Day 8: Torres del Paine/Santiago
Since we were the only guests leaving the hotel today, we were able to push our departure time back one hour to 9AM. Yay for more sleep! Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be sharp at breakfast when in the vicinity of Oxford and Cambridge academics.
For example, we overheard one gentleman (Steve) speaking with Roger (the head of the Oxford astrophysics department who spoke last night) and expressing his doubts with the theory that heavy elements are formed during the collision of neutron stars. Dr. Davies politely disagreed. Not sure Steve is going to win this one, but he does have a strong suit for details… he was the one who, after reading the captions by several photos on the walls in the hotel, jokingly recounted at least four of his favorite inaccuracies for his buddies.
When we were finally forced to leave, we met our driver, Rodrigo, who took us all the way back to the Punta Arenas airport. As consolation, we saw the sunrise over the Paine massif on our way out. After leaving the park boundary, nearly the entire route is estancias, or ranches, so we saw all sorts of animals. Notably… horses, dogs, guanacos, emus, llamas, lots of sheep, and even flamingos.
We made a pit stop at the same small restaurant and hotel (Rio Rubens) that we stopped at on the way in, ordering a final tasty meal from Explora and a couple sandwiches to go for later. We tried the black label Austral beer, and it was good, but maybe not the stout we heard about from the guides, so our search will continue on that front.
Back on the road, we passed thru a couple immigration checkpoints (any time a road from Argentina split off, basically) and made it back to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We checked in with ease – given there is only one security line and three gates – which was not surprising. We killed some time shopping at the gift shop and watching the start of the Chile vs. Argentina soccer match.
On the LATAM flight back to Santiago, we had a chance for one last surprise viewing of Torres del Paine National Park, as our flight path cruised just to the west of Paine Grande massif.
A few minutes later the flight path also took us just west of Los Glaciares National Park (which is in Argentina), and it looked pretty grand as well. Maybe we should go see that park next.
Nothing much to report after the flight, because we grabbed our bags and crossed the street to check in at the airport Holiday Inn. Quite a test to see if we get used to these regular old hotels again. We ate our sandwiches for dinner and flipped through the TV channels to see if anything was in English. We discovered Argentina beat Chile, MTV Chile doesn’t play music either, and one memorable car commercial featuring T-Rex skeletons. Then we found Ratatouille and the Dark Knight Rises on the movie channels and dozed off while working on the blog. Good news is that we don’t have to get up for anything tomorrow.