Bus ride to Torres del Paine and EcoCamp
After spending the night at the Esplendor Hotel in El Calafate we took a public bus (a large, very comfortable tour bus) the following morning for a four hour ride to Puerto Natales, crossing into Chile. We passed through countless miles of a desolate landscape, unlimited expanses seemingly unaffected by time and man. At Puerto Natales we had lunch before transferring to a van and heading north again for a two hour ride to Torres del Paine National Park. Along the way we stopped at the Mylodon Cave National Monument, one of the most important paleontological sites in South America. The EcoCamp was a blend of rustic and chic. Designed for minimal environmental impact the camp consisted of a series of geodesic domes connected by wooden walkways. We chose to upgrade to a ''double suite'' dome which meant we had our own bathroom with a shower and composting toilet, and a small woodstove for heat. The dome was beautifully decorated and quite comfortable. Common areas included a meeting space where we gathered each night for drinks and appetizers before dinner and for an orientation on the next day's schedule of activities. Connected to that space was a dining area. Dinners always included a soup or salad, a choice of three entrees (there was always a vegetarian option) and one of two desserts -- and bottles of Chilean wine. Examples of the offerings included squash soup, vegetable timbales, roast lamb with hummus, seafood lasagna, flan, and fresh fruit. The design and casual atmosphere was conducive to interacting with the guides and our fellow travelers, and it made us feel as though we blended into the landscape instead of being intruders. (see Day 2 photos)
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