The end of the earth

Trip Start Apr 08, 2010
Trip End Jul 08, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Ilaia

Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Monday, April 12, 2010

We arrived in Punta Arenas on time, however, not without near mishap. We began this journey with many mantras, one of which was to take our time and not rush. Feeling rushed inevitably triggers my absentmindedness which usually leads to misplacing, losing or forgetting things (you see where this is going).

I had a very fitful flight. The ventilation was poor (or maybe it was just my hiking boots and down vest causing me to overheat!) and we had two less than disciplined children in front of us. Sam, meanwhile, was comfortable kindling his face off. There must be some kind of speed reading award out there just waiting for him, having already crushed through several long reads in a few days. He suggested joining my 'Three Cups of Tea' read, but only after I am 2/3 of the way through in order to finish on the same page. How chivalrous. While I digress, I might also add that domestic security at the Santiago airport was nonexistent. No ID was checked, no boarding pass requested, no articles removed or bags opened. Anyone, and I mean anyone, could have cruised through "security" -- passenger or not.

Upon landing, I was anxious for fresh air and distance from Kids 1 and 2. In a RUSH (oh no!), we deplaned and made our way to baggage claim. The carousel went around and around deepening my 2am hypnotic state until it hit me -- I didn't have my camera bag. Without so much as a coherent remark to Sam, I was off, sprinting through the airport, running back up the escalator, jamming my way back on the jet-way. I darted down the corridor, got on the plane and forced my way down the aisle against the flow of deplaning passengers. Mind you, not once was I stopped or considered for security reasons. After squeezing through, I made my way to row 5 (thankfully not 25) and found my camera bag, tucked nicely under the middle seat right where I had left it.

After I rejoined Sammy at baggage claim, our bags arrived. We looked for a driver with our names on a placard to no avail. The airport, small and about as happening as State College's, was clearing out and our ride was nowhere to be found. We found a taxi van and boarded it along with a dozen or more other passengers, which meant our drop off could realistically take an hour. As the driver loaded a few remaining passengers and started the engine, I saw a man about 50 feet away holding a card with his back to us. I was sleepy but hopeful and even as the driver started the engine I kept my eyes fixed on the man ahead. Just in the nick of time, the man was standing next to the van peering in with his placard pressed against the windows, it read: SAM MATHIAS. I jumped off that van faster than I can put down a glass of Sauvignon Blanc!

On our way, we settled into the ride for a 20 kilometer drive into town. Sam was engaging in his usual Spanish conversation and I was completely taken by the darkness around us. Millions of twinkling stars forming countless constellations filled the sky above me, around me and behind me; it was like nothing I had ever seen in my life, not even in the fields of Iowa. It was like being in my very own planetarium.

We checked into an earthy, modern boutique hotel, Ilaia, and had a good night's sleep before being picked up by our handlers and starting the 6 hour trip to Torres Del Paines. With the Strait of Magellan on our right and Patagonian estancias all around us, we were at the end -- or as our guide Eric told us, the beginning -- of the earth.
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priti on

wow, you didn't tell me about these adventures when we skyped!! hahaha! too many stories to tell and your trip has just begun!! you are in for a ride sista!!

lamama on

Rae, I was wondering if you exchanged emails with your women friends.
The Patagonia plains look so vast. The lack of security in the airports is so scary.Cameras are a pain but you do such an excellent job of documentation.
Keep on truckin'

Raj Jain on

Rain (and Sam), best message to date. Really sorry for the misadventures but that's what you will remember long, not the good stuff. All is well that ends well (found your camera). Great write up, and let the adventure begin at the edge of the earth. Good luck and happy travels. Love, Dad



Rohit on

Great story...

Renu, you've got to keep writing when you're done with this trip. Really enjoyed your writing style!

sunita on

What an adventure. I could really picture you sprinting to the airplane. I must say the no security is kind of scary - it worked in your favor getting to the camera. Pics are like icing on the cake. They bring your descriptions alive. Love you Toots.

eddie on

oh saaaaam

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