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A One Year Wave to Patagonia: Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales

I sit in the glow of an over-decorated and possibly kitschy tree, the light of a silicon candle bulb waving proudly in the window. It's the most wonderful time of the year, truly. We are just back from a cold-but-cozy trip to the UK that I'll be sharing very soon, stags and highland cows and all, but it's time to finally tie a bow on Patagonia. 

Quick recap since it's been a year: we started in Argentina, traveled to Torres del Paine. Our guides from Awasi, magical hotel it was, drove us on our last day to the town of Puerto Natales. They took us on the scenic route. ;)

The route a few hours to the brisk and clean town of Puerto Natales (where we'd catch another ride farther south) traversed the national park itself, pure teal lakes and sharp towers.

Diego, our guide, took us for a quick tour of the very-photographed Salto Grande waterfall, and a rainbow appeared as we stared, mesmerized by the color.

This old hotel's red color charmed against the panoply of the park's blues.

In my notes from the trip, I wrote there was the smell of dry, clean earth in the morning. 

Purity is one of the words that feels so Patagonian to me. Pure water. Pure landscape. Un-ruined or messed.

On the way, we stopped for another fascinating look at the Mylodon Caves (Cueva del Milodon), famed for being the place where the remains of a massive sloth-like bear called a Milodon had lived. The saves were much larger than I expected, hundreds of meters deep.

Being inside and imaging the collection of species that used to inhabit this quiet place was surprisingly awe-filling.

We stopped for lunch in Puerto Natales, and made a mental note to return, especially to one beautiful hotel we passed. The landscape was so clean. We had lunch at the Rau hotel, before our next driver picked us up, en route 

to Punta Arenas, a dirtier city with full-bodied charm.

Our driver may or may not have dumped our luggage in a dusty lot, and then the hotel, La Yegua Loca, used a very old pulley to pull them up into our rooms.

After settling into our cowboy themed rooms, cow hides on the floor,

we walked down to the main square. There was music and smiling, and everyone seemed relaxed.

This felt as close to a city as Patagonia could grow, or perhaps would want to.

But I remember this: my favorite part of Punta Arenas. Kati, our guide at Awasi, had told us to get banana milk and cheese sandwiches, which they call choriqueso, from this cafe, Kiosko Roca. Divine. It was silky smooth milk, like a looser milkshake, blended with fresh bananas.  We went back for more.

From Punta Arenas, we took a day trip to see penguins, so come to see the cute lil fellows and ladies soon.