Up at 06:30 to wait for the penguin taxi at 06:50. 06:55 and no taxi and no-one at reception. Fearing I'll miss the boat (as I don't know the set up) I have to ring the doorbell to wake someone up! "It'll be here in 5 minutes," he says as phones his Bro to come pick me up. When it does, it drives 2 blocks down the street and drops me off! I could have walked that in 3 minutes! I'm bundled into a mini-bus with others and it's only then do I ask where everyone is going. "To see the penguins!" is the right answer I was looking for. After ¾ hour we stop off at a jetty in the middle of nowhere - no civilisation, just road, this jetty and and a really cool, wicked looking space rocket of a boat moored to it! Yeah baby, yeah! And yes, it is the one we board too - Awesome!
On the way to Magdalena Island (where the penguin colony is) we all took it in turns to sit through the front hatch whilst we were bombing along. Magdalena Island is bigger than I expected - more than just a rock and it has a rope path leading you to a lighthouse and back. All the while you're surrounded by Penguinos! (I love that Spanish word!) The wind is ferocious and I realise that if the upcoming Tour of Pain (trek around Torres del Paine) is going to be anything similar then I'll need a hat and gloves. We only get 1 hour on the island (½ hour less than normal) due to impending bad weather.
We motor over to an island of Sea Lions but stay on board and watch them from the boat. Then we undertake one of the coolest and most exciting boat rides I've ever been exposed too. And for 1½ hours back to the jetty too! The bad weather came, the swells and waves rose and I should have figured something was up when the crew donned waterproof seal skins and goggles! This boat can fly! And fly it did as it constantly lept from the crest of one wave to the crest of another, giving back breaking jarring thuds on every impact. My stomach constantly felt as if it was on a roller coaster ride. The blokes all loved it, the girls wished it would stop and all the while there was this fat midget sat at the back of the boat laughing non-stop. It was like a really bad horror film! Bizarre! But like all good things it had to come to an end.
When I got dropped off back in town I went in search of, and bought some cheap fleecy gloves and a beany hat. Required. I buy a bus ticket off the hostel to Puerto Natales for 6,000 pesos (£6). It left at 15:00, took 3 hours and was un-exciting.
An email from the Israelis tell me they're at Juans Hostel. I try to get a taxi there, only the driver had to make several phone calls before finding it (bare in mind Puerto Natales is very small). This hostel place has no signs, a locked front door and when I go in to ask where I am, nobody would tell me - it's all hush hush. Until someone pipes up, "Oh, you're the English guy that Elaina said was turning up!" Then it's all, "Friend this," and "Friend that," and "Come in friend, you're welcome." (Everyone is called "Friend" here.) It turns out I'm in a Israeli Commune for Jewish people. I'm not Israeli and I'm not Jewish but it all seems okay once they know this outsider has been vetted by someone who is. I think I'm the first non-Israeli Jew to stay there. People don't seem entirely comfortable with it, I stick out like a sore thumb. They all stare at me and call me that, "English guy." All the signs and posters are in Hebrew. (Like I have enough trouble with Spanish!) They have Israeli flags on the walls. I feel like I've penetrated some strange religious cult. Still, I'm in a twin room for 3,000 pesos (£3) a night!
The Israelis (Mark and the girls) plan to start a 4 night camping W trek tomorrow - it's too soon for me. I need to acquire a tent and food and the shops are beginning to close already. I Internet for trek details but all the guided tours (usually foreign) cost around $1,500 US - Woah! That's like, really expensive! My room mate, Guy, has just come back from doing most of the "The Circuit" with a few others. He says you camp at designated campsites and the trails / paths are in good condition and well marked. The Circuit as a whole takes some 10 days. The more he talks about it (like it's only $100 US for food and tent hire) the more I get a really stupid idea in my head!
Posted by Steve Eynon