So last Thursday was my birthday, and we had lunch at a parilla grill in Puerto Natales. ‘Grill’ doesn’t really translate well, it’s much more involved than just slinging bits of meat on a gas or electric-fired hotplate – parillas are restaurants that cook over open fires. The one we went to had a circular open fire where they cooked whole sides of lamb, with a hearth where the chef cooked pieces of beef and fish over the coals. We both had Patagonian lamb with potatoes and a ‘Chilean salad’ – tomatoes, sliced onions, chopped chillies and coriander leaf. All delicious, the perefect Patagonian meal, and the perfect birthday lunch.
In the afternoon, we headed north-west to Torres del Paine National Park. The road was pretty ordinary, but we’re used to that, we’ve been on a lot of crappy unsealed roads by now. We paid the admission fee plus a fairly extortionate fee ($20 per person, per night!) to camp in one of the campgrounds within the park, but the view of the Torres towers was almost worth it. Greg may not have thought so, as there was no hot water in the mens’ bathroom, even though there were 4 gas hot water systems in various states of dis/repair. It rained overnight, but cleared the next morning and the view really was stunning. I think I’m going to run out of adjectives and superlatives to describe the places we’ve visited over the last week.
There’s a boat cruise to Grey Glacier, running 4 times a day. We missed out on the 2pm cruise, but got seats on the 6pm cruise and were really happy about that. The afternoon cruise had almost 100 people on it, but the later one that we did had just over a dozen people, which suited us just fine. In addition to providing sightseeing to the 3 arms of the glacier, the boat takes hikers to and from the starting/finishing point of one of the very popular hiking trails in the park. Loads of people hike in the park, we didn’t realise how many until the following day when we watched a boat taking about 100 hikers with gear from another launching post further north in the park.
The cruise to Grey Glacier was excellent, we were able to get close to all 3 arms of the glacier, and the guide spoke good English and was able to tell us a lot about the Torres and the glacier. We dollar-cost averaged the previous night’s expensive campsite by sleeping in the car park near where the boat was moored. Free camping is very common and acceptable in both Chile and Argentina, and easy to do, especially when it doesn’t involve a tent.