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Published: March 10th 2018
After the conquest of Fitzroy we decided to take a leisurely stroll from the estancia into town the next day. The weather had changed and we realised why the books give a very short window of opportunity to visit Patagonia. The window was definitely shutting and the wind was simply ferocious. We had been so lucky with the weather but it was good to be reminded that we are very very small and the forces of nature and God are very very large. As we supped a morning coffee in our favourite cafe in town, the view through the picture windows reminded me of cowboy westerns, vegetation blowing about, people stumbling around, doors banging and breaking etc. We were relieved to have completed all the hillwalking we’d planned.
Next day we set off, saying a sad farewell to Patagonia, on a marathon bus and plane journey to San Fernando, just south of Santiago, to see an Argentinian Rodeo and visit a wine harvest festival (fiesta de Vendimia). A two day trip; two bus journeys totalling 10 hours to a stop-over hostel arriving at 9 pm and leaving again the following morning at 0645. The proprietor was a very helpful chap
with a strong Leeds accent who had married a local girl in Puerto Natales having met her whilst working in the Falklands. Next morning we had 2 hours in the bus then hours to kill in the airport to take the plane up to Santiago and then bus to San Fernando for a final 2 hours.
We had met several people who had been sophisticatedly mugged by groups in the bus stations of Santiago so were highly vigilant and stressed having got the taxi from the airport. There are at least four bus stations in Santiago so we were uncertain a to whether we would get to the right one. Got out of the taxi into the concourse to find a square of tightly packed queues all trying to buy tickets to destinations of no interest to us. Pete was doing a bouncing bomb impression with heavy rucksacks front and back. Innocent bystanders were sent skittling in all directions as he kept his hands clamped to his pockets. I (Pete) had previously secreted the most valuable items so intimately that only a surgeon could have reached them. In fact we had lots of help to get us going in the right direction. We had arrived at the wrong bus station but the right one was nearby even though it ‘s name wasn’t what we had been looking for.....A helpful official went out of his way to walk us over to the bus companies booth we needed. I was struggling to keep together with Jan whilst trying no to maim anyone permanently. For a short and anxious time Jan lost me and we were reduced to shouting across the crowds. The bus we needed arrived at the wrong bus stand about 10 minutes after it was due to depart. Another lovely lady ensured we got it safely.
Depending on other peoples kindness when vulnerable and lost has been both stressful and yet a wonderful affirmation that generally people want to help their fellow man. Whether it’s because people can’t believe that someone has let us leave home in such a state or whether people see us as a representation of their own Mum and Dad, or whether we just look so pathetic that people realise that SOMEONE had better help us, I don’t know but we have met nothing but helpful, friendly and slightly bemused people every step of the way. Lovely.
We walked from the bus stop in San Fernando to the hotel. It hadn’t actually opened as was still under construction but it was all we could find on the net and as we were arriving at 9pm we wanted to book something in advance. When we got there (not that we knew we had arrived as there were few numbers on the buildings and we had the wrong number anyway) a couple of men asked if I was Peter. This is not as surprising as it might seem, as foreigners seemed to be rather a novelty hereabouts and there had been much gawking at us (or was it due to their fear of being injured by a human cannonball). We ended up in a nice en suite swish room for the next three days, where we took breakfast on the office chair and armchair. The public rooms were looking years off completion and we suspect someone was making the most of the pressure on accommodation due to the two local festivities that weekend.
The festivities of the rodeos and the vendimia will be revealed in the next chapter .....let this photo whet your appetite for what is to come!
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