We returned from our Tour d’ Torres del Paine a day earlier than expected. Which meant showing up in Puerto Natales without a hostel room reserved but desperate for a shower and a roof over our heads.
We knocked on Osmar & Margarita’s front door, hoping the backyard cabaña we had previously stayed in would be available again. But it was booked, like every other room in town.
Being the kind and generous souls that they are, they took us into their home, gave us their grown daughter’s room, washed our filthy hiking clothes, invited us to take shot shower (!!!) and then sat down to chat over tea and pastries. We love these Nataleños.
We spent most of our second stay in Puerto Natales searching for a strong cup of coffee (found at Crepería Café y Té, alongside mouthwatering crepes) and booking our bus to El Chaltén, Argentina. A necessary circumnavigation of the massive ice fields that divide Chilean Patagonia. From there, we’d hike over to border back into Chile to make our way up the Carretera Austral.
Our bus left early Sunday morning, just missing the crowds by a few hours who had reputedly gathered in El Calafate, Argentina to hear Ricky Martin perform at the Fiesta del Lago. Apparently he’s still livin la vida loca, guys.
In contrast with the rivers, trees, mountains, and guanaco herds that dotted the green Chilean side of Patagonia, Argentina is a desert landscape of “pampa” stretching as far as the eye can see.
Halfway through our 3 1/2 hour ride through this completely deserted landscape, our double-decker bus pulled off to the side of the highway. A car had just flipped, throwing a young boy about 10 yards from the crash. His mom was still trapped in the driver’s seat.
A nurse from Virginia was on board the bus, on vacation with her husband. With help from 3 Israelis with army medic training and English/Spanish translation skills from another woman on board, she did her best to wrap his deep head wounds in gauze, keep him still as he regained consciousness, and slow blood loss while a dozen of us held up blankets to block the incredibly strong winds.
We waited an hour for the ambulance to arrive. When it finally did, the medics took the young man away in the ambulance, and his mother, who was OK.
I haven’t been able to find any news about whether or not this guy survived, though if he did, it’d be a miracle. We’ve been thinking about him, and really, really appreciating nurses. Nothing underscores the invaluable work they do like standing helpless over someone in pain and seeing the calm efficiency of someone who knows what to do. To all you nurses and nurses in training, I admire you. And also, seat belts.
We filed back onto the bus in shocked silence, strapped ourselves in, and arrived in the windy, beautiful, remote village of El Chaltén, more grateful than ever to be alive.