Long long travel days: drive from San Diego to LAX, fly to Punta Arenas via LAX-DFW-SCL, overnight in a very nice B&B hostel, bus to bus to bus to Torres Central hostel. We have arrived at the end of the world, along with hundreds of other Chileans, Spanish, Germans, and Americans.
LAX was its typical grubby self--I arrived on a hot and smoggy February day to surly service staff, and met Chris and Terminal 4. We looked around for something to do--hey, Rubio's in Smell Segundo--and eventually ended up drowning the sadness in some very good pepino margaritas in Terminal 5.
The flight to Dallas was unexceptional, except for the 2/3rds of the very entitled passengers who were already AA Superprecious Jewels, who did not want to give up their 3 1/2 carryons at the gate; very tedious. So much of modern life seems to be validated by corporations--YOU ARE NOW oneWORLD ZIRCONIA--and it was amusing to watch passengers squabble over their GOD-GIVEN rights to drag on their two rolly bags. It was fun to watch the bored, underpaid gate agents dismiss the pretentious fluff relegated to group 3. Who says America(n) doesn't have class?
A few hours later was the transfer in Dallas, certainly the most modern yet bland major American airport, and after taaaaxiiiing we caught the SkyTraaaaaain to Terminal D and got on the cramped 787-800 to Santiago. The 787 is turning into my least favorite aircraft; American has gone with the dreaded 3-3-3 seating, which means that as a 5'7" guy I'm only going to deflect elbows from my fellow passenger every ten minutes or so. It was cramped but I was tired--after the pasta meal I fell asleep for 7 hours, and woke to the hot sun heating up my face. Fucking 787, they don't let you close the windows shades yourself, no, they have magic dimming Windows that are a technological feat that no one needs. That hot sun slicing in burned my left cheek, even through the 'kinda-mostly-dim-but-not-really-dark' blue setting that the five LEDS displayed. Next time I'm making my own window shade out of my jacked to compensate for these technological advances.
Santiago airport, well... It was typically Chilean quick to get through immigration and customs (meaning you did it in a reasonable time and carried away a handful of recipts, many of which you may not need or may be required to present to leave the country). The airport, which felt so advanced 17 years ago, is aging in a bad away--those welded plum-colored pipes belong in some 1980's Orange County final coal services office, not a mid-21st century airport. Chris said "This place is far more prosperous than this sad airport terminal", and of course I had to respond "Well, that's the story for every terminal at LAX, but at least here they're not putting glossy lipgloss with sparkles on the pig."
We hung around SCL for a couple of hours, then boarded our one-stop flight to Punta Arenas. By this time, I was just in a half-awake state, napping, sleeping, napping, how about a beer? Napping. Nothing much to report, but when we got to Punta Arenas it was funny--what, no staircar? An actual jetway? A modern terminal? It felt like the 21st century, though once we stepped outside it was more like the 21st century in Fort McMurray, Alberta: windswept, cool and sunny, low scrubby terrain with a few mountains here and there.
Punta Arenas is about as far away from the equator as central Alberta as well, and just as quasi-populated; the hostel sent a much-appreciated taxi to meet us and we headed to town. It seemed much bigger: lots of service companies ("precision drilling.cl", salmon farming equipment), and I wondered what type of businesses would really work here in this cool windy corner of the world. I decided that Patagonia would be a great place for data centers: lots of wind power from the near-constant wind, temperatures just above freezing for good cooling, very stable regulatory environment (at least in Chile, much less so in Argentina), and even some humidity to reduce static electricity issues. Locate here now!
The city itself seemed bigger, more prosperous--streets now had both curbs and sidewalks and lighting--and the taxi driver dropped us off at the hostel/B&B, which was super-agreeable, they had coffee and tea when we checked in, and we enjoed a little cake thing after our mandatory shower. After noshing, we ambled across the street to the Unimarc supermarket, which was an absolute chaotic mess, does all of Punta Arenas do their shopping on Saturday evenings?? We did find nuts and breakfast bars and oatmeal, enough to keep us satisfied on the trail for sure, but it was really draining; the store seemed like half the size it should be.
After el supermercado, we decided to go with the most decentest closest restaurant, El Marmite. I really enjoyed the salmon cerviche and Chris's guañaco brioche, but his rabbit 'stew' was meat surrounded by minty water (gross), and my guañaco with rice was just OK without the sweet gamy flavor of the brioche meat. Hmph.
We retired semi-eerily, to the tedious sounds of street-racers on the street, hooning about in their Hondas until 2am, and woke up the dawn.