It is strange to think how small the world felt 8 months ago when you could travel whenever and wherever you wanted. It has only been this long since my feet touched Patagonian soil, but it already feels like the trip happened years and years ago.
I bet you are wondering why I called this post the Land of Giants? Patagon was the word Magellan used to describe locals, as at the time, people living there, were much taller than Magellan and his folk (and Europeans in general). I didn’t meet any giants myself, but can’t guarantee they are no longer there 🙂
The plane journey from Santiago to Puerto Natales was spectacular – the views of vast ice fields and colourful lakes were opening up and mixing with the clouds. I was glued to the window, constantly reminding myself to breathe for most of the flight.
The airport in Puerto Natales was the smallest and one of the prettiest I have ever been to. This small wooden building had two areas – one for arrivals and one for departures, so there was definitely nowhere to get lost.
I got a minibus to the town center and 10 minutes later I was dropped off at my hostel which was called Patagonia Backpackers. I have to say the hostel had the comfiest beds ever and I ended up staying there three times (on my first two nights in Patagonia, on return from O circuit and after my trip to Argentina). They were also located just across the street from my absolute favourite ice cream shop in South America (so far) called Gelateria Artesanal Aluen. I think I had ice cream there every single day I spent in Puerto Natales, often queuing with locals to get my own portion of happiness.
Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much ice cream one can eat before the stomach starts complaining, so I had quite a bit of time to explore Puerto Natales. The grid street pattern was extremely confusing at first and even with my excellent sense of direction, it took me ages to learn how to find my way back to the hostel without using google maps. However, most of the time I didn’t care about getting lost. Little wooden houses gave this town so much character and I enjoyed wandering up and down the streets admiring them. I also loved walking around and petting all the dogs that wanted some attention and sometimes they even demanded it by lying down next to you.
During my time in Puerto Natales, I visited the Museo Historico to learn a bit more about the history of this amazing land and tried to practise my Spanish with the locals as much as possible. One old lady at the convenience store got so excited about my poor Spanish that we ended up chatting for over half an hour before she finally took the money from me for the goods.
I also loved walking around Puerto Natales and discovering bakeries, street art and sweet little shops selling handmade souvenirs, jewelry and various other little things. There was also a lovely market where you could observe locals making various beautiful pieces and buy their art. It felt like surprise was waiting around every corner – one of the evenings I accidentally ended up in a huge festival with a free BBQ at the end.
Puerto Natales was a sweet little place, but I was in Patagonia to spend time in nature and enjoy the mountain views. My first and the biggest challenge was the O circuit and I’ll write about it in detail in my next post.