Going around in circles and a 4000km detour.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A few days ago, I was in Córdoba on my way north-west towards Tucumán and Salta. But then my plans suddenly changed, and I headed south-west instead. All this in order to join Magali (a good friend from Mendoza) for a weekend of skiing in the Andes Mountains, at the ski resort of Los Penitentes, a few hours outside Mendoza. You may call it going around in circles, but hey..., what's a ten hours bus ride in South America. If you've been down here, you know what I mean.

Another reason for going back to familiar grounds, was the possibility to take another detour. More like a 4000km detour. You see, when I was in Santiago almost two months ago, I was inches away from going to Easter Island. It's a place I have always wanted to visit (in the footsteps of Heyerdahl, ...or something), and my original "plan" back in Seattle, was to fly from Santiago in Chile to Auckland in New Zealand via Easter Island. The original plan was also kind of similar to the route I have followed so far on this trip, only thing is that I have spent a bit more time down here than I thought I would. Back in Santiago, when I realized that I may end up skipping New Zealand on this trip (and therefore also Easter Island), me and a couple of other backpackers started looking for return flights from Santiago to Easter Island. The price was pretty good, but we couldn't get any good dates for an available flight. We either had to hang around Santiago for a couple of weeks, or stay on Easter Island for an eternity. So we ended up not going. I didn't think much more about it, until I met a backpacker in Córdoba who had just been to Easter Island. He absolutely loved the place, and showed me some amazing pictures. So I started thinking again, "it may be an once in a lifetime opportunity". It's not like the place is just around the corner, it's more like one of the most remote places on earth. Hence I started checking flights from Mendoza to Easter Island, via Santiago. The mountain pass between Mendoza and Santiago is currently closed, so the "only" way to get to Easter Island from Argentina at the moment, is to catch a LAN flight to Santiago from either Buenos Aires or Mendoza. So I went to the LAN office in Mendoza, and while I could easily get a not too expensive flight from Santiago to Easter Island, all the flights from Mendoza to Santiago were unfortunately fully booked. Realizing that I would probably miss out on Easter Island once again, I went and bought a bus ticket for Tucumán instead. The next day, Magali gave me the idea to maybe fly via Buenos Aires instead, so I went back to LAN to check the prices. Turned out the flight was bloody expensive. So just for fun, I asked them to once again check available seats on the flight from Mendoza to Santiago, and this time they had a seat. The price wasn't too bad either, way cool!

"Book it!"

"Ok, where is your credit card?"

"Darn, darn, darn, forgot it in my hotel, I'll go get it."

"We are closing now at 8PM, you won't have time."

"Can you make a reservation, and then I'll come back and pay tomorrow instead?"

"Unfortunately not, the flight to Easter Island is in two days. You have to pay two days in advance, otherwise the price will almost double."

"My hotel is really close."

"Sorry, we're closing now."

"Is there any other options?"

"Yes, you can call LAN today before midnight and pay over the phone."

"Ok, give me the telephone number, ciao."

I ran to my hotel and got my credit card, before I located a telephone. I called the number about 70 times, and tried all the 70 options or so in both Spanish and English, but all I got was a busy signal. I tried to book the flight online, but the site didn't list the flight from Mendoza to Santiago as available. Shit, someone is really trying to tell me not to go to Easter Island! A few minutes after 9PM, I decided to grab something to eat and try again a bit later. Still three hours to midnight! On the way to the restaurant, I walked by the LAN office, and inside the office I spotted a girl I actually met at a bar the last time I was in Mendoza. I had forgot that she worked for LAN. Except for her, the closed office was empty. I knocked on the window and she let me in. I explained the situation, and promised to take her out for dinner (smart move Esteve!) if she could help me out. "Sure, no problem Esteve. Give me your credit card."

So it's not like I am regretting taking the detour down here. I'll get to see Easter Island, and then Magali and I had a great time in Los Penitentes. The weather was fantastic (almost got my Panama tan back), we had lots of snow and the skiing was very good. It felt good to spend some time up in the mountains again, a long way from big cities.

Yeeha!! I am off to Easter Island for a week, and I'm really exited.........
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