Patagonia - Terra Del Fuego to the Mainland - Day 7 / by Mark Boyd

The drive North was uneventful, apart from missing the little road which lead back to my favourite camping spot on the way down.  Instead another little road was chosen, but this went on forever and ever and the sun was setting.  Various flat spots were checked out, but eventually I decided on an area that looked comfortable for the car (windbreak) and the tent.... It was at the side of the track, but over looked a distant lake and mountains.  The sky was clear.... I had a horrible feeling it was gonna be a very cold one indeed.

During the night I was desperate for a pee.  Leaving my sleeping bag was the last thing I wanted to do.... It was so damn bitterly cold. I held on for as long as was humanly possible, but the call of nature became too strong and I eventually succumbed to the pressure.... Literally the pressure!  I unzipped the tent and as I folded the door back.  My hand slipped on the already iced exterior.  As the pressure flowed out of my body I stood staring at the stars.  The night sky was phenomenal.  With an empty, pain free bladder I clambered back in to the tent and deep in to my sleeping bag.... The metal hot water bottle had lost it's heat.... I balled up and fastened the bag over my head.  


I woke at sunrise.... It was before 6am.... I opened the tent, once again felt the ice on the outside, turned my sleeping mat around so as half of it ended up outside the tent, and aligned myself with the golden, orange glow.... I stayed there for 2 hours patiently awaiting the distant star to begin generating heat.... Coldest night ever! 


I watched a Patagonian Grey Fox move between the sheep....  Breakfast and coffee were next on the daily agenda....


We took it easy and hit the road back towards Rio Grande at around 10.30am.  Today's plan was to head back towards the ferry.... Find a camping spot, then catch the first ferry the following morning and deliver our car back for 10.30am.


We checked the ferry timetable and realised the first ferry of the morning would be too late, so we needed to cross today.  We ploughed North.  We eventually reached a small town called Cerro Sombrero.  A strange ghost town.... There was a shop with a neon lit open sign, with no one to be seen... There was just no one around full-stop.  It had a very weird feel to it.  The church looked liked it hadn't seen a congregation since the times of Jesus Christ whilst the cinema looked as though it should only show mentally disturbing horror flicks.


The buildings looked weathered, worn and inviting.  Angela didn't like it one bit.... But then as we drove around we happened upon what appeared to be a beautifully built wooden Tourist Information Centre, with adjoining free to use bathroom and showers..... Angela suggested it was a trap.  How could this building even exist amidst this weird, eerily quiet community..... We both needed the bathroom, and it had a been almost three days since a good wash.  As I used the sink in the bathroom I decided to investigate the shower facility.  Was it warm.... As the water temperature gradually increased to steaming I became overjoyed at the prospect of a hot shower!  I jogged back to the car, and as I returned to the building Angela appeared with the same excited smile.  She had done exactly the same thing in the women's side.  We grabbed our wash bags and headed in to the 'Tourist Trap'.  It was worth the risk!  Following blissful showers we awaited the opening of the strange looking shopping centre.... It was due to unlock it's doors in 5 minutes...


There were no lights.... And when it opened there were still no lights!  Hahahahaha!  It was the final night of our road trip, so I grabbed a bottle of wine to have with our camp food.... Maybe it would stave off the cold.  As we exited the shop I pointed at the door..... Somewhat unsurprisingly there was a 'Missing Person' poster..... Angela's walking pace increased - about time!

 Poor ole Carlos.... Showered.... Prepared his flesh.... Never to be seen again.... Cerro Sombrero.

Poor ole Carlos.... Showered.... Prepared his flesh.... Never to be seen again.... Cerro Sombrero.

On reaching the ferry port we formed a new line..... But it seemed the trucks had priority.... First ferry was fully loaded before our eyes.  We waited 45 minutes for the next one.  Thankfully we were permitted aboard.  Once back on 'the mainland' of Chile our next task was to find somewhere to camp again.  I suggested we head towards the beach bound shipwreck we'd seen on the way down.

It was almost 8pm by the time we headed down a sandy track towards the sea.  There was a flat spot.  I slowed down ready to pitch my tent.  Angela suggested we carry on to see where the track lead.  Thank heavens she suggested it, and thank heavens I listened to her.  The track lead to a shelter just up off of the beach.  It was build from a mish-mash of materials, but was there for all to use according to the sign on the door.  Jackpot! 


On entering there was an old wood burning cooker, chairs and a table with all the cooking implements one would require.  This was absolutely ideal. 


Angela took a walk to look for driftwood and discovered a huge mussel bed.  She returned with a few.  I got the fire going from the wood store next door, took a huge saucepan down to the mussel bed and collected a load of blue shelled deliciousness!

By the time I returned the smoke from the stove had almost cleared.... It was time to make a camping style mussel and pasta dish washed down with a glass of red!  Damn!!!  Happy days!


On dark Angela headed to her vehicular based sleeping quarters, whilst I stoked the fire.  I chopped more wood on the premise of maintaining warm, glowing embers throughout the night.  With the wood stacked by my 7 chair bed I was ready for my best nights sleep ever!


..... and with 'The Big Man' watching over me all would be good....


I woke up drooling at 1.30am.  The fire had burned out and there was no more kindling to reignite it.  I attempted shaving wood shavings, but nothing was substantial enough.... I realigned my sleeping structure and lay back down.  I shuffled and heard a little 'pop' followed by a 'pfffffffffffffffffffffffffffff'..... Sleeping mat puncture.... Damn it.  A sharp, gnarled piece of metal on one of the broken, knackered old chairs had pierced the material.... My night of warmth and comfort had been dashed.

Once again I woke just before sunrise.  It was stunning, but the air was icy.....


But the little mish-mash abode retained more heat than my tent, so it still felt more comfortable the most other mornings.  I watched the sunrise then prepared breakfast and coffee on my stove then woke Angela. 


We needed to sort all our gear and brush as much dirt and filth from the car as we possibly could.  This little place had been an absolute Godsend.... So kind of the family that built it to allow others to use it.


An hour or so later we were on the road back to Punta Arenas.  I dropped my backpack off at the hostel and then headed to the Avis car hire to return the car.  I walked with Angela to the bus station (she was headed North), grabbed some bits from the supermarket and strolled back to the hostel.  

First things first.  I got in to the hot shower with my baselayers on.... laundry and self cleansing all in one.... Then prepared dinner.  It wasn't long before I was asleep in my bed..... Joy!

After breakfast I stood outside the hostel awaiting a Number 54 Collectivo.  I thought this was bus, but having let what I thought to be a taxi go by, I stuck my head back in to confirm my new theory.  Sure enough the collectivo were black and yellow taxis that take up to 4 people at a time...... I flagged the next one down.  He slowed... Saw my big backpack and drove off.... This happened twice.... I hid my backpack behind the telegraph pole to my right, and flagged down the next collectivo.  I opened the backdoor and boot, so he couldn't drive off, then grabbed my backpack.  Job done!  An hour later I was on the bus to Puerto Natales, the base for trekking the 'W' or 'O' circuit of Torres Del Paine National Park.