The old and new life in Puerto Natales

Yes, we are back in Chile! Staying in Puerto Natales before our visit to Torres del Paine National Park. Puerto Natales is the capital of both the commune of Natales and the province of Última Esperanza (Última Esperanza means “Last Hope”), one of the four provinces that make up the Magallanes and Antartica Chilean Region in the most southern part of Chile. Puerto Natales is also the ONLY city in the province of Última Esperanza. Puerto Natales was founded in May 1911 as a port for the sheep industry.

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Today especially the port looks a little tired

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Now the port is home to more black-neck swans than floating boats

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The adult black-neck swan is in average 102 to 124 cm and weigh 3.5 to 6.7 kg. The wingspan ranges from 135 to 177 cm (53 to 70 in)

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Puerto Natales is located at the opening of Última Esperanza Sound and was originally inhabited by the Kawésqar or Alacaluf people and the Aoniken or Tehuelche people. The first European to discover the area where the city is located was Juan Ladrillero, a Spanish explorer who was looking for the Strait of Magellan’s western passage in 1557. So to find our more about the first people who lived here, we visited the indigenous museum.

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For 12,000 years ago the first group of hunter-gathers also called Paloe-indians arrived from Central Patagonia. The ice from the last glaciation has retreated giving way to more temperate climatic conditions. The people co-exited with some animal species that are now extinct such as the native horse and the milodon.

About 8,000 years ago a series of catastrophic natural events occurs, that provokes the dispersion or extinction of human life. Most of the mega-fauna disappears including the milodon and the American Horse. After this a new wave of population occurs in Southern Patagonia corresponding to groups of nomadic hunters. It is not possible to know if these inhabitants are descended directly from the first hunters from the time before (hunter-gathers also called Paloe-indians) or if they represent a new ethnic group.

For 7,000 years ago initial presence of groups of hunting and fishing canoeist (Kawésqar/Alacalufes) are observed. It is not possible to rule out that these groups existed even earlier than this date. Obsidian was used to make triangular arrowheads (made of whale bone) without a base.

5,000 years ago the late hunters emerge. They are direct descendants of the Aónikenk (or Tehuelches) tribe. These groups were dispersed over a wide area, occupying steppes and forest, and resisting the drop in temperatures.

Then 4,000 years ago stone tools for curing the animal skin appear. Cave paintings appear in the areas of Cerro Benitez and Samiento.

3,000 years ago there is a growth in the local population and as part of their culture they bury their dead in caverns or cremate the bodies.

Different archaeological sites of the historical Kawésqar estimates, that they date no more than 2,000 years back. At the moment there is no evidence about the origin of the Aónikenk culture, although it is known that these groups disappeared definitively from the Chilean Patagonia around 1905.

Patagonia is believed to be one of the last places in the world to be populated. With the arrival of the first inhabitants in Patagonia 12,000 years ago, the process of human dispersion over the planet was complete. Evidence indicates that the arrival of the first human beings in Patagonia originated from the Bering Strait (where America and Asia were united in what is now Alaska). The people traveled down through North America, exploring the lowlands of the Amazon and they eventually arrived in Patagonia at the end of the Pleistocene Age.

In 1880 the missionary Thomas Bridges estimated that the Kawésqar population was around 3,000 individuals. English and American ships arrived with diseases and a western-style clothing. This combination reduced the Kawésqar population to around 1,000 in 1900 and just 24 years later in 1925 only 250 Kawésqar was left.

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The Museum only cost 1000 pesos (1,70 UDS) per person, and is worth a visit. At the museum you can also learn more about the newer history of how Puerto Natales developed since 1900. I was just amazed over the big cash register.

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After all that learning we got hungry, and who knew, that we would find Danish “Pølsemix” here in Puerto Natales

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It is the closest we have been to a Danish “Pølsemix” since we left Denmark. Here you top it off with salsa and mayonnaise – SUPER DELICIOUS. Now we had energy to check out the rest of the town.

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This is for all the Danish readers, because the joke is Danish. We found it really funny, that a restaurant in Puerto Natales was called “Restaurant KOSTEN”, which in Danish means a broom or a very negative word for your wife.

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We also visited the local gym – we are really trying to do strength training once a week (not reaching the goal – yet)

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I guess we are “fit” to visit Torres del Paine National Park – read everything in the next post!

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