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Published: November 23rd 2010
Travelling is harder than it looks, folks. We arrived in the Buenos Aires domestic arport at 9 pm on Feb. 3rd for our 11 pm flight to Rio Gallegos. There was no need to show up so early as the airport was practically empty. They had to turn on the X-ray machine at security just for us. In fact, there was less than no need to show up early - thunderstorms had delayed our flight until a miserable 1:40 am.
We arrived at the Rio Gallgeos airport around 5 am. A pretty awkward time since we were catching a bus mid-afternoon to Punta Arenas, and it was too late to bother checking in a hotel anywhere. Soon, we discovered our situation was even worse - Eva's backpack did not arrive! They told us to expect it on the 11 am flight. We were a bit concerned as our bus ride was at 1 pm. We could do nothing else but settle on the hards seats in the airport and try to get a little bit of sleep until the plane arrived, which was quite difficult and uncomfortable on the hard wooden seats. 11 am came and went with no plane.
Sleeping in the airport
is not very comfortable...
However we did run into a friendly couple - Kirsten and Antonio, whom we had met earlier in Bolivia. Antonio, who came from Mexico, was kind enough to lend his Spanish voice to our complaints. The airline staff said the plane was expected later that afternoon, but that they would make amends if our plans were messed up.
We taxied to the bus station where we changed our bus ticket. Our orginal plan was to bus to Punta Arenas, and then onto Puerto Natales (both in Chile) the next day. The direct bus from Rio Gallegos to Puerto Natales only ran on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It now made sense just to wait for the direct bus on Saturday. Either way, we were losing a whole day of travel time from our tight schedule. We returned to the airport by taxi. Antonio was gone by then, and we had to plead our case on our own. We were a bit surpised at how quickly and easily Aerolilneas came through. We gave them our taxi receipts and receipt for the bus change. A few minutes later, and they gave us cash in hand. Plus, they booked us into Hotel Santa Cruz,
the best hotel in town, and even gave us a voucher for dinner! They called us a taxi to the hotel and said they would send Eva's backpack along when it arrived.
We finally got some sleep in our comfortable room in the Hotel Santa Cruz. The backpack arrived later that afternoon. The complimentary hotel supper was decent enough, and we had wine to go with it. The next day, we were back on our own funds. We switched to the reasonable, but cheaper Hotel Paris. Don't ask me how they named it. Later, a long lunch (slow service) afforded us some time to check out the locals. While the indigenous population is confined to the north, and the bulk of the population are descendants of the Spanish, many people in the Patagonia area originated from Northern European countries, like Scotland. Although they spoke Spanish, the two waitresses were blond. They were the first non-foreign blond-haired people we had seen in Latin America.
After lunch, Eva went back to bed while I went for a walk. I figured I should at least see the Rio Gallegos (the river) since the town was named after it. The air was
Rio Gallegos waterfront
Too windy and not much to look at.
cold, in a late fall kind of way, even though it was supposed to be summer. A lot of the cold came from a hard, wet wind that was blowing the whole time we were there. The houses were almost all single dwellings, made of wood and covered with vinyl framing. They are exactly like the homes in suburbs back in Canada and the US. It was the first time I had seen houses like this since we left Florida in September. I walked to the mouth of the river at the edge of the town. It was wide enough to transport cargo ships, though I'm not sure how deep. Black and rippled with waves, it looked extremely cold. There was a bluff on the other side of the river which was barren except for some patchy grass and the occasional shrub. As I stood there fighting the cold and wind, I was reminded again of Newfoundland, even more so than I had been on Lake Titicaca. Given their proximity to the Atlantic and similar equitorial distances, I would not be surprised if Newfoundland and coastal Patagonia had similarities in climate and flora. The mere impression of similarity was uncanny
- it looked so much like Newfoundland! I left the river after a few minutes and hurried back to the hotel. I was afraid to linger, lest I run into my southern Doppelganger and we both disappear in a burst of light. I showed Eva my pictures and we both agreed it was best that she had not come. We rested well on our second obligatory night in Rio Gallegos and were up early for our bus to Puerto Natales, Chile, gateway to the famous Torres del Paine.
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