Serendipity touched my sendoff to Patagonia. Weary from four hours sleep, I settled into a soft couch in the Santiago Sheraton lobby to await the airport transfer and talked quietly to two folks waiting for their Atamasco Desert adventure. “Patagonia is one of my favorite places in the world,” Tim Cahill said, and proceeded to describe the flocks of rheas browsing, the weirdly spiraled mountains, the plains that go on forever. Over coffee, we discussed the joys of travel.

Puerto Natales
Waterfront at Puerto Natales

And now I am here, after a good night’s rest in Puerto Natales. It is a backpacker’s town, a jumping off point to the mountains and glaciers that ring us. Yesterday I saw penguins, a seal, and a massive sea lion defending its turf. I saw rheas grazing next to cows, and ghostly cypress swamps amid the endless soft yellow and lilac plains. Flamingos stood in salt marshes.

Sea lion Chile
Sea lion near Fort Bulnes
Tierra Del Fuego
At the Tierra Del Fuego

I’m a little queasy, perhaps from food or drink, but managed to handle the bouncy five hours or so in our little bus yesterday. Three hours up a gravel road for us to reach camp tonight, where I’ll be off the grid until Friday. Here are some photos from last night and this morning in Puerto Natales.

Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales is where backpackers book tours to Torres Del Paine
Puerto Natales mural
One of many outdoorsy murals in Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales murals
A mural map of this region of Patagonia
Hostel in Puerto Natales
Hostel in Puerto Natales
Hotel Charles Darwin Puerto Natales
Our group shared rooms at the Hotel Charles Darwin
Puerto Natales shrubs
Neatly trimmed shrubbery in Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales church
Historic church in Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales Azul
My dining companions at Azul Resturant
Puerto Natales fjord
Looking up the fjord at Puerto Natales
steppes of Patagonia
The vast steppes of Patagonia, windswept and barren