Tuesday, 14th January: “Slow down Chief!”

“What time is it?” The ringing of the alarm at 6am indicated that it was time to get up ready for our 7am departure to Torres Del Paine. We had hoped for a later transfer but it was not to be. We have found the extended daylight here probably harder than the dark of Norway and have had trouble getting to bed early despite being fatigued from each day’s events, none of which we would trade.

We were picked up at 7:20; (nothing unusual about that; just South American time). Our transfer guy had no English and spoke to us in Spanish as if it was our first language…hmm first sign of a problem. He then proceeded to throw the suitcases in the small trailer being towed by the 15 seater white combi style van, groaning as he was doing so (not so much of a problem with the groan as we are starting to do that ourselves…a result of Claire’s beanie infatuation no doubt). He then took off as if he was intent to make up the 20 minutes he was late within the first five minutes of driving. At first it was a little humorous as we were bustled from side to side as he went around corners and bends on two wheels at a speed at least three times faster than it should have been. At this point, Philip reached across to make sure that Claire and I had put our seat belts on.

Leaving town, he proceeded to speed up reaching speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. Now there isn’t a lot of traffic on the roads down here but this guy also thought he’d increase the “driving with difficulty” factor by bending down to pick up things off the car floor, unwrap his breakfast meal and eat it, read his travel documents, drink from a large drink bottle, turn around and talk to the Brazilian family and fiddle with his music.

Not satisfied that this was a challenge he then thought he would use the double lines to crisscross from side to side and continue with the same speed even when written on the road were signs indicating 20 miles per hour, steep descents, winding bends or no overtaking (which he sped up for).

By this stage we were sensing that his greatest challenge was going to be Philip who would have stopped the car and got us all out if there was another option – the lack of transport on the road indicated that there wasn’t. So we continued down the road from El Calafate to Torres Del Paine.

The final straw came when swerving from side to side and looking at a book, we were on the wrong side of the road with another car coming straight towards us. From the back seat Philip yelled out “CHIEF are you right…slow down we’ve got family in here”. The Brazilian father then looked around and Philip indicated to him that the speed was too great and he needed to slow down. (There were a number of other things he needed to do but slowing down was a start). The upshot of it was that he did slow down even though the speed signs at various times indicated that you could go up to 90 miles per hour – that was on the flat and straight roads though.

Three hours later we got to a check point and he spoke to us again in Spanish. Luckily the lovely Brazilian lady spoke some English and really did the interpreting for him as there was no way that we were going to get any English from him; nor very little assistance is my guess. At the first check point we needed to get our passports stamped to indicate that we were leaving Argentina. At the next check point we then had to get our passports stamped to enter Chile. We also had to declare any items listed on two documents that we had been given, one last night and one during our travels. Not knowing how serious they were about but assuming that they were pretty serious given the promotional material, we kept out some food and a pair of white sheep’s wool sleepers that Claire had purchased (they look like a Sheep without legs). Showing the lady the food, she indicated no problems. Claire showed her slippers to which the lady just burst out laughing – consequently there was no problems and we were on our way again but with a Chilean driver, waving goodbye to our “Argentinian chief”.

Our next guide was the complete opposite, slow and steady and willing to stop along the way for photographs when we spotted condor flying overhead, strange looking “emus” called Lesser Rhea and another animal that looked like an alpaca but we were informed it was called something different. He also played his music loud and wanted us all to have a good time on the one and half hours it took to get to Las Torres inside the Torres Del Paine national park.

Upon arriving the weather was quite wet and windy, different from most days we have had on this trip. We were told our room wasn’t ready until 2pm but that we had all included so we could go and get some lunch and then come back to get the key. We thought this was odd as we had not been informed that this was the case but after double checking was told that this was definitely what we had and so have some lunch and then do an afternoon activity. “Ok” we thought, pleasantly surprised but willing to take such a bonus.
The meal was really plush. Five courses all fancifully presented and tasteful. Wow we thought, this is pretty good, wondering why there weren’t more people up having lunch. Going down to get the room key before heading off for the afternoon’s activities we were met by the man at the check in desk who informed us that he had made a mistake and just assumed that because we were with the others that had all inclusive that we did also. Hmmm… problem. Yep! Lunch was $50 each – just as well they had for some reason given us two desserts and we had, not wanting to insult them, eaten them. Making a point that it was not our error the man went and spoke to his manager who said that we could have 20% discount but that he couldn’t do much more (I think someone else runs their restaurant). This also meant that the activity that we were really doing cos it was included was $100 each for three hours walking around a lake in the rain… the same lake we had past on the way. Hmmm change of plans; catch up time on the blog, photos, chill and take a walk around the area ourselves. Guess that’s why there weren’t many at the restaurant… they like us don’t have all inclusive.

Getting to our room we then discovered that there were no towels… hmm do all inclusive have them? Claire went back to reception and inquired as to whether guests where required to bring their own towels… nup they were included. It just took another visit an hour later to finally get someone to bring them.

So with all that why come here? Well if you are a walker this would be paradise. There are trails everywhere, mountain peaks, lakes and potentially animals and birds (ok so today it’s cloudy and wet so a bit harder to see anything). We can attest (after having lunch) that the food is very good. The place is also very beautiful so anyone into nature and getting away from shops, traffic, people etc would love it. For us tomorrow will be a day to explore and a chance to see some more of what this place can offer.

By |January 16th, 2014|Chile, Our Trips, South America|