Ok, I’m writing a little out of order. But, Puerto Natales deserves an entry, and fast.
This Chilean seaside town oozes cool. Well first, actually, the temperature is quite cold - we are entering fall here after all. And Puerto Natales wants you to work to see her. "Come visit me? Sure," she says. "Just fly to Santiago then fly another 5 hours to Punta Arenas then take a 3.5 hour bus to me.”
But once you're on the bus, and you start to pass the Merino sheep, and the driftwood trees, and the Andes — then you begin to realize why makes you work. Beauty like this should be savored.
The town is perhaps sleepier than usual as we’re in the ‘low season’ with far fewer tourists. Even still, I think she might be like this always. There’s a quiet confidence and decorum to town I just love. People smile at you on the street, cars stop to let you pass, dogs bump into you just to warm you up (ok I swear the dog at the Embarcadero did that). Then once you take all of two seconds to look up at the sky you realize your mouth is left agape and you might have stopped breathing for a second the view is just too lovely. The clouds hang low here. So low I think I could easily lasso one down if only I could find a lasso. And the mountains, well, they just lounge there, all stretched out in their naked glory, daring you to try to look away. How could you? How could anyone turn away from such a view?
Now I might have only just arrived, but I think I’ve already found the best the coffee, hot chocolate, and food. And yes it’d be too bold to claim this for sure, but perhaps the best fries ever. Ok, ok, they’re not the best ever but damn are they good. That said, the town is small enough and well tended enough that it seems every place has some kind of standout quality to it.
I opted to stay at a hotel rather than a hostel this part of the trip. First, I had points and the Hotel Natalino wasn’t too costly. Plus it’s a small, nifty, casual place where real adults stay as opposed to the kind of grungy hostels I’ve been in for the past week.
And second, I knew I would want to stay somewhere nicer before I began, and after I finished, the W trek. To be certain, I’m doing the slightly easier version of the trek as I’ll be staying in refugios with full room and board. But I will still be schlepping a lot of stuff for anywhere between 4-12 hours at a time for 6 days, so it’s no walk in the park either. Oh, wait, no, it is. That is exactly what I’m doing. Walking in Torres del Paine park. And horseback riding for a day.
So, here are my favorite places so far in Puerto Natales that are well worth a visit.
El Bote Restaurant
This delicious seafood restaurant also boasts its own beer, Cerveza Natales made by the owner’s son. It seems they’re famous for their king crab gratin, or any of their king crab dishes. But I’m saving that for after the W trek. (Food motivation.) I had the salmon with papas a lo pobre and the house beer in the IPA style. O.M.G. Just look at it.
Coffee & Books
Treat yourself to a do-it-yourself hot chocolate in this wilderness-styled bookstore cum cafe cum adventure spot. When you order a hot chocolate you get a deliciously warm enamel mug full of hot milk, a canister of rich cocoa powder, and sugar. The proprietors’ have an adorable dog who might join you for a cup or watch for birds.
Holaste Cofi Trailer
Tucked away inside the somewhat old-fashioned bus terminal is Holaste Cofe Trailer, which could give any Brooklyn coffee stand a run for its money in adorableness and deliciousness. It’s the perfect spot to get coffee brewed anyway you want. V60, done. Aeropress, sure thing. Chemex, just wait a few minutes. And the medias-luna con fruta are to die for. Custard filled, berry-topped, half-moon sweet crescents. I can’t wait to have another one in a few hours.
I’m off to the W Trek now! More next week.