Journey to the end of the world

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South America » Chile » Magallanes » Punta Arenas
November 1st 2019
Published: January 21st 2020
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R: So it has taken me a while to get round to the blog for this with Christmas in the way, but I took a lot of notes when I was away on this trip so I hope I can re-create the experience for you. The next 10 days was going to be a whirlwind trip to Patagonia - somewhere we failed to get to on our world trip. This time I was travelling solo (being in term time so Cate couldn't join, plus it involved a lot of hiking, which Cate is not a fan of). So on Friday 1st November, I headed to Heathrow after work, rucksack packed, seemingly with too much stuff for my 10 day trip. I would be camping on this trip so there was more to think about than on most trips.

I had a night flight to Sao Paulo, and somehow managed to wangle an extra leg room seat. I settled in and was in Sao Paulo by morning - just in time for the rugby world cup final. I made my way off the plane into the terminal for my 5 hour wait. I soon found a sports/coffee/bar that was showing the match with Brazilian commentary. I ordered a coffee and empanadas (cornish pasty-like, South American goodness), and watched England lose the match. Firstly I noticed that there was no one else watching the match in the airport (obviously not rugby fans in Brazil!). Secondly I wondered whether it was acceptable to order beer, or even Caipirinhas at 6am local time.... I decided to be restrained and after the match I headed to the Star Alliance lounge which was free with my credit card for some relaxation. They had great reclining seats with views over the airport which I could sink into and call home. Plus free food, coffee and drinks - so I had 2 Brazilian beers, just for prosperity. Then it was on to my next flight to Santiago, a very bumpy 4 hours on over the Andes.

I should have had time in Santiago, but my flights had been cancelled and re-scheduled, so I arrived at 4pm, before my 6am flight to the end of the world. Not being a "backpacker" anymore, I had booked a hotel for this evening with plans to take an Uber into town, but soon gave up on that, having been travelling for over 24 hours already. After my first Patagonia beer, a sit in the 25°C sunshine and a plate of Cerviché, ribs and creamed corn, I headed to bed. At 4am, I was up again, and back to the airport.

I was meeting my group at 6pm in Punta Arenas, the most southerly city in Chile, situated directly on the Magellan strait. The weather hadn't been so good there of late and it was a pretty bumpy landing. As soon as I got out of the plane, I realised it was time for the padded gilet I had panic bought just before I set off - it was about 20°C cooler in Punta Arenas. I opted for the cheap option to take me to the hotel, which was the £5 shared shuttle, that only left when it was full (so I had to wait and talk to the driver for about 45 mins), and went EVERYWHERE on the way to the hotel, including a navy base, a brewery and a lot of peoples' homes. When I arrived at the hotel, I nervously approached the desk. I have never travelled like this before, so wasn't sure how the group would work. I was shown to a fairly plain twin room, which I was sharing, but my roommate hadn't arrived yet, so I headed off into the city.

Its a pleasant enough place with a pretty square, lined with colonial looking villas. There is a mountain top viewpoint where you can see all the colourful rooftops and an incredible cemetery lined with Cypress trees where you can review the tombs of oceanic explorers of note who passed through the Magellan strait over their time. This all added up to a half day worth of attractions. My guide book also recommended the indigenous museum, which was supposed to be open, was a long walk, and then wasn't. I had lunch at a place called Lomitos which was famous for it's ... Lomitos - a steak sandwich with trimmings essentially. I also took this opportunity to familiarise myself with the local hot sauces and beers finding a rather good Yagan ale.

The town was somewhat smashed up when I visited; there had been riots in most of the major cities, sparked by an increase in metro fares in Santiago, that ended up becoming a larger movement. What was interesting is the damage was only to national and international businesses and the local businesses had been left alone. But there was a lot of boarding up, a lot of glass on the ground and a lot of graffiti. Also, all the ATMs in town had been removed so I was glad I had stocked up with cash in Santiago. I headed for a walk along the coast, getting battered by the strong winds and occasional rain shower. I had a brief trip out onto the beach and put my feet in the Magellan strait, before finding an "artesanal market" which was pretty grim and smelled strongly of rotten fish - I think it doubled as a fish market for the locals.

It was time to meet the group - I headed back and found a British guy in my room, Stuart, who had flown down from Santiago that day. After the formalities were dealt with, we headed out for dinner and drinks. Some of the group had been together in Santiago as well, and I ended up part of this sub-section of the group quickly. The group were pretty mixed, from 26 to 62 in age, mainly from English speaking nations (US, UK, Canada, NZ, Aus) with an additional lady from Hong Kong, and a Swiss guy who was overly interested in Brexit. The meal was fairly average, I opted for the Lomo (Pork) with Patagonia Sauce (because, you'd have to try the Patagonia sauce!) but the beer was good. It was good to get to know the team before we headed off into the national parks.

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