Day 1: Punta Arenas
We are off to Chile! From Chicago, it takes at least three flights to get to Punta Arenas, which is the southernmost city in the Americas. Since we are still scarred from the “Amsterdam incident”, we booked our tickets with plenty of time for layovers and jumped through all the hoops necessary to get confirmed seats on the “partner” airlines. Hooray!
Therefore, of course, the first thing we see on Friday afternoon is a text from American to notify us that our flight from Chicago to Miami is delayed by an hour and a half due to the previous flight coming in late. Nooo!!! Well… they ended up switching the plane and we didn’t have to wait for the late flight after all, so we were only delayed by an hour. Ok then.
We made it to Miami with plenty of time to catch our next flight. The extra time turned out to come in handy when we discovered that we had to exit the domestic terminals, walk across the airport, print our new boarding passes, go back through security, and make our way to the LATAM gates in the far end of Terminal J… as in “Terminal Jeez, that was far!” But no worries, we still had time to grab a sandwich before the flight.
The overnight flight to Santiago was pretty uneventful. We drank a couple Argentinian beers with dinner, fell asleep, and successfully woke up for breakfast. We ended up landing in Santiago a bit earlier than planned, which gave us about four hours until our next flight. We found our bags and went through customs without any problems.
From this point onward, we were no longer joined by the throngs of travelers headed to Santiago to see the total solar eclipse on July 2nd. We checked our bags again, and made our way to the domestic terminal for our final flight to Punta Arenas. We passed the time taking quick naps (when not being poked at by gruff old Chilean guy and his apologetic wife) and trying the local fare, i.e. the Marraqueta from McDonald’s. (Pro Tip: The Santiago McDonald’s airport coffee is terrible, but the KitKat blizzard is great!)
Finally, the time for our flight arrived and we boarded the bus to our plane on the tarmac. We settled in, quickly fell asleep, and after 24 hours of total travel, we were in Punta Arenas! The airport is very small with about six gates and two baggage carousels, so once we picked up our bags, we were swept up by a taxi driver offering us a ride to the city center.
After arriving at the hotel and quickly settling in, we made our way to the bar for our Calafate Sour welcome drink, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Calafate is a blueberry-like fruit, common to this region of Punta Arenas. It gets turned into a syrup, mixed with Pisco and lime, and makes a delicious drink. In search of some dinner, we walked a few blocks out of the hotel towards the restaurant area. We ventured through a park with a statute of Ferdinand Magellan, the local Cathedral, and a bonus Pride rally.
After checking out a few of the open restaurants (and by Ã¢â‚¬Ëœopen’ we mean Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtotally empty during the early bird special’), we decided to try a place called Restaurant Beagle, presumably named after the boat sailed by Charles Darwin and Captain Robert FitzRoy on expeditions thru and to Tierra del Fuego. Either that, or a showcase for a very eclectic interior designer.
We ended up back at the hotel fairly early in the night to catch up on some sleep and get ready for our first full day of adventures tomorrow.