Currently, I find myself watching the rain pour down on Puerto Monnt, Chile. I´m warm and dry and very well rested. Upon arrival here yesterday, I grabbed the first cab at the bus station and headed to a boutique hotel called Tren del Sur, or Train of the South. I had read about this place on a website called Hostelworld. Clearly in the advertisement was stated that this is not really a hostel but not quite a hotel either. After arriving, learning the price of the room and viewing the establishment, I dubbed it a boutique hotel. One could also call it a Bed & Breakfast. Regardless no one could prepare me for how incredibly helpful the proprietor, young Mario, would prove to be. Around my age, Mario was educated in Santiago, first in advertising, then in Business Management. He went on to work for American Airlines and then for United. He was employed in management as an account executive and then progressed on to corporate accounts. He has travelled the world extensively, including Europe, Asia, North America as well as South. After, several minutes of giving me the run down on the area in spanish, he must have noticed the mixed up look on my face. The spanish down here is a very different breed. It is much more of a varied pitch while speaking, a little bit like singing. He quickly switched to English, which he speaks with and true English accent. I came to understand that he lived in London for some time. He helped me lay out my few days in this area to maximize my adventure before needing to jump back on a flight to Santiago. We checked the weather forecast online and then planned around the rain accordingly. Yesterday was incredible, sunny and beautiful. I walked along the waterfront looking into the bay, enthralled to see colorful fishing boats in the harbor.
On Mario´s suggestion, I visited the market of Angelmo, where I was able to see local fisherman in white rubber boots and aprons shucking local seafood onto their stands. Each of them greeting me with a smile. This was no longer Santiago, but a small fishing village in the rest of winter. Puerto Montt is a bustling little tourist village in the summertime as people depart from here by ship for the glaciers and amazing mountains of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and even Antarctica. I went into a little restaurant, took a seat on the balcony and ordered fresh salmon fried in garlic. I was stupendous, fresh as can be with just the perfect flavor of olive oil and fresh garlic. The fish was most likely brought to shore only hours before I dined on its delicate flesh.
The products in the market were fantastic. Huge shrimp, crab, mussels, octopus, and some stuff I didn´t even recognize. There was also a part of the market full of colorful vegetables. It was truly an eyepopping event. I sat on the balcony eating, drinking local beer, sipping on pisco sour and reading from a book called, "Chasing Che", which is an American authors account of his journey retracing the famous motorcycle journey of Che Guevara and Alberto Granado. It is a great book for me to be reading because he visits so many of the places that I have been on this trip. It was really interesting that as I sat in Santiago reading this book, he was giving an account of Puerto Montt and I´d already booked my ticket here. Kind of serendipitous, I thought.
Walking around town in the sunshine, I couldn´t help thinking how this place reminded me of Greenland in so many ways. The harbor, the colorful boats, the colorful houses perched on the hillside looking out to the sea all brought back memories of my arctic experience many years ago. In a lot of ways, without my experience in Greenland, I may not even be here in Chile. It was my trip as an exchange student years ago to the very foriegn locale of Greenland that set in motion my deep rooted love of travel.
I came back to the hotel and settled into the couch watching "24" with Mario. Did you get that Mr. B? Watching Jack Bauer try not to hand over the circuit board to Chang....! So after "24" ended, I was encouraged by Mario to nap on the couch. He said, "You´re at home. Relax. Put your vest over your feet to stay warm, and just nap." I woke up hours later and felt it had been minutes. We went to dinner together at a little pub down by the plaza and had these gigantic sandwiches called Tablón, that were created on a gigantic bun with a steak, some ham, some avocado, tomato, pickles and onions all topped with a fried egg on the lid of the bun. And some french fries which I mimicked Mario and dipped in the egg yolk before tearing into the sandwich.
All this and a great night´s sleep in a giant comfortable bed. Now I´m off, into the rain, with a Patagonia shell, borrowed from my new friend, to explore the island of Chiloe. I will get in a bus and then the bus will get on a ferry and from there I will explore this new place. Pictures to come soon so check back on this post. Ciao from very near the magical place of Patagonia.
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