Journey to the End of the Earth

It was an early morning for us. We agreed that in order to leave with an adequate amount of time for us to make our flight to Punta Arenas that we should probably be leaving Valparaiso by 8 a.m. So at 6:30 a.m. Lynn’s alarm went off and we got to business packing our bags. We also attempted to shower but decided that the cold water (we had yet to get hot water out of our shower) was just not going to cut it. I guess it’s going to be a stinky day. We were on our way back down Mariposas Hill at 7 a.m. taking in the beauty of the twinkling street lights as the sun was just starting to rise.
Unlike the uphill, the downhill took only 15 minutes and we were able to catch the next Turbus headed to Santiago at 7:30 a.m. This trip we spent most of our time sleeping with our only disruptions being the bus stopping to let others off or on along the way.

We arrived at Pajaritos bus station in Santiago and intended to find a quick breakfast, but gave up when we realized that their ordering process was ridiculous. Step 1: Order at the counter (server gets your order together and prints a receipt for your items). Step 2: Pay the cashier (or really wait in line for a second time). Step 3: Retrieve your items from the server (or, you know, attempt to catch their eye while they are busy serving other customers). Instead we caught another quick bus go the airport where we checked-in alongside a sleeping quiltro and proceeded through a line staffed by very disinterested security.

By this point we were famished so we picked one of the two sit down options and ordered. When the food came, Doug’s prosciutto pizza was very much not one with beef, chicken, and what appeared to be BBQ sauce on it (we didn’t realize that was a thing here either). He managed to get it sorted with the waitress and received the correct one a short while later but not before grumbling about how waiters and waitresses should just write things down and we wouldn’t have this problem.

It was a surprise to us when we finally boarded our flight that it was a direct to Punta Arenas because we were pretty sure that we had booked two legs, but we were not complaining. All went smoothly for the majority of the flight. We both worked through our books while every so often peeking out the windows to catch a glimpse of the passing fjords beneath us. That is until we started descending and making our way through the clouds where we hit some serious turbulence. OK, that’s fine. We’d had turbulence before especially due to clouds, but once below them the turbulence got even worse and we could visibly see the issue thanks to the huge whitecaps on the water below us. We had a few significant falls, plane rolls of at least 30 degrees, and yaw adjustments with similar force all thanks to the gusts of wind. Needless to say, it was not a nice approach. On landing we seemed to have placed the wheels a bit too late and the force of the flaps combined with more wind made the plane start to angle against the runway. Luckily we had two very good pilots who chose to instead take off again rather than risk the plane rolling with 200+ people in it. The bad news for us was that we had to sit through it all again. Lynn was pretty sure they were going to need to land us in Argentina since the wind hadn’t died down and Doug was sure we were just going to crash (but the odds were good that we’d survive because we were healthy… I like that optimism, Doug). Thankfully we landed 30 minutes later, our hearts pounding 10x faster than normal and our clothes soaked through with sweat, but we were alive!!!!!!!!!! We can see another day!!!!!!!!

Ads were everywhere...
Ads were everywhere…tormenting us with our likely inability to see them…

When we pulled into the gate we could really appreciate the impact the wind was having. Our very large plane was shaking, back and forth, back and forth, after we had stopped to deplane. The stairs we descended on required that you grab both rails with both hands. The windsock on the runway was perfectly perpendicular to its pole. And to top it all off, it took the baggage team 45 minutes to reposition the plane into the wind and wait for the wind to die slightly to be able to collect our luggage. It was OK with us because it took that amount of time for Lynn’s heart to calm down.
We only had 15 minutes now (originally it had been 2 hours) until our bus to Puerto Natales was due to pick us up so we scarfed down ice cream to hold us over until dinner that wouldn’t be until 3+ hours later.

The repositioned plane and wind-blown flight staff.
The repositioned plane and wind-blown flight staff.
That's some wind.
That’s some wind.

Our bus was right on time (despite some confusion on our end with other buses from the same company) and we loaded up and once again started back up with our books. The passing landscape was just what you’d expect of Patagonia: rolling grassy hills, majestic horses, and hungry cattle. Any trees taller than waist-high appeared to grow at an angle, so the effects of the (common) wind did not go unnoticed.

At 8:30 p.m. we rolled into Puerto Natales and easily greeted our Airbnb hosts, Osmar and his wife who were nice enough to give us a ride from the bus station to the house. Fun fact: they speak very little English and we speak just as much Spanish, but the tour through our mini-home on the back of their property went smoothly and we couldn’t be more excited to cook again.

We spent the next hour rejoicing at being alive by sharing a pitcher of craft beer from the brewery in town, burgers, and guacamole. Even after that we were able to just barely make it to the grocery store to collect items for lunch tomorrow before returning to our home. We delighted in hot showers and thick bedding since Patagonia seems to be very, very cold.

Toast to victory!
Toast to victory!
We were very hungry.
We were very hungry.

Daily Walking Mileage: 4.7

Fun Facts:

  • 10% tips seem to be the norm in Chile. Every receipt we’ve received has 10% already calculated and added to the bill, but when you pay by credit card the server always asks if you want to include it. So is it an option or not?
  • Strangely enough, over the course of this trip, we have both acquired plane anxiety. It may be due to the frequency or the fact that 3 of our 5 worst flights have been in the past 6 months.
  • Punta Arenas sits at 53 degrees latitude. It is officially the furthest south either of us has been.

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