Thursday, March 19, 2009

Punta Arenas, Chile

The flight from Santiago was uneventful. A nice Boeing 737 operated by Sky Airlines with lots of leg room. The flight looked almost full. We actually got 2 meals onboard, including a free glass of wine... a breakfast on the first leg, and then after a short stop in Puerto Montt, a good lunch. Not bad for a 4 hour flight!

We saw some beautiful sights out the window of the airplane as we flew south... at least one erupting volcano, some snow-topped peaks, and a glacier. Dave got some great shots out the window.

The Punta Arenas airport is about 10 miles from town. Transportation options were to take a private taxi for about $12, a shuttle bus for $5, or a bus for $3.50. Since we weren't in a hurry, we opted for the bus. This bus also provided a connection to another bus in Punta Arenas, to Puerto Natales.

We found our hostel without much trouble. We had pre-booked by telephone with Hostal La Luna, and asked for a downstairs room (as instructed by some other travelers we had met). We had a nice comfortable room, and after a glimpse at the upstairs rooms, were glad we'd asked for downstairs. Etienne the owner was very hospitable and informative. Young backpackers would probably think this place boring, but we thought it was a great place for couples.

The only complaint I have at La Luna was that we were sharing the bathroom facilities with 5 other rooms, with no 'relief toilet'. There was sometimes a wait to get in. But the hot water worked well.

The other complaint is that there is no internet at La Luna, and I couldn't pick up anything 'open' on the wifi. We could live without it, except for the fact that we still needed to make onward reservations, etc. So rather than handle those in the late evening and early morning, we had to do them in the middle of the day at an internet cafe. We trudged all over town looking for a restaurant/bar with wifi, but this didn't seem to be a concept that's made it to Punta Arenas. (I guess few travelers down here are traveling with their own laptop).

Punta Arenas surprised me a lot. I had envisioned a one-street town in the wilderness with few services. But it is actually a small city with quite a bit of activity and regular businesses, including some light manufacturing. We were delighted to find a big modern supermarket (better than anything in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador).

And we finally found a good steak. We quit buying steaks in Central America because the beef is so bad (unless you can confirm it is aged beef imported from somewhere else). But here we are so close to Argentina, that a 'steak sandwich' is a common menu item and we found them quite good.

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