FIN DEL MUNDO: A Trip to the End of the World (part 2 of 3)

by Lynn and John Salmon

(Back to Part 1) // (Jump to Part 3) or See more trip photos

January 6, 1993 [Calafate to Puerto Natales, Chile]

Up too early... Out too soon... Since we don't have as much time as we would like on this vacation we had to make a choice between staying in Argentina and visiting more of the area in Parque National Los Glaciares or forgoing that and traveling into Chile to visit Torres del Paine. We chose to visit the latter and set out on the first 2.5 hour leg of our trip by bus from Calafate to La Esperanza, a truck stop on the way to many places. At La Esperanza we had to wait for another bus to take us to the border town of Rio Turbio where we will hopefully be able to negotiate the trip further.

The onward bus from La Esperanza to Rio Turbio finally arrived to take us on the 4.5 hour trip. We have now experienced four vastly different buses of the Pinguino line in Argentina. The first was a nice large "luxury" bus with a bathroom and coffee dispenser plus a TV system for showing bad videos, unfortunately it had serious climate control problems. The second one, which took us to the Moreno Glacier from Calafate had a weird problem with a hole in the floor and smoke coming up from the engine forcing a couple of people to change their seats. One of its windshield wipers also fell off, and the driver had to stop to pick it up from the side of the road. The third bus, this morning, was a mini bus which was just fine although we passed another minibus with a flat tire on the way to La Esperanza.

The fourth bus was kind of dilapidated with peeling upholstery and stuck windows. Smoking was also allowed on this bus making it a somewhat unpleasant trip. It could have been worse if we had stayed in our original seats. They were located in front of a hyperactive girl child who kept kicking the seat and reaching over and pulling my hair. We decided to move to the back of the bus to get out of her range. Here we also managed to crack open a window to relieve some of the smoke problem.

During the bus trip we saw some rheas on the side of the road plus many sheep. Rheas (also called nandu) are large flightless birds similar to emus. We stopped once at a lone building in the middle of a vast windswept plain bearing the sign "HOTEL". Very stark. We stopped again at a Federal Police station near the Chilean border where a guy with a bike got off. We stopped here for a while, and none of the passengers had anything better to do than watch the cyclist get his gear together. The wind was, if anything, more intense here than at "HOTEL". The national flag over the police station was in tatters. Clothes on the line were horizontal from the wind. We drove off before the cyclist, expecting never to see him again.

Finally we reached Rio Turbio at 5:30 pm just missing the bus to Puerto Natales, but there is another one at 6:30 pm. Finding the bus to Puerto Natales was our adventure for today, but it doesn't compare to finding the bus to Turfan from Daheyan in China, an adventure a couple of years ago. First we were directed by the woman in the Pinguino office to go "al frente." Our phrase book translates "al frente" to "in front", but this and subsequent experiences suggest that the actual meaning is more like "just opposite." Prepositions...ya gotta love em.

Around the corner and down the street a little we found a bus company that did go to Puerto Natales, but not until 8:30. The woman at the counter there directed us to go "up the street across from the bakery." This she was kind enough to write down on a piece of scrap paper. Comprehension of the spoken word pretty much requires real-time processing. You can't retain more than a couple of unfamiliar syllables in your mind at a time. If you have to think, you are lost. The written word, however, allows for a sustained attack using dictionaries and cognates from other languages. Up the street across from the bakery we find, somewhat to our surprise, a bus stop. But the quest is not over. A man there, clearly seeing that we are not the normal clientele for the local city bus in Rio Turbio offers further advice. He directs us back down the street (where we had come from) ~200m. He turned out to be right and we got a bus to Puerto Natales at 6:30 pm from an unmarked spot more or less opposite (al frente?) from the Pinguino office.

The bus to Puerto Natales was a nice one and the trip took only ~1 hour including the stop to exit Argentina and a second stop at the entry post for Chile. Lynn was a bit worried that she didn't have enough room in her passport to get back into Argentina if Chile had a large entry stamp. Fortunately it didn't, and the Chilean official was one of the neatest passport stampers we've come across, carefully placing the little stamp in one corner of one of the passport pages. Lynn still has a half a page blank elsewhere so should have no problems returning to Argentina. We breathe a sigh of relief, as we we no longer have to consider the possibility of an emergency detour to the US Embassy in Santiago in order to get more pages added to Lynn's passport.

We arrived in Puerto Natales and found a moderately priced hotel room. Things are slightly cheaper in Chile than in Argentina but not much. After checking into the hotel we took a walk down by the waterfront and looked at Last Hope Sound. The sky was cloudy, but the sun was also shining so it was very picturesque. The sound is ringed by mountains and fjords, some of which are shrouded in mist. The sun shines through in places, making halos around some of the mountains. We saw some black necked swans along the water's edge plus a lot of cormorants and seagulls.

Clocks are set one hour earlier in Chile than in Argentina so it is not yet time for dinner, which seems to be 9:00 pm according to two restaurants we checked. At 9:10 we went to the Captain Eberhard hotel dining room and got a window table overlooking Last Hope Sound. Dinner was good with fresh seafood, though I miss the pasta dishes prevalent in Argentina which don't seem as common in Chile.

The table next to us at dinner is taken by a group of about 8 loud Americans on some kind of expensive museum-sponsored tour. I suppose, in retrospect, that they are no louder than any of the French or Italian groups we have encountered. The difference is that we understand them, so they seem more intrusive. A loud group of Italians is, to our ears, no more intrusive than a vacuum cleaner. We listen as they play verbal games of oneupmanship regarding their knowledge and experiences of travel, mountaineering, etc. A relatively quiet older woman appears to be, by far, the most knowledgeable. Not surprisingly, she spends a lot more time actually LISTENING to the young local guide with whom she is having a conversation.

January 7, 1993 [Puerto Natales, Planning our Chilean Adventure]

After breakfast we went by the tourist info office to find out details for various options we may have. The manager working didn't speak English but was extremely helpful and was able to answer all of our questions including where to rent a car, how to get back to Rio Turbio on Sunday, how to reserve a room at Torres del Paine, etc. He spoke slowly, was quick to try synonyms when we looked lost, and pointed to the map a lot. Being able to communicate with foreigners (like us) is a real skill. I find it very hard when, at home, I try to speak to people whose native tongue is not English. Patience and creativity are much more useful than speaking loudly and waving one's hands! The manager is also the director of the Historical Museum of Puerto Natales and recommended we stop by in the afternoon.

We finished the morning going about the essentials of travel, money change, checking bus schedules, reserving future accommodations and so forth. To reserve our accommodations at Torres del Paine we went to an unmarked door on a residential street and rang a buzzer hoping we were at the right place, fortunately we were and reserved two nights at the Posada Rio Serrano in Torres del Paine National Park. We tried the Ultima Esperanza Res aurant (sic) for lunch and ordered two kinds of Salmon. The meal portions were again huge and I couldn't finish it all. I doubt I'd venture into a place called "Last Hope Restaurant" at home!

"If you don't like the weather, just wait 15 minutes," is (I think) from Mark Twain, and referred (I think) to Boston. We lived in Boston for four years and it never seemed especially apt (except by contrast with our current home, Pasadena). The phrase captures Chilean Patagonia perfectly. It was raining (a real downpour) when we woke up. It dried up but was chilly, so I put on my down jacket to go out. An hour or so later the sun came out and the jacket was unbearably warm. A period of scattered showers and drizzle followed by sun again with beautiful bright double rainbows followed by another heavy rain rounded the day. The second I decided to put on the goretex rain pants in the afternoon the rain stopped.

We're having some fun now! We rented a car, apparently the only rental car the town has. Rental car contracts can be complicated enough in English, but when they are in Spanish! When we were told "The odometer is broken", after agreeing to a price structure, we were afraid that we were in for a rip-off. The rental agent, however, agent suggested that he would charge us for 400 km which is exactly what we had been figuring in our own calculations.

The car is a 1980 Toyota Corona so it has most of the controls (wipers, lights, etc.) where we are used to finding them on our Toyota at home. I'm glad we're used to driving a manual. We were asked if we wanted to take the car to Argentina which we don't plan to do, but it is allowed. In Argentina we had checked out car rental. When we mentioned a desire to go to Chile we were met with a face of utter horror and violent protestations that it is not possible. Strange.

We drove off in the car looking for the Historical Museum but drove past without spotting it. We went over and up the next street planning to do another loop but passed our hotel and decided it made more sense to park the car and walk back to the museum. The guy at the car rental agency told us it was safe to leave the car unlocked but we're in the habit of always locking up, so we do so here as well.

We went back on foot and almost walked by the museum without seeing it, but spotted it at the last minute. It was another example of a small museum trying very hard, and doing an extremely commendable job with obviously limited resources. Several nicely laid out rooms contain artifacts of historical significance to the town of Puerto Natales. Pieces include some family heirlooms from the Eberhard family, reproductions of ancient rock-paintings in the area, a photocopy of issue #1, volume #1 of the local newspaper (date around 1900), old navigational instruments and charts, an old canoe, and various wood and stone implements of native design. Ample descriptions are provided (alas, in Spanish), and we take the time to dissect some of them.

Cueva Milodon

Next, we decided to test out the car and headed out to the Milodon Cave 25 km from town. We had to stop and wait for a skunk to get out of the road. It was just contentedly minding its own business as it slowly crossed the street with no concern about the car. The many rabbits on the other hand, quickly bounded out of the way as we passed. As we drove the play of sunlight on the clouds and mountains produces some really striking scenery. We both feel strangely exhilarated being somehow caught up in the freedom of having our own transportation. We are (temporarily) free of bus and plane schedules, hotels, restaurants, tourist offices, border guards and all the rest. We're on VACATION, on our own in Chilean Patagonia, without a care (and without a clue)! On the way out of town was a large billboard devoted to a road map of the surrounding area. We hand-copied onto a page of our logs, and referred to it on several occasions in the next few days.

The Milodon is one of the numerous large animals that lived in South America until quite recently (by geologic standards). It was the subject of some amusing scientific controversies in the 19th century with various claims of live sightings and large well-funded expeditions mandated with the task of bringing one back alive. An intact skin was found in the 1890s 25 km north of Puerto Natales in the cave which is now part of the national park system. The cave has, by now, been picked clean of all trace of the milodon, but the tourist is treated to a plaster "artist's impression" of a life-size milodon reared up on its hind legs. The cave itself is more of a huge depression in the side of a hill. It's about 100m wide, 10m high and 100m deep, so there's plenty of light all the way to the back. We were there all alone and the acoustics were very interesting. There was water dripping and lots of echoes, and young stalactites (maybe 30cm long) growing in the big cavern. We took a different route back to town and made it safe and sound in time to get dinner. We stopped along the way for a photo opportunity of a group of cows who seemed intensely interested in our passing automobile.

January 8, 1993 [Torres del Paine National Park]

We set off for Torres del Paine in the rented car going up Ruta 9. It's about 160 km over unpaved road so the ride is pretty bumpy and dusty but overall the road is in quite good shape with not too many potholes. We pass many estancias and a few hostelerias, one of which looks quite expensive. The estancias appear to be much more closely spaced in Chile than Argentina. Perhaps this is a result of "land reform" which broke up the large estancias and redistributed the land to the peasants. At Cerro Castillo we stop at a police checkpoint where they record my passport number. There is reputedly a gas station in Cerro Castillo but we don't see it. The weather was clear and the trip took ~3.5 hours.

After Cerro Castillo the road deteriorates somewhat. We saw some rheas including a mother rhea with two awkward looking baby rheas. They have a very awkward gait in which the feet seem to lift up too far from the ground, as though they are always doing the football-drill involving running through automobile tires. The great thing about having a rental car is being able to stop and take a closer look at the wildlife or other interesting sites as you pass by and we stopped many times. Once inside the park we started seeing lots of guanacos, relatives of the llama. They seem to have little or no fear or interest in the car, and we were able to drive up and stop next to them and watch them play with each other and seemingly strike poses for us: front leg up, head in profile; body in profile, head turned toward camera, etc.

As we drive on we encounter incredible views of the Torres del Paine massif. Huge spikes of granite, soaring about 3000m vertically with glaciers pouring off in between. The Torres del Paine are favorites of photographers because of their striking size and shape. Look for them in any book of mountain photography. The entire 3000m vertical height is visible from the roads and trails throughout the park.

We pass around the southern side of the massif and proceed down the Paine river, past Pehoe lake and the expensive Pehoe hotel which has an absolutely stunning view of Cerro Paine and the Cuernos del Paine. We cross the Paine river by a very rickety wooden bridge, and finally reach our lodging at Posada Rio Serrano.

After checking in we continue another 18 km to Gray Lake. We were warned that this road was "very terrible" by the rental agent. It was definitely more suitable for a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but our 13yr old economy car survived the trip there and back without incident.

At the end of the road we park the car and get out to cross a sturdy but distressingly flexible suspension footbridge ("carga maxima 500kg") across a rushing river. The high winds set the bridge in motion despite the best efforts of the travelers to de-excite resonances. On the other side is a path about 0.5 km long that takes one to a rocky beach from which you can see the Gray Glacier in the distance and watch the icebergs that have broken loose and are floating about, some near the shore. Some trick of perspective makes the "beach" look smaller than it really is, as is obvious when one notices that the tiny dots moving across the landscape are people. It's probably about 1.5km across the pebbles and stones to the shore where the icebergs have run aground. The icebergs have been shaped by wind and sun into some spectacular shapes. Giant blue-white mushrooms and lumps of swiss-cheese rising up out of the water. The water was very cold, but it didn't stop a family with 3 children from frolicking in the water with the icebergs. The father also had an ax and chopped some ice off to fill up the family's picnic cooler. I was cold and I was both dry and wearing a down jacket, but there was an extremely strong wind.

On the way to dinner we picked up a couple of Argentine hitchhikers and dropped them a few kilometers closer to wherever they were going. Communication was difficult. We thought they were going to the same hotel where we were planning to have dinner, but when we got there they headed off down the road. Nevertheless, they were quite happy to be a few km closer to their final destination. We discovered that the back door of the rental car wouldn't open from the inside, which was amusing when the two guys tried to get out.

For dinner we had another adventure in travel dining. We decided to go to the dining room of the expensive hotel Pehoe which is located on an island in one of the lakes. The hotel is in a lovely setting and the dining room has an amazing view of the Cuernos del Paine and Torres del Paine, as well as lakes, glaciers, and forests.

We arrived before dinner began and I waited in a sort of lounge area adjacent to the dining room while John went off to find a bathroom. Other people were also waiting here. A waitress came and asked if she could help me. I wanted to tell her that I was waiting for it to be dinner time but what came out was probably more like "I want the dinner." She started rattling off a lot of stuff which went too fast for me to understand then she went off and came back with a list and started reading. I didn't recognize any of the words! It turned out that she was telling me what was included in the set dinner, but in French!

John came back about then and things became a little more confused. The waitress got us menus and place settings and went about serving us dinner where we were rather than in the dining room. The view was just as good from our table, but we still have no idea why we weren't seated in the dining room. Perhaps we had asked not to be? The food turned out to be very good, but the atmosphere, at least in our minds, was pretty weird. The waitress was very attentive during the entire meal, which was a first for Patagonia. All of the restaurants we have visited have been massively understaffed. Typically there is one very busy waiter or waitress for a room with 10 or 15 tables. The kitchens (by inference) are similarly understaffed, as orders appear to be prepared one-at-a-time, in the order they are received. This enforces a leisurely pace for the meal, which is entirely enjoyable if one knows to expect it. Things got even stranger after we paid. We were about to leave when the waitress brought us a dozen or so tea bags and told John to put them in his backpack. We had had tea with dinner, but all we can figure is it was her way of trying to make up for a slightly confusing meal.

January 9, 1993 [Torres del Paine]

Our luck with the weather didn't hold today and we had a gray drizzly day. It never rained really hard but just enough that things were wet.

When we got up in the morning, we discovered that one of our rear tires was flat. We are unsure whether we drove any distance on the flat because the roads are so bumpy that we might never have noticed. More likely, however, is that we developed a slow leak on the "very terrible" road to the Gray glacier, and the flat developed overnight. The Posada Rio Serrano employs a mechanic, Mario, who was able to change the tire for us. This was fortunate since the jack in the trunk of the car lacked a handle, and we would have had to jury-rig something had the mechanic not been present with his tools.

After Mario finished changing the tire we used one of the phrases in our little pocket Spanish phrase book, "Can you repair the puncture in this tire?" This is one of those phrases that, looking through the book in the bookstore at home, you think: I'll never, ever use that phrase. We are a bit annoyed with the Berlitz phrase book, since it doesn't contain a Spanish-to-English dictionary. Thus, while we can piece together phrases from the pre-fabricated modules in the book and the English-to-Spanish dictionary, it is no help at all for deciphering "Avisos" posted in hotel rooms or descriptions written in park literature. Mario took the tire away and we got it back later repaired. There was a 900 peso (less than $3) charge, not a bad deal.

After breakfast we took a short but steep walk on one of the nearby trails. We sat at the hulk of a burned tree and looked out over our hotel and various lakes and valleys below. There was a light (and occasionally moderate) rain, but we have good rain protection for everything except our feet. John as all-leather hiking boots and Lynn has leather/nylon uppers. Both of us had very wet feet from walking through damp grass. Wool socks helped (warm even when wet?) but it was still a bit sloshy. The terrain had a lot of slate some broken pieces in chunks and much ground into black sand. There were some wild string beans growing plus a lot of plants I can't identify. They were mostly thorny or spiky kinds of shrubs. There were also some large fat brown fuzzy bees harassing the wild flowers.

We got back to the Posada at 3:00. Lunch was over at 2:00 pm, but we asked if we could get something to eat and at first they pointed to the sign indicating that lunch ended at 2:00. We left somewhat disappointed. Five minutes later the girl who had told us nothing was available knocked on the door of our room and explained that the kitchen could still prepare grilled ham-and-cheese sandwiches. We returned to the lounge and had a delicious and much appreciated lunch.

It seems that we have repeatedly misinterpreted various non-verbal cues (facial expression, mannerisms, intonations) as being surly and unhelpful, and then interpreted the spoken words in light of our misapprehension. Thus, instead of continuing to pursue the possibility that the kitchen might be able to put something together, we retired to our room to review the caloric content of an old piece of bread and a half liter of orange juice. In fact, the staff at both hotels (Pehoe and Serrano) have been friendly, accommodating and overtly helpful (e.g., actually pursuing us to tell us that the kitchen can be re-opened, attempting to communicate in French because they thought that was our language).

We went out for another walk in the evening. This one was much longer than the morning's walk and went by an area on the Rio Paine with a waterfall and wandered "over hill and dale" past some crystal clear lakes with black sand beaches and reflections of the mountains in them.

The path ends at a bluff overlooking a broad river (more of a flowing lake) directly under the Cuernos and Torres del Paine. From here, the tops are lost in mist about 1km north and 3km up. We hear loud rumblings from the general direction of the mountain. We are unsure whether it is thunder, or avalanches. There is no visual evidence for either, but there is considerable cloud cover around the peaks. We passed half a dozen other people out on this trail, in contrast with the morning when we saw one sole other hiker.

We finished up and went back to the Posada for dinner which was good but we had far too much food. Once again the staff here were really nice. When we ordered we were told that a big group had the kitchen busy. We initially thought we were being told we couldn't have dinner. We quickly figured out that they were just warning us that it would be a 45 minute wait, and we might find it more comfortable to wait in the lounge/bar or in our room, and they would inform us when our dinner could be prepared.

January 10-11, 1993 [A muddled day with an overnight bus ride]

We got up and checked out of the Posada Rio Serrano and took 4 hours to drive out of Torres del Paine National park. We stopped the car many times and got out to walk among the guanacos and rheas. Interestingly, the guanacos are less afraid of cars than people. If one happens to be standing next to the road you can drive up and park about 10ft away. When you get out, he ambles away to a comfortable 30ft and continues going about his business (grazing). No matter how quietly and unthreateningly one moves, he always ambles away when you get within 20ft. No panicky moves or jumpiness. Just a realization that the grass looks more appetizing a few feet away.

Many of the males were engaged in some kind of mating/dominance behavior that involved loud "barking", and brief but fairly violent clashes. There were also quite a few high-speed chases at a full gallop across the hills. The guanacos (pronounced "Huanaco") are about the size of a large deer, and it would not be wise to get in the way of one moving at a full gallop.

At one point we saw (with binoculars) a large adult rhea with a large group of babies following behind. They were quite far away (maybe 300m) and by the time we got there on foot they were long gone.

We also saw a large group of condors circling some unknown misfortune about 1/2 km distant. The condors were clearly recognizable in the binoculars, and they were clearly circling en masse over something. Intervening hills prevented us from seeing what had attracted their attention.

The most amusing part of the day came when we found a guanaco kindergarten. According to park literature, guanacos are born in November, so the young ones were only 2 months old. We were walking around a few hundred meters from the road and as we crested a ridge we saw about 20 babies all in one place. Many were sleeping and others were up and about, exploring the world around them. After we had been watching for about 15 minutes, we saw, entering from stage left, a classic "ugly duckling." It was clearly lost, as the nearest water was about 1km distant. It waddled straight into the middle of the kindergarten where it quickly became the center of attention. The baby guanacos would approach, cautiously sniffing, ears alert. When they got within a few inches the duckling would emit a "QUACK", and the guanacos would jump back shocked. This went on for about 20 minutes, after which the duckling presumably decided that none of the guanacos sufficiently resembled its mother. The duckling walked off, with a couple of the more adventuresome guanacos following behind. When we last saw it, it had safely re-crossed the road, and was at least on the side of the road with the nearby lake. Question: Why did the duckling cross the road?

Luck with the weather was back with us and we had clear skies all day. After leaving the park we picked up the pace for the drive back to Puerto Natales to turn in the rental car. We almost certainly have enough gas to reach Cerro Castillo, where we were told there's a gas station. And if that red, liquid-filled can in the trunk holds gasoline, then we almost certainly have enough gas to get all the way to Puerto Natales. Note the not-quite-certain qualifiers here. Who? Us? Worry?

When we reached Cerro Castillo the car's gas guage was nearly on empty so we decided to put some effort into finding the gas station. After circling the town (all the streets) once we inquired at the hotel about where to buy gas. This time, rather than relying on directions that might include a poorly comprehended "al frente", or the like, we asked the day manager to draw a map, which took him by surprise but which he quickly saw the virtue in. He directed us to "a little white house with a blue roof down the street, ask for Raul Cardenas." What could be simpler?

We found it, or more accurately Sr. Cardenas found us scratching our heads and wondering if there could really be a gas pump in this little building with a Mobil bumper sticker on the window. Sure enough the gas pump was housed in a little shed and the nozzle and hose were pushed out through a tiny door like a doggy door. The price was 190 pesos/liter just about $2/gal. The pump itself was a real vintage collectors item. The only thing I can compare it to would be pictures of the service stations on old Route 66. We filled up and drove back to Puerto Natales without major incident. Lynn learned the meaning of "fishtail", and subsequently we drove at a somewhat reduced speed. Fortunately there was no oncoming traffic and she kept the car on the road.

Yesterday we met the cyclist whom we had last seen disembarking from our Calafate->Rio Turbio bus back in Argentina several days ago. We talked with him for a while and we agreed that if we saw him on the road today we would stop and carry some of his gear on to Puerto Natales. We kept an eye out for him, but he must have been stopped for lunch when we passed by. Alas.

We think we probably went 425-450 km so the 400 km we agreed on was in the right ballpark. After returning the car we had an hour until the bus took us back into Argentina to Rio Turbio. The border check was no problem though the Argentine official seemed to need to look long and hard before he found a blank corner where he could put the entry stamp in my passport. The Chilean exit stamp had taken the last half empty visa page.

In Rio Turbio we had 4 more hours to kill before the bus scheduled to return us to Rio Gallegos departed. Rio Turbio is a coal mining town. Coal mining towns, don't, as a general rule, have much in the way of tourist amenities. We first killed 10 minutes with the walking tour of downtown Rio Turbio. Then we spent the rest of the time at the hamburger/pizza joint which had quite decent hamburgers. It also seemed to be the local young peoples' hangout. Several groups of young women would come in and get pizza and sit for a while and occasionally they would be joined by young men. The place was mostly full of young women, however.

When midnight rolled around the dirtiest-bus-in-the-world was ready to carry us on our way. It was beyond dirty. It was almost as if the bus company was experimenting with a method of preserving the paint by hermetically sealing it under a uniform layer of mud. The mud covered the entire bus, top to bottom, including the windows. It's good it was night time as any view was completely blocked by the caked-on mud. The bus trip went by comfortably, however, and we both slept fitfully for most of the 7 hours. In the morning we were completely unable to reconstruct how many times we stopped, or how many people got on or off, but we are certain that for at least some of the trip there were many people standing in the aisle. We arrived in Rio Gallegos, back on the eastern coast of Argentina at 7:00 am.

(continued - go to part 3)

Lynn Salmon <>{