Archive for October 31st, 2008


October 31

October 31, 2008

We stood at the front of the ship, hanging our noses out over the railing in the dim dawn light. What presented itself before us looked like a wall of islands, stacked side to side across the narrow channel, and the intense wind was buffeting us from the right, enough to notice a bit of a lean to the steering. As we got closer, small gaps started to appear in the landmass and by the captain’s twisting of the ship, first left and then right, we found ourselves in a seemingly impossibly tight channel between two small but towering islands. We felt we could just lean over and touch the trees. The White Narrows were the last navigational feat awaiting the ship before its docking at Puerto Natales, the narrowest point forcing the twenty metre wide, ninety metre long ship through an eighty metre wide gap.

The time between the navigation of the Narrows and the 7.30am breakfast found us back in bed, but it was a quick and inefficient snooze. The mood on deck at breakfast was almost as excited as the atmosphere at boarding, everyone saying goodbye, swapping email adresses and keen to get back into a proper bed on dry land. It was almost midday by the time we could disembark, however, as the wind was so strong and the port so shallow that there was a danger of the ship being blown into the land should we try to approach. As we stepped off the elevator with our packs on our backs, it took all our might to stay upright and on the jetty.

Puerto Natales is a little town with wide streets lined with old wooden houses, and we got a good introductory walk through the place as we were guided to the hostel by the owner. We checked in to Yagan House hostel, a lovely spacious place near to the centre, and bunked in the dorm with Sydney, who we’d shared some drunken moments with on the ship. The weather was horrible, but we took advantage of the short breaks in the rain to nip outside and complete our shopping list for Torres del Paine, as we’ve rather foolhardily decided to give it a shot despite the dire weather conditions.

The afternoon was otherwise frittered away at reading, knitting, organising photos and the like. Earlyevening arrived, and with it troupes of bemasked children, each carrying a pumpkin or a cauldron in hope of being on the receiving end of the largess of the local inhabitants. Tom and I whipped up a beef stirfry for dinner, which Sydney shared, and we had a couple of drinks in the hostel before heading out to the local pub, it being both Friday night and Halloween. We each knocked back two deadly pisco sours and accompanied them with increasingly enthusiastic conversation, before braving the cold to run back to the hostel and to bed.