On Monday morning I noticed a little board in the reception area with the schedule of local museums. Feeling bad about having wasted some of my day yesterday aimlessly roaming the streets, I decided to make up for it in whatever little time I had left. Earlier I got a message from Cascada that I would be picked up from the hotel about 11:30 am.
Given the time restrictions, my only option was Museum of Patagonia. A taxi dropped me off at the museum at 9:10am, and was picking me up at 10am. It was a great little museum, a few original houses packed with artifacts from the old days. I would love to have a brochure with the pictures of it all. The man who opened the exhibition houses for me (I was the only visitor) did not speak any English, and my Spanish was rudimentary. I spent probably half of my precious time there trying to find out where I could buy a brochure. From round one of our discussion on the subject I drew a conclusion that there were no brochures. Why? Because the staff of the museum is too busy to take pictures, and the tourists prefer the pictures they take themselves, anyway. Good for the tourists, but I only had one battery, and no power adapter, so I was not about to waste the juice photographing a museum. After I ran through the exhibition, I resumed the conversation with the custodian about brochures of the museum. It transpired that there was a library where I could buy books. I was led to the library, and found a lot of thick historical books with a lot of dry text and very few pictures. Not being academically inclined, I did not buy any.
By the time I got back to the hotel, the Cascada van was already waiting for me.
In the van there were my future teammates and our two guides: Roberto and Hernan. It was a relief to stop worrying about my sightseeing schedule: now it was all in the hands of Cascada people. From the first moments I knew that ours were the greatest guides, and I didn't have to worry about a thing as long as they were around.
I liked the relaxed pace that our guides set from the start. In Puerto Natales we had about 2 hours lunch at a little restaurant, La Pampa. It did not look like much from the outside, but the food was great: it tasted like a home-cooked meal.
We stopped at the cave of Milodon before leaving Puerto Natales. I can't say much about it other than it was a big cave. I lack the imagination to get excited about the fact that a big sloth was inhabiting it at some point.
It was great to have a preview of Patagonia through the window of the van. The colors of pampas, lakes, and snow-covered mountains made me feel happy. We passed horses, sheep, and cows grazing freely in this vast land. We got to see some wild life, too: guanacos, pink flamingos, and other unnamed birds.
Finally, we were at EcoCamp. Roberto proudly showed us the three-chamber compost toilet system. He encouraged us to pee in the woods to make it more efficient. I thought that contradicted a previous recommendation to stay on the wooden paths (at least as far as women were concerned).
The good life continued. The first night established the ritual for the remaining nights at EcoCamp: drinks and appetizers before dinner in the sitting dome. After the first few minutes that it took for the drinks to take effect the dome was abuzz with conversations. A dinner with red wine followed. The food was good and plentiful, though not a gourmet quality (with the exception of cream of asparagus soup we had on our first night).
The sleeping domes looked less glamorous than in the pictures on the Cascada web site, but the bed was very comfortable, with warm blankets. And, to top it all, we had a spectacular view of the Towers.