Kindness Was All Around In Puerto Natales And Torres del Paine, Chile

I woke up early to catch the bus from Ushuaia, Argentina to Punta Arenas, Chile.

Then I got on the bus and then crossed the border as usual. (I like the words ‘as usual’. It does remind me of my ‘nomadic’ life. :))

The wind was very strong that day. Our bus was supposed to hop on a ferry and then continue the journey to Punta Arenas in Chile. But I heard from the other passenger that the wind was so strong that the ferry was delayed. We were all now waiting on the bus doing nothing.

The wind was so strong that I didn’t want to stay outside. I only took a few pictures.
You can see how rough the sea was.
A long queue of vehicles waiting
A small museum near where we stopped

I suddenly remembered what other backpackers said about their bus to El Chalt茅n. The bus broke down and their journey was delayed. They ended up travelling for 40 hours as opposed to 24 hours (or so). That’s the world of travelling. I started to accept things that were not under my control as they were and learn to relax. Time did not matter when it came to long term travelling. 

Long term travelling…

Life is also a long journey too. The old couple I met in Iran once said, ‘take it slow. One day, you will realise that there’s no point of rushing.’ Being in a big city, you have to rush all the time (and sometimes pretend to rush so as to impress your boss) when in fact, there is no need to. We rush for everything for nothing. We need to take time to enjoy life. Just like what I was doing back in 2013. I needed to rest. ‘You can’t travel every day.’ That was what a lot of backpackers told me at the beginning of my South American trip. It is the same as ‘you can’t work every day’. Everyone of them was my teacher.

The wind was so strong that even our bus stopped on the road, it moved sideways.

The engine of the bus started.

The bus driver gave us a packet of juice and bread as we’d been waiting for too long. That was very kind of them. The juice was still very cold.

We had to wait for the next ferry because the first one was full.

Waiting again.

Finally, we were on the ferry. I couldn’t feel how rough the sea was because I was on the bus. Occasionally, I could feel the bus move then I knew we were moving. And occasionally, the waves came onto the ferry and the water splashed all over the bus. Then I knew we were moving. 馃檪

After a long time, we were finally on the other side of the island. We could continue with our journey on land.

It was 10 pm already.

After some time, we finally arrived at the bus terminus at Punta Arenas.

It was 12 midnight when the bus arrived.

A hostel staff came to the bus terminus and offered accommodation to us. So we, the backpackers, all went. The condition of the hostel wasn’t really that good. That was probably why they still had beds available for us at that time of the night.

I didn’t expect Punta Arenas to be this windy. Being cold was something I expected but not the wind.

I walked around town the next day. My first lunch in Chile was at the fish market in Punta Arenas. (I had my first meal in Chile at the Santiago airport just a month ago.) The salmon at the fish market tasted soooo gooooo! It wasn’t expensive too.

I walked to the main square after that. There were a few stalls in the street. One of them sold woollen hats. When the guy saw my Norwegian woollen hat, he said, ‘you know this design is Peruvian?’ Really? I bought it in Norway. Either the Norwegian copied that design and then put their flag on the woollen hat or it was also a Norwegian design.

As I stepped into the church, I felt peace. But a live performance in the street outside broke the silence.
A live performance at the main square at Punta Arenas
The lead singer of this band sang even better than the original singer, I think.

I wanted to have a quiet day today so I visited the Sarah Braun cemetery.

Sara Braun cemetery. I like visiting cemeteries (not at night though). Reading the years that these people had lived inspires me and it also gives me sometime to reflect on my own life.

I saw one grave for a one-year-old kid who lived from 1941-1942. I could feel how sad their parents were.

I walked along. I saw people who lived from 18XX – 19XX. It was really amazing to see people who had lived and died centuries before me. I prayed in the chapel inside the cemetery. May all these people rest in peace.

Arrived at Puerto Natales today.

I checked in a hostel. I got their last bed according to the hostel manager.

I knew of this hostel on a leaflet I got in El Calafate. I didn’t book it beforehand and most importantly, I couldn’t find it on the internet. I walked there based on the little (unclear) map printed on that leaflet. I was glad that I insisted on looking for it. I ended up staying there for 9 days.

I walked around the little town. The port was good but very windy. I took a few photos and then left. I went to a tour company. They only had horse riding tours which were too expensive for me. The staff also helped me find tours to Torres del Paine. That was very kind of him. He didn’t need to do it because his shop didn’t offer that.

Puerto Natales

There wasn’t much to do in this town. But it was ok for me. I felt really bad, dizzy and so on. I badly needed a rest.

I met a group of young people while I was cooking in the hostel. Two of them were working here as English teachers and the Chilean guy was their friend. I showed them the live performance video I took in Punta Arenas, which was where the Chilean guy was from. He told me the name of the song and the singer. I then realised how good the street performer was. He sang even better than the original singer, in my opinion.

They then recommended a few places in Chile to me. It sounded like there were many places I could visit in Chile. But I needed to get better first.

For the next few days, I stayed in this town, actually in this hostel to recover. I met and talked to numerous backpackers and the staff. The staff of this little hostel was so kind to me. The cleaning lady had a chat with me to see if I was ok and even offered me a hot bowl of soup. She said in Spanish, ‘you need to drink something hot. I will give you a bowl of soup.’ At first, I refused but she insisted. ‘Thank you.’ I accepted it in the end. She asked me to sit down at the dining table, and gave me a pair of chopsticks (it was so funny to see the chopsticks there. I laughed inside my head) and the bowl of hot soup with instant noodles. That was so kind of her. Not only that. She cooked some rice mixed with pepper and mixed veggies for lunch and then she treated me some again. Poquito. Ok, si si si. Rico. Mucho gracias. She also told me where the pharmacy was and what kind of medication I should get. I was quite surprised that I could understand so much Spanish and could have a conversation with her.

The hostel manager who told me I got their last bed offered me a piece of ginger to make ginger soup. I looked at the ginger, amazed. ‘Wow! You have ginger here?’ He showed me where to get the ginger and grocery.

I had no appetite at all. 馃檨

It was interesting to learn about other backpackers’ stories:

I met many German backpackers here. I practised my broken Deutsch with one of them who turned out to be my roommate. He showed me the solar panel that he used for his portable stove for his Torres del Paine camping trip. The morning he left for his trip, he asked me if I needed to drink any hot tea as I had been coughing too hard in bed. He prepared one hot red tea for me and brought it up to the room, placed it on a little cabinet beside my bed while I was still wrapping myself with a thick blanket in my bunk bed and then said, ‘I’ll leave it here for you. Alright?’ I nodded. I was quite surprised that I could understand and converse with him in Deutsch even when I was half asleep.

I met another guy from Washington who rode his motorbike from the US to here. He had been doing it for 2 months. That was so amazing!

I went out and bought some grocery and a scarf to wrap around my cold neck. It wasn’t too expensive, around USD17 (it’s worth one night’s accommodation). Well, I needed it.

As I was sleeping on my bed, I could feel that the hostel building was moving as the strong wind blew. 

A Japanese couple checked in. The wife was so nice. She cleaned everybody’s dishes and the kitchen bench. She made that area so impeccably clean! She said, ‘I will help you because you are sick. Cheer Up!’ 馃檪 She was so full of energy and so high spirited. I felt guilty that she was doing this for me. She answered, ‘I like cooking and cleaning.’

I went out to buy some food and checked if there were any organised tours to Torres del Paine but found none. I gave up in the end. Considering my own situation, I decided to join a full day tour. 

It was a sunny day. Still a bit windy.

Puerto Natales without wind was beautiful.

Two other German backpackers checked into my room. Both of them were students. They were having their internship in Chile. Oh, I wish I was young again. 馃榾 But I’m happy with what I’m and who I’m now.

We talked. Both of them had really gentle voices. Even when they spoke in German, they didn’t sound harsh at all. But they brought a scorpion with them from the ship. It was crawling on my towel, my soap and my shampoo. I told them about it and they asked me where the scorpion was in the end. I said I drained it in the sink. One of them said, ‘Poor that insect.’ What?! Poor me! I had a shock!

I decided to take the ferry to travel up north to Puerto Montt. I told the hostel manager that I would stay until 14 or 15 February, he was shocked. I told him about the ferry trip and that the ferry only operated twice a week. He said he’d help me check.

Another backpacker from Latvia checked in. He was travelling by himself. His wife encouraged him to do so. His wife didn’t like to travel alone at first but then he successfully converted her. They had a daughter. He had been to many different places. Papua New Guinea was one of them. It reminded me of my high school mates. He showed me photos that he took. He also had been to North Korea. He said it was like Russia. It was like going back to the 70’s. The tourists were taken everywhere by both a tour guide and a police officer. He was not allowed to take pictures of the ugly houses in the country. He was only shown to ‘beautiful’ places. He said propaganda was everywhere, even in the newspapers for foreigners (in English). The cost of going there was not cheap at all. I wondered what was the point of going there to see ‘staged’ things.

While we were talking, a backpacker sitting in another corner skyped his dad to say happy birthday. That was so sweet.

When I woke up this morning, my roommate said hi and asked me how I was feeling.  He was French. We talked yesterday. He was quite a funny guy. When he saw me waking up, he said, ‘it is 4pm now.’ 馃榾 ‘No, I don’t believe you.’ 馃榾 He took a photo of me and said if he had a cold, he would blame me for that. I deleted it. 馃榾 No evidence! 馃槢

In fact, I felt a bit better. I felt the energy inside me. I think it was also because of the sun. ‘Thank you God. Please keep the sun, not the wind so that I can quickly recover. Thank you.’ I prayed.

I didn’t want to stay in the room. I felt like doing something so, that really meant that I was getting better. The hostel manager squeezed some lemon and ginger juice and he treated me one cup. I gladly took it. He was so kind. He was a yoga teacher that’s why he believed in natural healing.

I like the world of backpackers.  Backpackers are kind to each other. They help and look after each other. They are a bunch of nice and kind people travelling around the world. They don’t care much about gaining power in an organisation or on the political stage or ruling the world. They care about budgeting but not about taking a lot of money. Just enough for them to survive and have fun. They don’t have a lot of belongings. Most of them are minimalists. They don’t need a luxurious life. To survive, some of them work as a volunteer so that they can be fed, and given free accommodation. The world of backpackers’ is still very attractive to me. I think it is simply because it is full of kind people. I love to be with nice (and smart) people. They are givers. They give but seldom take. But when they are offered something, they will be thrilled because they have never expected it but at the moment they take, they forget that they have always been a giver too. Giving is something that they always do. But taking is not.

Of course, there are some exceptional cases. But the majority of them are like how I describe.

My French roommate left in the morning. I coughed and woke up at more or less the same time (4pm according to him :D). When he left the room, he lowered himself (as I was sleeping on the lower level of the bunk bed) and waved to me to say goodbye. I said ‘have fun’ to him. I didn’t know if he said anything as I wasn’t wearing my glasses. But yeah, we established some sort of a short term friendship which is very common in the world of backpackers.

The southern part of Chile was probably the most difficult one to travel around. There was no road. I could go back to El Calafate or El Chalten but I didn’t want to go back to Argentina so soon. I had been thinking about taking the ferry and had been waiting for their last minute deal. It was released today. But I had to book the entire cabin. That costs a lot! I read Michael’s (the Chilean guy I met on my Machu Picchu trip) advice again. He mentioned about flying. How cheap could it be? So I checked Sky Airline and found that the air ticket cost USD150 whereas the ferry cost USD400!

I made a very quick decision.

I bought the ticket online immediately as I didn’t want it to go. 馃檪

I also booked the bus tour to Torres del Paine.

All set.

I felt the energy inside me although I still had the virus in me.

The cleaning lady was so kind. She came this morning to change all the bed sheets and then sat down and asked me if I was ok. We had a chat about my cold. She was very concerned about me. It was so kind of her. I was like a family member there. 

I started doing research on other destinations like accommodation in Puerto Montt etc. then I made dinner.

The Japanese couple came back from their trek. It felt like home again with the spotlessly clean kitchen. But she caught a cold, ‘No, no, no. It wasn’t you. I caught it when I was trekking in Torres del Paine. The wind was too strong.’ She said to me.


It was a good sign that I could wake up that early.

While I was waiting for the bus to pick me up for the Torres del Paine day tour, I met a girl who checked in the hostel. She injured her knee at Torres del Paine national park and she was stuck in there for three days before a car came to the park to pick her up. She was crying when she arrived at the hostel. She must have felt very helpless in the park. It wasn’t a good experience. But she was ok now. It was good to know. She’d be looked after by the staff and the other backpackers the way they did to me.

Heading to Torres del Paine

So, finally! I got out of the hostel! 

Torres del Paine! 

As expected, the bus was full of girls and families and the sick one who was me.

The weather was very nice. The sky was very blue and it was very sunny. It wasn’t very windy.

The driver didn’t know much English. He first stopped at the port and then explained something in Spanish. I caught a few words like the Falkland Island. I think he said something like the island was behind those mountains and the war between the English and Argentinian and probably it had something to do with Chile. I had no idea.

Then he continued to drive.

He stopped at a hostel. I heard him calling it something like Victoria. I wish I could understood more…

The driver then drove to a souvenir shop where we had a 15 minute break.
We then headed to the park. At the entrance of the park, we could see Torres. I was so excited!!
Torres del Paine
Look how sharp the mountains and the rocks are!
We saw a dozen of guanacos – family of alpaca – crossing the road right in front of us… and then some more.
Where are you heading?

The driver stopped at all the viewpoints for us to take photos. That’s good. Let the engines do the work. 馃榾

A Chilean girl came to offer to take photos for me. At first I thought she wanted me to help her too but no, she just wanted to help me. She was so kind. So she helped me take a few pictures.

Lago Sarmiento
The colour of the lake looked like milk.
The white shoreline

Then at the next spot, she did the same thing. And at the next spot, she did it again. We started to talk when we went to the ‘waterfall’.

The ‘waterfall’
The waterfall

She was from a countryside around one or two hours away from Santiago.  She had a farm, and raised cows and horses. She knew how to ride horses! WOW! She asked me if I liked roller coasters as there was a theme park in Santiago. ‘No, I’m too old for that.’ She said, ‘no, you are not.’ She was still a teenager.

Beautiful scenery
View of a glacier from afar
I really liked the shapes of the rocks. They looked so unique. I had never seen any rocks like this before.
I couldn’t get enough of them. I kept taking pictures. The mountains looked so gorgeous and spectacular and yet quite friendly and welcoming. I wasn’t coming from a climber’s point of view. The faces of the mountains were too steep and straight. I wondered how they were formed.
The glacier
Look at the trees! They were all leaning to one side. Yes, the wind was very strong. There were even signs warning the tourists about the strong wind.
A guanaco standing in front of the mountain
We had lunch at a campsite.

I chose a quiet place where there was a broken tree trunk which was not that big but was enough for one person to sit on. I sat down and started eating my bread. I drank some water. I looked at the lake right in front of me… and kept coughing. If I wasn’t sick, I would enjoy it more. But I still enjoyed it. The blue cloudless sky, the sun was shining right upon me, the lake, no wind. Oh! I loved it. Just as I wanted something to drink, the Chilean girl came and offered me an orange juice. Wow. God really knew what I was thinking! We started chatting again. She was only 20. She guessed I was max 25. I said, ‘older’. She was shocked. Then I told her my age. She was very shocked! She said, ‘You are lying.’  That was really a compliment. 馃榾  She told me not to trust the price quoted by people. Always trust the price tags. People always raised the price when they knew that you were a tourist. I thanked her for that. That was really kind of her.

Beautiful lake, mountains and… the entire view! I want to travel there now!!!

We then went to Lago Grey. There were icebergs everywhere but the glacier was not huge. I wanted to walk up to the mirador but I had to go back to the bus as we needed to be at the car park at 4pm. It was 3:45pm I didn’t think I could make it. I was half way to the Mirador but I headed back. A couple went but they were half an hour late. They took some ice from the beach and took a picture.

Lago Grey. The icebergs were huge.
The iceberg was so blue!
The huge blue iceberg!

We were supposed to stop at another lake but the driver saw that most of us, not me, sleeping, he skipped it!!!  I was about to take photos from the bus but it was too late!! He drove away!!! 馃檨

Our last stop was Cueva del Milod贸n. Milod贸n was a bear that existed 80 million years ago, now extinct. I had to clear my nose first before I walked to the cave. That took me a long time. I went to the cave and read some illustration. The Chilean girl asked me to stand beside the sculpture of Milod贸n so that she could take a picture for me. She said ‘I was waiting for you here so that I can help you take photos.’ I was surprised and very impressed and touched. We had to wait in line because everybody wanted a photo with the bear. While I was waiting, a Chilean guy asked me if I could take a photo with him. I asked him why but he didn’t answer. After I took a photo for myself with the bear, he ran to me, stood beside me and his friend too took a few, yes, a few of the photos of me and him and the bear! I was shocked and surprised. The Chilean girl then took a photo with me using her camera. As we walked back to the bus, I asked her why those guys wanted a photo with me. She said, ‘Chileans usually see very serious Asians but you are funny that’s why they wanted to take a photo with you.’ Oh, ok. That’s an interesting reason.

The cave of Milod贸n
Roar! Milod贸n
I didn’t want to leave! The national park was so beautiful!

It took us just 30 mins to get back from the cave to my hostel. I was happy to have met Carolina. She was an angel. Thank you God for giving us such nice weather. It couldn’t have been better! 

The next day, I got a message from my ex-boss. He asked me if I was still in Chile. He heard there was an earthquake. I checked the news immediately. It was in the north. It was very kind of him to have thought of me.

31 January 2013 – 10 February 2013

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