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29 December - Puerto Guadal
So this is Jony's place.
Even with Stefan's instructions, we'd probably have shot straight past the turn-off without our digital floozy to tell us what to do. Then it's a good job that Tiggo is actually a reasonably serious 4WD off-road jobbie, not just a poncy Chelsea tractor. The 'road' leading down to the beach is barely worthy of being called such a thing.
It's perhaps worth mentioning here that although this is a totally tourist-oriented business, they don't speak a lot of English. We were told back in the UK that it could be a problem if you had no Spanish at all, and I think that's been borne out by our experience. Now I'm not going to boast about our Hispanic proficiency in the slightest, but there have definitely been a few occasions of meeting in the middle of relative incomprehension to achieve basic communication. It has become apparent to us that the majority of the tourism in Patagonia is internal, not international.
Anyway, as we were warned ('warned'? 'tantalisingly offered' is more like it!), it's just us, so ninety quid odd for the trip. We've paid more for things, we've paid less for things. Only time will tell whether we have made a good decision.
The jetty where our boat will arrive. Doesn't it look tropical! You can almost see the bar just out of shot where people drink piña coladas (obviously not getting caught in the rain) — ok, I'm sorry! — well, actually there's no bar at all, there's no nothing really. There are some kayaks which are just visible in the distance, but that's about it, and the people in them are not doing anything more exotic than learning to kayak as best we can tell.
But now we're off, with Captain Jony at the helm
Wow! These rock and water colours look unbelievable, but honestly, I've not distorted the reality here.
Apparently the characteristics that make the marble so attractive to tourists make it very badly suited to commercial extraction and sale. We don't quite get the exact reason: is it because it's so easily eroded by water? Because the different layers don't cut and polish well? Just that it's not economic on an industrial scale? Not sure, but we hope it stays that way. This is definely something we'd call unique, even knowing what 'unique' actually means!
Some more pictures for no reason other than that the formations are so amazing.
One of the crew takes our picture with Amanda's phone. The colours of the rock are a bit washed out, unfortunately, but looking on the bright side, it kind of demonstrates that the cost and bulk of my posh camera gear are worth it.
Ok, just one more...
For the avoidance of doubt, this really is the colour of the water, thanks to the copper mineral content.
Ok, the results are in, that was definitely worth the money.
Although our excursion wasn't from the town, we head into it for lunch. I must say that I could have eaten just half that pizza and not felt hungry, but I am bold and brave and manage somewhow.
The cafe is playing some seriously old-skool rock'n'roll music - I mean, we're quite possibly the only people in the whole place who were even born when Black Sabbath's Paranoid was released - which makes us realise that just about all the backround music we've heard in Chile so far has been some sort of bland show-tuney forgettabilia. If there's any particular local musical style worthy of note, we've yet to find it. [Here, take yourself back to 1970 on YouTube.]
After lunch, we want to take a little stroll and we've been told there's a trail up through the hills behind the town.
We aren't quite sure how to find it, but looking at the digital map, there seems to be a road we can take, but it's really not clear whether it's actually something we can drive or not. We decide therefore to just walk to it (it's not far) and see what we can see.
It turns out that it's even less of a road than the one down to Jony's place, and in any case, it's blocked by a closed gate. We can certainly walk it, though.
Shortly it stops even being a pretend road, but it's waymarked for walkers.
Ok, some of the markers are less than entirely clear.
We can see several of the paths on our GPS, but they aren't quite where it says they are. I'd guess that they are based on relatively few measurements made with quite old GPS gear. In days of old, I thought I'd help the world by uploading some of my tracks to OpenStreetMap but somehow never got round to doing it. Now I'm realistic enough to know that I won't get round to this one either, so sorry world. My bad.
It's a bit of a scramble in places, but the view from the top is worth it.
And there's the whole town of Puerto Río Tranquilo below us.
A particularly sculptural tree root, in the middle of a field, basically, so quite possibly put there deliberately. If it's the rural equivalent of a graffiti tag in the big city, we approve! Then again, maybe it just got blown there by a strong wind. They have a lot of strong winds in these parts.
Amanda realised she should have brought her walking poles when the track started getting steep, so we found her a stick and it's done her proud. She holds it aloft in triumph as we return to the gate at the beginning.
Meandering back through town, we come across this strange termite mound thing on the back of a bus that appears to have been turned into a caravan. Your guess is as good as ours.
Back at the lodge, we look out at the cloud formations. Patagonia is quite the place for interesting clouds.
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