the purser, a rather oily looking sort of chap, out of his cabin and told him that we wished to report the theft of a shirt and a pair of sandals (the two remaining missing items). He looked at us as if we were mad and said "the shirt is not stolen it is here" and with that pulled it out of yet another cupboard. With this we realised that the whole crew were incompetent or worse that they had devised their system as a way of retaining items they fancied in the aftermath of the party. Either way poor Janet never did get her sandals back.
Whilst this saga was unfolding a more serious problem became apparent. Even though we had arrived at Puerto Natales we were not docking due to amazingly strong winds and matching waves. We were due to be on dry land at two and in fact it was not until after eight that there was any movement on this front. We were cheekily hoping that we would stay on board and avoid the price of a nights accommodation. Sadly they decided to load us seventy at a time into a launch via the gangway. The launch had a lot of difficulty getting out and the whole thing took on the atmosphere of a dramatic rescue at sea.
Of course all this meant we were pretty late when we got into town and had to scrabble around to find somewhere to stay. We eventually settled on a rather grim looking but clean place and were forced to share a room between the four of us.
Friday, 29 January 1999
Puerto Natales, Magallanes, Chile
If Puerto Montt is a desolate place then Puerto Natales is beyond salvation. This is a bit harsh because we had quite a fun time there but it certainly is not much to look at. Beyond trekking supply shops, tour companies and hospedajes there certainly is not too much to it. We spent most of the day getting to know it intimately as we scoured it for the few items to complete out trekking kit. Food shopping with Janet and Jon was fun. At first we went for the lightest options but when we thought about it noodles and stock cubes for dinner every night was not going to be fun. So we started buying up sausages, tomato soup, ravioli - basically anything with any taste. We rounded it off with the hugest onion seen by man, twenty centimetres in diameter it must have weighed well over a kilo on its own. We split up for lunch on the principle that we were going to be stuck with each other for the next week. Anna and I found a brilliant restaurant where we sampled the Chileno speciality "Lomo a la Pobre" (Steak with chips fried onions and fried eggs) for the first time. We were determined eat as much as possible before we set off and this more than fit the bill.
We got back together, packed and generally finalised our plans before heading out for dinner. Janet and Jon had found a pizza place with a wood fired oven and we stuffed ourselves stupid again and had quite a lot of wine before retiring, clutching our bellies, to bed.
Saturday, 30 January 1999
Refugio Chileno, Magallanes, Chile
We were woken up by our jovial landlady and had our tea and bread breakfast in the half light of dawn. The bus came at seven and we were bundled into it along with a load more trekkers. It was clear that we were not going to be lacking for company. The bus took a while but I slept through most of it. I woke up towards the end to spot my first llama as well as seeing a Nandu (the local name for the Rhea). We were dumped at the entry gates, were given a lecture in Spanish and then asked to cough up our $12.50 fee. We were also told that a river had flooded on the road that lead to the start of the circuit but fortunately they had laid on a bus, another three dollars please.
The plan for the first day was to hike up to the Torres look out. The Torres del Paine are four needle like rocks that tower over a glacial lake and are the most photographed thing in the park. The first part of the walk was tough as we were not very used to walking and we had to get over a few small hills before getting to the entrance of the valley which lead up to the look out. We hiked for a couple of hours to Refugio Chileno and then set up our tents, dumped our rucksacks and had lunch. As we carried on up the valley the tree line got lower and lower until the opposite side was so barren it looked like a moonscape. We came out of the trees and the trail basically turned into an uphill scramble over glacial debris. The going was not that tough because the rocks provided a good grip but it was clear that going downhill would not be fun.
Going over the lip of the moraine and finding yourself staring at the Torres (towers) is an indescribable moment. So I will not bother trying. I knew that the photos will not do it justice for the simple reason that the Torres were grey, the lake below them grey and the sky, you guessed it, grey. We explored the lake, the waterfall streaming out of it and the rocks. Incredibly someone had built a wall below a huge flat boulder creating a shelter where, if you were desperate, you could spend the night. When we got back to the path we found Tony and sat down to stare at the Torres for a while. This was the last time we were to see Tony for a long time, he had got together with two more Australians on the boat and they had rented a three man tent. However rather than camping at Chileno they had opted for Torres camp site further up the valley in case the weather changed and they had to back off from the scramble up to the look out. In retrospect we all thought this was a bit of a mistake, in fact we wished we had pitched our tents at the start of the look out walk because we would have ended up in an even better position on the second day.
After a painful downhill we got back to Chileno where we had hot showers and sat in the warmth of the Refugio's restaurant drinking beers, cursing at people who left the door open on their way out and of course playing cards. We had walked for five and a half hours but were still quite tired.
Sunday, 31 January 1999
Campamento Coiron, Magallanes, Chile
Our first night in a tent was certainly a cold one. We tried to warm up as we packed our stuff away and cooked our breakfast of noodles. However once we had started off back down the valley we soon warmed up. Back at the start we bought some bread etc and then set off on the circuit proper. The first four hours were difficult. We were taking a short cut and the route was not at all well marked. The path split in several places to merge again later, everyone we followed we caught up with and found that they were unsure as well. The views were nice as we looked out over the valley of the Rio Paine towards Laguna Azul. Then we joined with the main track of the circuit and were walking along the flood plain of the river. This area was spectacular as the entire plain was covered in daisies for a couple of kilometres. The effect was to make the area look so white it was almost as if we were walking through snow. We also had our first taste of the tricks the circuit could get up to as we were required to cross boggy tracts balancing on branches laid down by previous trekkers. Soon afterwards we got to the Seron campsite where we stopped for lunch.
The Seron campsite gave us our first inkling that all was not quite as the park would have you believe in the realm of campsite facilities. You see had we camped there we would have had to pay, however the place was completely deserted. How could they possibly charge anyone and how could there be any hot showers? The answers were they didn't and there weren't. Anyway we knew we would not stand a chance of getting to the base of the pass the day after if we did not continue so with great weariness (we had already been walking for six hours) we hoisted our parks and went on.
The next bit was tough going as we had to haul ourselves up a hill over a seemingly never ending series of ridges. But when I finally reached a saddle between two hills I saw that it was all worth it. Below me Lago Paine stretched away into a valley walled on all sides by mountains and at the far end by a range of snow capped mountains. We slowly made our way along the side of Lago Paine again over an endless series of gullies and finally dropped down to the valley floor and the Coiron campsite. We dumped our packs and the sun finally came out as we set our tents up. We had been walking for eight hours.
That night we had probably one of our most luxurious nights. The thing that made it go with a bang was an abundance of dead wood and a lack of anyone to tell us not to light a fire. Janet and Jon went to collect water and by the time they had got back the two of us were sitting on a log toasting our hands by the side of a roaring fire. Quite unsurprisingly given the extremely dead nature of a lot of the trees lying around in the park everything was alight within seconds and the only problem we had was collecting enough wood to keep the fire going all night. Our fire also proved to be the centre of the social scene in Coiron that night. Three other trekkers joined us around the fire, two Chilenos and a Brazilian (again from Sao Paulo) called Christiano. We stayed up quite late nursing the embers of the fire and quizzing the South Americans.
Monday, 1 February 1999
Campamento Los Perros, Magallanes, Chile
The Chilenos, it turned out, had knee problems. Christiano had hooked up with them because solo treks were against park policy but with them out of action we asked him if he wanted to join us. He seemed quite pleased to do this and by ten we were all under way. It had been a cold night but we soon warmed up and in a few hours we had walked the length of the valley and were at Refugio Dickson. Not that this meant much, the shop had nothing in and despite the staff having bread with their lunch they refused to sell us any. We sat in the warmth of the refugio and had our lunch of cheese and bread. Anyway the view was nice sitting at the end of Lago Dickson into which a huge tongue of glacier calved.
Most of the trek up to Campamento Los Perros was pretty unmemorable although I do have a vague recollection of being in woods most of the time and snaking backwards and forwards to avoid numerous fallen trees. We got chatting to the incredibly multi-lingual Christiano and found out that he had been to a Steiner School, a type of school where children are left to decide for themselves whether they want to go to lessons. From talking to him it became clear that the sort of discipline that most people are exposed to at school is pretty unnecessary in the long run.
The thing that I will never forget was the Laguna Los Perros. Pretty much at the end of the trail you exit the trees and find yourself climbing up one of the most perfectly preserved terminal moraines I have ever seen. You then pop over the top to find yourself looking at a grey lake contained by the moraine and the Glacier Los Perros that was responsible for it. The thing that made it however was the fact that in the lake were floating icebergs and despite being nothing unusual in this corner of the world they were the first icebergs I had ever seen. This time I think that the photos will do it justice, the grey of the lake was this time offset by the pure white of the fantastically shaped icebergs.
Campamento Los Perros was one of the worst pay campsites we saw. The facilities comprised of some flat ground and a fire in an old oil barrel. The guy who collected the money was a total waster, I guess the deal was that he hung around in the middle of nowhere for the summer season giving Conaf a cut of what he extracted from tourists. Even if we had wanted a cold shower we were not going to get one because it looked like he had used the cubicle doors as firewood. Despite all this after six hours of walking we made the most of our evening and made an almighty sausage, rice and tomato sauce feast to prepare ourselves for crossing the pass the next day.
Tuesday, 2 February 1999
Refugio Grey, Magallanes, Chile
The approach to Paso John Garner was difficult. The trees started to thin out and we were subjected to vast tracts of open bog. The only way to get past them was to go around on paths stomped through the gorse like bushes. The problem was with this approach is that the bushes were gradually dying off and the bypasses getting boggy themselves. Thus there were bypasses of bypasses of bypasses etc. and in this way the entire hillside was getting chewed up. We wondered what Conaf was doing with the massive entry fees it was charging as this was one of many places where a few duck boards would not have been a bad idea.
We finally broke free of the tree line and found ourselves in a landscape made of pebbles, rocks and boulders. The wind picked up and so did the rain. Fortunately the trail was well marked with orange painted boulders every thirty metres and we were able to pick our way up to the head of the valley. Rather dramatically it started to snow and we started to wonder if we were going to be turned back by the weather. After a while it became clear that the trail of orange dots lead steeply uphill to our left and we began zigzagging our way up picking our way through the rocks and, by now, snowdrifts. Luckily the snow only lasted a short time and was replaced by sun so we warmed up a it and I was able to throw a few snow balls at Anna. The ascent to the pass was tough as the wind was freezing cold and every time we scrambled over the top of a ridge we would always facing yet another ridge. Jon was in front so every time he got to what we thought might be the top we would get him to relay the news back down the line.
Eventually we reached the top, a desolate saddle between snow capped peaks and we could see into the next valley. Of course we already knew that what we would be seeing was Glacier Grey, part of the immense Campo de Hielo Sur and all of us had seen glaciers before. What was so shocking was its extent, at least five kilometres across and stretching as far as we could see up and down the valley it had carved it was immense. The fracturing caused by its painfully slow descent had created massive pinnacles of ice laid out in intricate patterns. The peaks on either side of the valley were black and desolate, sharpened by decades of shattering erosion. The view into the valley behind us was no less impressive and we stood for as long as we could taking photographs of the surroundings before our fingers froze off.
Nothing about this day was easy, the descent from the pass least of all. The path first cut its way through more rocks and then entered forest where it was so steep that we were literally lowering ourselves clutching onto the trunks of the surrounding trees. Our knees took the worst of the battering and when, after two hours of this, we finally reached the first campsite we could hardly walk. However the first campsite was, as everyone had told us, a total mess so after a quick lunch we picked up our rucksacks again and prepared ourselves for more knee bashing. In fact it was worse than this because nature it had seemed had built an obstacle course along the side of the glacier. We had: tree trunks to duck under and climb over by the hundreds; ridges to scramble up and slide down; and huge ravines to negotiate. One of the ravines was so steep sided that they had constructed an extremely crude ladder which got you up so far and then you had to literally haul yourself up, hand over fist on a knotted rope for the final few metres. One particularly spectacular spot was where the forest ha been burned down ad all that was left was kilometres of bleached white, twisted tree trunks through which you got a view over the glacier - this was Torres del Paine at its bleakest!
We had started to hallucinate by this point, we had been walking for over seven hours and we had nor seen hot water for three days. For some reason we started a rumour that there were hot showers at Refugio Grey and so, when we reached the next campsite, we insanely decided to press on. This was when disaster struck, the group started to fragment and the orange markers to run out. I managed to somehow end up split on from everyone else on the wrong track. It soon ran out and I was left wandering around in the heather on my own. I started to panic a bit but eventually turned ninety degrees to head straight towards the glacier in the hope that I would eventually find the path, which I did. In these bleak moments of despair I had speculated that there would be no hot showers at Refugio Grey. When I finally reached there it turned out that I was right. Not only were the showers cold but the camp's shop looked like something from the worst days of communism. Five tins of peas lurked at the back of the top shelf and when we asked for bread we were practically laughed at. We bought two tins of out of date canned peaches to warm up and have as desert.
Despite the depression that we sank into when we realised that the Xanadu we had set our sites on to keep us walking for eight and half hours was about as well equipped as a vandalised public convenience, the setting of Refugio Grey was pretty stunning. The camp site was on a black sand beach looking onto a grey lake backed by snow capped mountains. The thing that really made the picture was that instead of driftwood chunks of iceberg had been washed up onto the beach and in fact the whole of Lago Grey was full of icebergs of various sizes. Whilst I was admiring the view the camp's attendant came us to collect the fees. I guess Jon's disappointment was not at all assuaged by the view. Despite the fact that Janet had already paid he exploded at the attendant, screaming about the lack of hot showers and scratching the word "service" with a stick in the sand. The attendant ran off and since he never dared approach us again Anna and I had a free night's camping. A rather ironic epilogue to the whole incident is that Janet and Jon did in fact get hot showers. They went into the refugio for a late night beer (Anna and I had gone straight to bed after dinner) and whilst in the toilets Jon heard two Germans complaining that the showers were too hot. This was too much for him and so he dived straight in and had a cheeky shower. Janet did the same and so in a round about way they did finally get their service.
Wednesday, 3 February 1999
Campamento Pehoe, Magallanes, Chile
We had already decided that we would have a very relaxing day. The next refugio was on the shores of Lago Pehoe and was only three hours walk away. We messed around for most of the morning. I tried to repeat Jon and Janet's success with the showers the previous night but it took me five minutes of standing naked in the cubicle to realise that the showers were just not going to get warm. The four of us had also booked ourselves in for lunch having seen the piles of food people got at Refugio Chileno. This backfired as well because for seven dollars all we got was a very thin piece of steak and some pasta. It was amazingly bland and very over priced.
Around about two we finally bothered ourselves to start walking. When all is said and done the walk was very scenic. We were following high trails along the side of Lago Grey and were able to peer down on bays filled with icebergs. The wind was blowing with all its might and more than once I had to struggle against it. However the reason I did not enjoy the trail quite as much as I should have done was that I was very very tired. My shoulders ached from hours of carrying my rucksack and my knees ache from hours of carrying me. At one point during the walk I, to my shame, dumped myself on the ground and refused to move for about five minutes. This was quite a good thing however as it left Anna and I to complete the walk on our own, something which we had not been for days.
Campamento Pehoe must be one of the windiest paces on earth. When we finally got there Janet and Jon were struggling with the final stages of putting their tent up. We chose one spot but when this proved too windy, the poles of the tent were bending rather alarmingly, we had to move it to another spot more sheltered by the tough gorse like bushes that provided the only cover. This new spot was right next door to a one season silver dome tent that was so flimsy that one side flipped right in whenever the wind blew and the whole thing took on the shape of a wave crest. With all our moving around it was naturally quite late when we finally got to the refugio.
Entering the refugio was like entering the eye of a storm. It was peaceful, warm and quiet. Jon, Janet and Christiano sat playing Ludo and drinking some cheap red wine that was to prove our undoing the next morning. Through the huge picture windows we were at last able to look at the surrounding panorama which was spectacular with the grey-green lake on one side and the Cuernos (horns) del Paine rising up on the other. We were even able to get a hot shower, the first since we had entered the park five days beforehand. We sat and chatted and got more and more drunk. At nine, after the refugio staff had served dinner, Janet and Anna were allowed into the kitchen to cook dinner! I finally started to feel human again.
Thursday, 4 February 1999
Campamento Pehoe, Magallanes, Chile
Despite the wind it was a fairly warm night. We were a five hour walk away from finishing the circuit but there was one last side trip we wanted to do. The Valle de Frances was about two hours away but from here we would get a much better view of the Cuernos and be able to see the Frances Glacier. We hauled ourselves out of bed and then started yet again to walk. The wind was monumental and did not stop blowing for a second. After half an hour we got to a small lake where the wind was so strong that it was whipping up huge gusts of spray from the lake's surface and blowing them overland. We battled along the side of the lake and continued to the entrance of the valley. The amusing thing was that finally the walking was quite easy. The fact of the matter was that only a fraction of people visiting the park do the circuit. Most do something called the "W" were you visit the three main attractions, the Torres, the Valle de Frances and Lago Grey in four days. Because of this I think that the paths on the "W" are better maintained. Huge lengths of duckboard began to make an appearance at even the slightest obstacle. Elaborate bridges were built over rivers which could easily be jumped. We joked that the "W"ers would never know the kind of hardship we had endured to get this far and were made of less sterner stuff. We got to Campamento Italiano in the allotted time of two hours.
By the this time our weariness was beginning to show and we knew that we would not make it to the head of the valley. Fortunately our notes told us that there was a natural look out an hours distance from the camp so we aimed for this. The walk was not too strenuous as we followed the ridge of an old lateral moraine. One highlight was a ravine into which two crystal clear waterfalls emptied and where we refilled our water bottles. We also walked up the side of a thundering water chute.
The real reward was the lookout we had been aiming for. Imagine standing on a almost barren raised hill near the head of a valley. Then try to conjure up a full 360 degree view each quadrant of which contains something spectacular. In front of us was the top of the valley with more snow capped peaks. Behind us was a view down the valley to Lago Pehoe and Nordenskjold both of which had an unreal grey/green/white colour that you would swear would glow in the dark. To our left was the Glacier Frances, literally hanging to an almost sheer rock face. Out of the various noses of the glacier came waterfalls that would sometimes dissolve into a horizontal spray when the wind picked up. On top of this every so often you would hear a crash of an icefall as a great chunk of the glacier fell off into the valley below. Topping them all we had the Cuernos rising to our right. Two horns of rock cut out from a brown-white-brown sandwich of sedimentary shale and white granite. Although it is hard to rank them this look out has to be about the best in the park. We just sat down in the heather, took photographs and drank it all in.
Christiano continued to the head of the valley but I was quite glad we did not. Our knees were hardly able to take going back downhill and all of us bar Jon were hobbling by the end. To make matters worse Janet tore a muscle in her leg just before the campsite. When we got back we raided the campsite stores (which were a lot fuller than those at Grey) and cooked up a mixture of mash potato, tinned vegetables and tinned seafood before running for the cover of the refugio. We spent all of the evening there before going to bed early to sleep off our six hours of walking in preparation for the last stretch.
As a demonstration of how ill equipped the campsite was despite being in a very windy area they had provided no cover for tents or for cooking and we had to cook in the shower cubicles (which were unused because they were again cold). In protest we paid for one of the two nights, Janet and Jon for neither. We thought this was fair because we were charged a pretty hefty entrance fee and on top of this were being asked to pay for campsites with basically no facilities. Its true that the few facilities they did have was more than you would expect on a difficult seven days trek anywhere else but anywhere else you would not be expected to pay. We thought about writing this in Pehoe's comment book but when we looked at it we realised that our comments would look pretty tame in the face of some of the venom seething out of nearly every entry.
The other amusing thing that happened to us on our final night in the park was that Tony finally caught up. Why this should be so amusing would become clear if you had ever met Tony but the fact was that he could not believe we had beaten him by a day and he ad seriously thought the reason he had not overtaken us was that we had given up. Both Jon and I suspected that his amazement was partially caused by the fact that a party of three Australian men had been beaten by a party of Pommies that included, shock horror, two girls. In truth the only real reason we had beaten them was we had made a better choice of campsite on the first night, but this did not stop us taking the piss out of him....
Friday, 5 February 1999
Puerto Natales, Magallanes, Chile
All our legs were really in a bad way and as a precaution we had allowed an extra hour to complete the walk to the administration centre and the bus back. This meant getting up at six so I was able to get a couple of dawn photographs. The first bit of the walk was a tough up and down trek over the hills on the shore of Lago Pehoe. About half an hour into it we got a bit of a surprise, the path disappeared into a river that was flowing into the lake. There was no bridge and no stepping stones, or the first time we were forced to take our boots off. Anna and I were the first over but when Jon and Janet caught up we found that all was not well. Janet's leg was killing her and they did not think they were going to make it to the bus in time. Although we were not in such good shape ourselves (Anna's knees were in pain and my feet were throbbing) we decided to split up.
After a bit more up and down however it all flattened out. We found ourselves walking through plains of golden grass which rippled in the wind. The plains were slightly interrupted by a small hill on the banks of the Rio Grey but they were pretty much all we saw in the next four hours. On a good day the whole of the Paine outcrop would have been visible but today it was shrouded in clouds. The park administration centre was hidden behind a small hill so despite being able to see for kilometres we were not able to enjoy the knowledge that we were nearly there until we were practically on top of it.
When we finally flopped to the ground and opened our celebratory beers we discovered that not only had we completed the last stage but we had completed it in four and a half hours, half an hour under budget. This however meant that we were stuck on the steps of the centre for about two hours. Fortunately during this time Janet and Jon also turned up, Janet having taken a massive dose of painkillers. We were thus able to take an "end-of-trek" group photograph. I half dozed half read through the long ride back to Puerto Natales. When we got back we went straight to the hospedajie we were in before the trek. Having had a shower and waiting for the girls to shower Jon and I found ourselves in the room the four of us shared putting on our shoes. When we had first arrived in Puerto Natales we had seen loads of people walking around with sandals and socks At the time we had both put this phenomenon down to "geeky hikers". Now we understood everything, our feet throbbed with pain and we both had a choice between our sandals and our constricting, sweaty, smelly boots. We both apologised for being very unfashionable and dived straight into the realms of the socks and sandals brigade. After this it was not long before we were all installed in our favourite pizza parlor enjoying the luxuries of decent food and large beers all round.
Saturday, 6 February 1999
Puerto Natales, Magallanes, Chile
We all seriously slept in and when we could finally hold it off no more going down the exceptionally step stairs of the Residencial Nataly was painful. I guess a couple of words would be in order about the place seeing as we spent so long there. It was a bit of a dump with the majority of interior walls being little more than a couple of pieces of hardboard. The kitchen was always stiflingly hot as a result of the range nearly always being on. The place was run by an older woman and one of her daughters. However when we turned up after the trek the other daughter was there and despite not being twins they were virtually indistinguishable so it may have been all three running it. All of them were very nice and laughed and joked with us. I guess, apart from the fact that it was cheap, the fact that they were friendly kept us there. Anyway breakfast as usual was tea, hot bread and jam.
This was meant to be the day that we would say goodbye to Janet and Jon, they wanted to get up to Puerto Montt as quickly as possible to meet some friends with whom they were gong whitewater rafting. Whereas we were determined to press on to Tierra del Fuego so that we could really say that we had been as far south as possible. Fate intervened and it turned out that flights were half price if you gave two days notice. So they ended up like us booking themselves on the bus to Punta Arenas the next day. This meant that after we had put our laundry in and had lunch (we sadly went back to our pizza place) none of us really had anything to do. Fortunately Jon came to the rescue and had decided to acquire the stuff necessary for making mulled wine which was very suited to the climate (sad really if you consider it was the height of summer). We all sat around in the doctor's waiting room of the kitchen and chatted. The owners also had some and treated us to some cake. We were also briefly joined by one of the guests who looked like he had a bong on the go but it turned out to be an Argentinean Mate bowl and pipe - basically an infusion of leaves mixed in a small gourd and sucked through a metal pipe.
The evening was even more indulgent. Jon had forgotten his hat and sunglasses at the administration centre and had to meet the Torres del Paine bus in order to get them back. There he met two Australians Stewart and Kay who had been on the boat with us and had completed the circuit that day. Sadly absent was Tony who had been relegated to a later bus because of lack of seats. Anyway we had not got the "I completed the circuit a day ahead of Tony" T-shirts printed yet so... We all went out to dinner with Stewart and Kay at the very old fashioned place Anna and I had found on the first day. It was a very good night because all the way around the circuit we kept on running into various people from the boat so a lot of people (like the two Australians) we had run into several times in the last twelve or so days. There was a sort of team spirit amongst the boat and circuit people and so we got on very well and were able to compare notes.
Sunday, 7 February 1999
Punta Arenas, Magallanes, Chile
Punta Arenas is a bit of an unusual place. It was initially little more than a convenient stop over place for ships heading to California until someone hit on the idea of importing sheep from the Falkland Islands. The experiment was a raging success and huge fortunes were built from sheep farming on massive estancias. A lot of the land however was later seized by the Chilean Government and split more evenly among the population. A legacy of the town's golden age are the huge European stone built family mansions, churches and municipal buildings that dot the streets.
We had the misfortune to arrive on a Sunday which meant that nothing was open least of all the bus companies and we were going to have to turn up on spec if we wanted to catch the bus to Ushuaia early the next morning. Thus again all of us had a day of leisure. Janet and Jon took a bus out to the local penguin colony and we just wandered around town looking at buildings and peering at the Straits of Magellan. In the evening we all got together again for what was this time our final meal together which we had in an okay restaurant which was open 24 hours and thus allowed us to have a few after hours cheeky beers.
Monday, 8 February 1999
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Most of Monday was spent on a bus. The Straits of Magellan were very rough and so the ferry over them added a bit of excitement. When we finally reached Tierra del Fuego we found the "Land of Fire" to be a little barren. In fact it is only the Atlantic coast of the island that is like that and it is in effect the fruit of the same dry weather system that has shaped the Argentinean Pampas. We sat through hours of endless brown terrain until we crossed the border into Argentina where we had hours more of barren wind blown plains. It was not until we reached the very south of the island and the tip of the Andes curled around to meet us that we were to see trees and mountains again.
The setting of Ushuaia is very dramatic. The climate is so harsh at the very tip of the earth that the tree line rarely makes it above 500m and there is snow at this height all year round. The town is backed by the Montes Martial which although they are not particularly high because they are mostly black and snow covered make the town itself look like some Alpine village. This it is definitely not because at the other edge of town is the sea in the form of the Beagle Channel. On the other side of the channel, if the weather is clear, you see the again snow capped Isla Hoste and Isla Navarino and ultimately Cape Horn the real ends of the earth, Chilean and well beyond our travel budget.
The setting is probably the only real reason to visit the town, otherwise it is just an expensive "Fin del Mundo" theme park. We first realised this when it came to arranging somewhere to stay and the cheapest we could find was forty US dollars. When we arrived it was late so we checked in and immediately went out for some dinner at the closest place (a pizza joint) which also proved expensive.
Tuesday, 9 February 1999
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
We woke up too late to do anything about finding a cheaper place to stay and since it was tipping down with rain we saw that the camping option was a bit of a non-starter. We decided to stay on at our hotel which was the height of luxury in comparison to our recent experiences. We mooched around town looking at "Fin del Mundo" T-shirts, key rings, stuffed penguins etc. and paid a brief visit to the tourist office. We were feeling a bit low because after spending a vast amount of money to get to the place ($40 per person one-way) we thought the least it could do was have nice weather. Anyway around one the sun started shining and although we had blown it as far as going to the National Park was concerned we could at least have a crack at the Martial Glacier which was not too far from the outskirts of town.
We took a bus up to the base of the inoperative ski-lift and walked up to the refugio at the end. From here we carried on up through some threadbare forest and over a river to a barren wasteland of scree and snow. We were barely at 500m at this point and we were able to have a snowball fight in the Fuegian equivalent of the beginning of August. We then fought our way up to the top of a sort of moraine hill to get a view of the Beagle Channel and, we foolishly hoped, beyond. Sadly the weather was useless and we could only just about see to the other side of the channel. The wind started to pick up and when the hail started we began to realise that we were going to get very wet on the way down. This prediction turned out to be spot on but as we sat, dripping, waiting for a bus back to town in the chair-lift's hangar we realised that wet or not it had been better than mooching around all day.
Back in town we went to the supermarket in order to buy ourselves a cheap lunch for the day after. Here we met more boat people, two German girls, who looked a bit glum and we speculated that this was down to over-mooching. That night we went to check out if what they said about Argentinean steaks is true. We found a place that had a Parilla (basically a wooden fire around which the meat is cooked gaucho style) and the steak I received was on its way to being two inches thick. It went some way towards cheering me up about the price.
Wednesday, 10 February 1999
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Again it was raining when we woke up. It was going to cost us $15 dollars each to get to and into the national park and since our guidebook was none too complimentary about it we decided to give it a miss. We again trawled around the shops this time in search of a postcard of Cape Horn. Unsurprisingly because it is Chilean and the Argentineans are too busy trying to promote their own end of the world we came up with little more than an out-of-focus shot of a sailing boat and some rocks. Anna bought one since her father, formerly in the merchant navy, used to round the horn. I gave into Fin del Mundo fever and bought a postcard of Ushuaia. Strangely what we did manage to find was a rather cheeky "Islas Malvinas - Republica Argentina" postcard on which the capital was marked as Puerto Argentino not Stanley as I had previously been taught in geography classes.
After sending the postcards we decided, since the weather had slightly improved, to walk out of town on a small road that cut across the bay. From this we had quite a good view of the town and once again affirmed that it was a pretty imposing place from a distance. It then started raining again and we were forced to get up close again and retreat to our hotel. We finally had a reprieve from the rain at five and played the long Fuegian summer evenings to our advantage by climbing to the top of a hill at the back of town and again staring out over the Beagle Channel. This time it was clear but try as we might we could still not quite get a glimpse of Cape Horn. On the way to yet another steak dinner I took some sunset photographs from the docks in the hope that I would be able to conjure up the end of the world feeling once we got back home.