Well its now been about four months since my last blog post and after the urging of a certain someone I have decided to get back into it. A lot of stuff has happened since January but I should probably begin by telling a little story about our time in Patagonia and a certain ferry ride in Chile Chico.
So this summer (January-February) Cole and I went down to the ranch in Patagonia, where we had been earlier in September. Everyone we were living with went down there to spend the summer vacation so we figured it would be fun to go down there again and work on the farm and then as long as we were so far south we might as well go even farther south afterwards, to the end of Chile (and South America too). So we bought two round trip tickets. One from Santiago to Balmaceda (the airport in the middle of nowhere, 1 hour from Coyhaique, the captial of the Aysen Region of Chile, and 6 hours by bus over dirt roads to the ranch the Manquehue Movement has on the shores of Lago General Carrera). The other round trip ticket was from Balmaceda to Punta Arenas (pretty much the farthest south you can fly). So the plan was to fly to Balmaceda, go to the ranch, work and hang out there for about two weeks, then fly down to Punta Arenas and travel around there, then fly back to Balmaceda, and then back to Santiago. However, since we are living in South America, things didnt turn out exactly the way we wanted them to.
Our time on the farm was great. We were living in the mens house with about 8 other guys. Cole and I and Esteban (an alumni of San Lorenzo who wandered/hitch-hiked his way down to the farm and has been there for the past 6 months or so) worked on the farm while we were there. Some of our tasks include: tossing hay bales onto a trailer and then storing them in a barn, cutting down a bunch of grass and shrubs and making stuff look nice, cleaning and organizing one of the barns, and burning garbage (I know, dont ask).
So anyway, during this time we needed to buy bus tickets to get back to the airport for our flight to Punta Arenas. So one day when we were in the small town nearby Rodrigo and I went around asking if there was a bus that left on a Saturday that was going to the airport (our flight was on a Saturday). Turns out there was no bus on Saturdays but we found out that instead of taking the 6 hour direct bus over dirt roads we could take a bus on Friday to Chile Chico (east of the farm) then get on a ferry across the lake and then take a bus to Coyhaique, stay the night there and then get to the airport the next day. It sounded great to me at the time. We could break the long 6 hours up into smaller pieces, we could see Coyhaique and we could take a ferry across the second largest lake in South America. So we bought two tickets to Chile Chico and we were also able to buy the ferry tickets from the bus company too. (This bus company was run out of a butcher shop so in addition to being able to buy a trip by minivan to the nearest town, you can also buy assorted groceries and cuts of meat).
So our flight to Punta Arenas was Saturday Feb 14, which meant our bus trip was Friday Feb 13. Yes, February the 13th. So right away we were off to a bad start. Plus I started to get sick on Thursday and I woke up on Friday feeling like crap. But anway, the bus to Chile Chico comes to get us at the farm and we get into town about 3 hours later, but still with plenty of time to get to the ferry by 2 pm, or whenever it was supposed to leave. Right away we realized that Chile Chico is probably the windiest city in the world. No joke. So we escaped from the wind in an internet cafe and checked our email that we hadnt seen in about 4 weeks. Then we headed over to the port to wait for the ferry. After waited for several hours in the office without seeing anything that looked like a ferry or hearing any official announcement we talked some woman who looked like she was in charge. (she was also wearing way too much make-up and clothes that were way too tight) She told us that the conditions on the lake were pretty bad because of the wind (No, really?) and that the ferry wouldnt be leaving from the other side until 4 pm. Then at 4 pm when the ferry still didnt show up she told us that it was not going to come to today, but it would definitely come tomorrow. So Cole and I were like crap, that sure does suck (we may have said something a little more profane) but hey, we can still catch the ferry tomorrow, take the bus to the airport and make the flight. So the lady told us to come back tomorrow at 6 am to catch the ferry. Really, I said, 6 am? Are you sure. Yes sir, 6 am. Whatever. So we went around Chile Chico looking for a place with two beds for the night. And that is what we got. A room with two beds, and nothing else. Ok, there was a light and a light switch. But there was a kitchen and a shower and the price was right - $5000 pesos (like $9).
So we woke up early the next morning and headed over to the port in the dark to catch the ferry (it was still really windy, and although it was no longer Friday the 13th but Valentines Day, our luck didnt look like it was changing). And of course on the door of the office is a sign that says the ferry will be leaving the OTHER side at 6 am and getting to Chile Chico around 8:30. Thank you so much ugly ferry office lady. So anyway, the ferry finally gets to Chile Chico at around 10 am (or something like that, I dont remember all the details because it wasnt a very memorable experience). So we are all relieved. Everyone else waiting for the ferry is relieved because although it was still windy, everyone said that if the ferry crosses to one side, it ALWAYS goes back to the other side, so we would DEFINITELY be going to the other side. And so Cole and I were relieved because we would still make our flight. So we are all ready to get onto the ferry when the captain stands in our way and says that he is not going back.
Thats right, I have permission but I just dont want to risk it in this weather.
Yeah, I might go back over at like 2 pm, but who knows, I hope all you passengers dont have anywhere really important to go.
So Cole and I said to ourselves - well this is no good (%$&$#), but if this ferry DOES leave at 2 pm we can still just barely make the flight, I guess we will just have to wait around and put ourselves at the whim of mother nature and this captain guy. But here is where the plot thickens ( I hope you are still reading and/or paying attention). We called up the airline just to make sure that everything was the same with our flight and it turned out that our flight had been changed slightly and was now leaving 2 hours earlier. Darn ($#&*). Looks like even if this ferry does finally leave there is no way in hell we can get to our flight on time. I guess we better cancel that flight. So we did that and gloomily walked back to the ferry port realizing that our dream of seeing the end of the world, Parque Torres del Paine and above all some penguins, was ruined. At this point we figured we had few options
1. Hitchhike back to the farm and spend the rest of the time there then fly back to Santiago on our return flight
2. Wait around for the ferry and spend the rest of the time in and around Coyhaique and find something to do there.
We decided to wait around for the ferry. At this point I just wanted to get on that damn ferry and cross that stupid lake. I didnt care what was waiting on the other side. So we get back to the ferry office and hang out with the rest of the pissed off passengers. We start talking to these two Isreali guys about our age who had stayed in our hostel and we had talked to them before. They told us they had been in Chile Chico for about 5 days now waiting for the ferry and we told them about our problem and how we had to cancel our flight and miss our trip. They told us that we could still make it down to Punta Arenas if we went by bus, an idea that never occured to us. They said it was easy, although long. So we said, hell yeah, lets get the %&$& of Chile Chico! We walked down the street, just barely caught a bus across the Argentinian border to a town called Los Antiguos, and from there we just barely caught a bus to Perrito Moreno, a place we were told had a huge bus terminal with routes all over, including one to a town called El Calafate, which was also just a short bus ride to Puerto Natales, which was going to be our second destination after arriving in Punta Arenas. So we get into Perrito Moreno and ask one of the bus companies if there just happened to be a bus leaving anytime soon to El Calafate. Why yes of course there is a bus, that one right there leaves in 15 minutes. Awesome. We'll take it. How much? $170 Argentinian pesos or something. Uh oh, we dont have that much Argentinian money, let alone do we know what the exchange rate is! So we took off running into the center of town to hit up a cash machine. We got some pesos and took off running back towards the bus station, holding out our thumbs on the off chance that someone would pick us up, and sure enough a nice young man gave us a ride back to the bus station (our luck was finally changing). So we get back to the station and we are both sweating and I still feel kinda sick, just the kind of condition you want to be in when starting an 18 HOUR bus ride.
Before getting on the bus I asked the guy selling tickets if there was an easy way to get to either Coyhaique or the airport at Balmaceda from here. (Thinking about the trip back, because we were going to need to get back to Balmaceda for our flight to Santiago and we had cancelled our flights between Punta Arenas and Balmaceda because we didnt think we were going to go anymore.) So the guy tells me - There isnt really a way to go through Argentina but hey, you know what you can do, you can bus over to Chile Chico and then take a ferry across the lake and then bus to the airport.
No way in hell I am doing that!
So we get on the bus and it turns out it wasnt actually going to leave in 15 minutes (In Argentina, probably even more so that in Chile, things usually dont happen on time.) We left about 90 minutes later and began the trek down Route 40 thru Argentina. Which was sort of like driving on the moon. There was seriously nothing out there. It was a dirt road through barren pampas. At one point a saw a fence crossing the landscape and a few horses alongside the road but I had no idea where they were from because there was nothing but flat plains and mountains in the background as far as I could see. Anyway, the next day we finally got into El Calafate. From there we took a bus to Puerto Natales in Chile and were able to continue with the trip we had planned. We saw Torres del Paine (which was beautiful), went to a penguin colony in Punta Arenas and saw the southern-most brewery in the world, although those jerks wouldnt let us tour it, or even sell us a beer mug or t-shirt.
I will try to put some pics up at some point.
Well this has been way too long. I will try to write more about what else has been happening here in Chile. You know, stuff like what am I doing here, how is it going, etc, etc.
2 years ago