February 3, 2003

Chile flagToday was a free day in Puerto Natales, so we slept in, then repacked our packs in sort of the way they will be packed when we fly home. About 10 o’clock we checked out of Oasis and went over to check in at Casa Cecilia. Of course we had to wait while they cleaned the room, it being so early in the morning, but that didn’t take long.

After dropping our packs in the room, our first task was to get rid of our surplus white gas fuel. The people at the Esso station found a rusty basin for us to pour it into. That done, we headed for the shops. We went to the supermarkets to find typical Chilean products that we don’t have at home, such as manjar and ají. Next the souvenir shops; there were a lot of them.

After lunch we decided to walk along the waterfront and try to photograph Black-necked Swans, of which there was a small flock not far along. We were accompanied on our walk by three stray dogs, although not by choice. Every Chilean town and city seems to be full of stray dogs, and Puerto Natales has its fair share, only the Natales dogs are all small breeds. Anyway, having the dogs follow us about would have been all right except that they ran into the water to chase the birds. So we gave it up and backtracked into the town. We finally lost them by spending half an hour in an Internet café.

On our next try we stopped off at a high-quality souvenir store, which didn’t have any of the tacky milodon statues you see everywhere else. We wanted to get something that reminded us of where we got it, without spelling it out in capital letters. Finally we decided on a ceramic vase with three rheas on it, an adult and two young ones. Then we continued on to the waterfront, dog free this time, and found the swans in their usual place.

For dinner we met Mike and Rosalie at a small restaurant that specialized in fish. They did the fish very well, but we were almost the only customers that evening. Back at the hostel we did the final version of packing, in preparation for the next day’s departure.

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