Third Time Lucky!

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2 January - Caleta Tortel

We've got a circular walk planned, but as we have been finding out, the tourist information in Patagonia can often be less than clear and detailed, so it will be another voyage of discovery.

Well that's interesting. I wonder where it leads? It's not part of our planned route, but it's too intriguing to ignore.

Ah, to the airport, of course.

There are clearly no flights due any time soon, and we suspect that since the building of the road, access by air has become an unnecessary expense. The terminal building has seen far better days, that's for sure.

Back to the official path we go.

The ground is wet and boggy, so there is a boardwalk for tourists. Well, a few planks. What more do you want?!

The boards are mostly fairly stable, so it's not too hard to keep your balance, but I wouldn't recommend too much beer or wine with your picnic if you want to stay on the path of righteousness.

Picnics are certainly catered for, though. We see a number of these little bus-sheltery things with a bench table where you can sit out of the rain. It's not actually raining for us, though it's a bit misty and very damp.

The flowers aren't big and showy, but they are well worth a closer look.

We reach a viewpoint where we can look back down over the town, and see the road (the only road) in the distance.

Where it's not boggy, it's rocky. Again, Amanda's glad of her poles. "Black Diamond Carbon Z" if you're interested. They're not cheap but they weigh nothing, take up no space and will support people a lot heavier than Amanda (like me). Take this as a five-star review.

Hey, we're still on track! The track is distinctly indistinct much of the time.

This weirdly twisted bit of tree caught my eye. It has no significance in the grand scheme of things, but it's a bit strange so I have taken a picture of it and present it to you all here.

Belay my previous assertion that it's either boggy or rocky. It can be totally fluvial too. It's just about possible to shuffle along the banks of this spontaneously generated river, but not easy. Gore-tex trail shoes are one thing, but this would need wellies at least.

Lots of steep slightly wobbly steps. How is it possible that we're loving this walk?!

Well, it's just full of things to stop and stare at.

But eventually we descend from the mountains and are back in town, where everything is flat and solid.

Ahh.... Yes, well... Hmm... Some new building work going on here. I suppose that's a hazard when building everything from wood, that it doesn't last forever and needs wholesale replacement every so often.

But after this it's all flat and solid.

Another thing we're not accustomed to seeing in the Home Counties.

Now I don't know how real the risk is around here, but if you type "caleta tortel tsunami" into Google, all the initial hits are blog posts and photos of these signs!

Ok, we know that tourism isn't that big a part of the local economy, at least as yet, but it's quite clear that we are not the target demographic for many of the local offerings. If "Baths and Showers with Hot Water" is a major selling point, I'm pretty confident we're not buying.

I don't think we're going for an excursion in this boat.

There are quite a few sculptures of the early settlers and/or indigenous people. We're not entirely sure how to tell the difference, but as the basic story here is the same as everywhere in the Americas: that the natives got short shrift when the Europeans moved in; it may be a matter of guessing how much existential guilt is embodied in any given artwork.

"Port Captain of the Chilean Navy" sounds a terribly grand title! As best we can tell, the reality is somewhat more modest.

This is an example of how tourism isn't really that much of a thing here. Amanda saw a jumper she really liked in a shop window, but the shop was closed. Fair enough, it was early morning, but now we're in the middle of the day and it's still closed. Well should we call Margarita or Amanda? What do we do if (as is likely) neither of them understand a word we say? it's just too much like hard work, so our money stays in our pockets.

Then another thing. As it's fairly chilly and damp, we think a cup of coffee would be a good idea. But coffee shops seem more than a little conspicuous by their absence, or they appear to exist but are closed. Still, there's a cafe with an "open" sign showing, so we think that will be ok.

We're a bit confused by the door appearing to be locked despite the sign, but then it's opened from the inside by the waitress. Not sure if we were simply incompetent with the mechanism or had to be vetted before being allowed in. Ok, we're in anyway: "dos cafés por favor". Well that's fine, here are your cups, the jar of instant and the hot water are over there!

I think this is a genuinely new experience. We have travelled extensively across the First, Second, Third and quite possibly the Fourth Worlds over the years, and have drunk some of the best and worst coffee that Planet Earth has to offer, but I honestly don't believe we have ever had to pay to make our own instant coffee in a cafe before.

Slightly warmer at least, we proceed.

We have climbed an awful lot of stairs up from shore level...

So this is a bit of a slap in the face! Bah humbug.

Back at the lodge, I get chatting to a girl who's working there as an intern as part of her degree course, and she quickly guesses the cafe we went to (because it's almost the only one in town open), and tells me that this is pretty typical. Nobody here drinks coffee themselves (herbal tea is the thing) and it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that decent coffee would have the grockles queuing up in wild desire to pay whatever they wanted to charge.

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