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PUNTA ARENAS TO PUERTO NATALES

Emily Forsythe

so we decided to chance it and take the ferry from porvenir to punta arenas without tickets to get on the ferry (if you guessed this route, you get 2 pts!). we were told on a sunday it could be difficult to get tickets because people are traveling for the weekend to and from punta arenas so it definitely was a gamble. but we decided why not?!? we’re not on a time table, let’s go for it!!

along our drive to porvenir we saw tons of llamas, sheep herds, huge beautiful stretches of pastures and coastal views!! along the coastline, we came to a tour van that had broken down on the side of the road with many of the foreigners that we had seen at the penguin sanctuary, so in true vagabond form (and for good karma because we feel that we might be in this exact same position at some point on our trip) we pulled over to help them out.

this was quite a large tour van and they had a flat tire. the driver came over to jared’s window, spoke to him in spanish and asked if we had a jack. luckily we had one, but our jack was pretty small because we are basically in a van with bicycle wheels (i.e. regular car wheels, not larger van or off-roading wheels). the two older chilean gentlemen who were driving the van attempted to use the jack that we had with a bit of jared’s help, but much to the foreign tourists disappointment, they we’re completely unsuccessful. we stayed to help for about 20 minutes all the while keeping in the back of our mind that we had to get to porvenir by 7pm to catch the ferry back to punta arenas and we had to make it in enough time to purchase a ticket and hope that there was still a spot for us on the boat!

while we were waiting, we met a couple of friendly, but frustrated foreigners who were on the tour van and we chatted with them a bit. one had been traveling for about 10 months and the other had been traveling for about 4 or 5. it definitely made me rethink the 3 month timeline that i had set on this trip for jared and i because originally he had wanted to travel for one year and i had quickly whittled it down to 6 months and then finally 3 months. :) one of the guys was telling us about his recent experience in india; he had bought a motorbike and driven along the himalayas for about three months. we figured he must have many great stories from that trip and met many interesting people along the way!

finally a local friend of the driver pulled up and had a much larger jack for the two men to properly remove the bum tire. so feeling like the tourists were in good shape, we hopped in our van with our borrowed jack and were off to try to catch the ferry and purchase our ticket.

it was like a race, we were trying to get to the finish, hopefully make the boat and have a spot on the boat. we eventually arrived at porvenir, filled up with gas and while at the gas station ran into a few aussies who had this kick ass old yellow 80’s-style nissan camper van that we had seen in punta arenas. they stopped to ask us about the king penguins and where they were located, but in turn we also exchanged stories about our trips. she and her partner had been traveling for about 6 months and when we asked her how long they were planning to travel, her answer was: ‘well the more money we save along the way, the longer we will travel. maybe 6 months, maybe a year? we’ll see!’. and then i thought, maybe i really need to reconsider this 3 months cut off?!?

once at the port, we got in the car line for the ferry and i ran out to get our tickets while jared inched up to make it on the boat. as soon as the tickets were placed in my hand, i ran out to him and (with a bit of a struggle and two attempts of our van dying driving up the ramp to the ferry) we finally made it to the ferry ride!! luckily they had a cafeteria area where we got a bite to eat and played some 'bones’ (i.e. dominoes). where i dominated, thanks to my grandmother who had taught me how to play at a very young age (thanks mam!). :)

along the ride we ran across the two foreigners, michele and amitay, who were on the tour van with the flat tire. we chatted with them for a bit to hear all about their crazy travels and they gave us a bit of advice for the next leg of our trip to torres del paine. amitay said that he might be hitchhiking the same roads that we would be driving in the next week or so, so we agreed that we would pick him up if we saw him with his thumb out! :)

that night we arrived in punta arenas, made quick a run to the grocery store for the next couple of days and then made the trek on to puerta natales. we decided to stop at 11:15pm so that jared didn’t get too sleepy and so that we could eat dinner at a decent hour (ha!). once we found a nice campemiento, we pulled off, cooked a good dinner and dined al fresco on the side of the highway. i tried to catch a car whizzing by in the photo below to get the full effect but i was not swift enough! :) the next leg of our journey we would be heading to puerto natales, another port town outside of the national park of torres del paines.