Monday, December 16, 2013

To the End of the World

In mid-November I left Nashville for four weeks of travel with my brother, through Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru. I flew to Toronto, where I met up for Matthew and then south to Santiago. After arriving and clearing customs, our first task was to climb the tallest thing around, so we rode a funicular up to the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception.

It was a little smoggy (the city is in a basin), but we did manage to spot the Andes towering above the city in the distance. South America's tallest building, the Gran Torre, is also visible in this shot:

The next day we moved to our AirBnb lodging, on the 26th floor of a new condo building in western Santiago, with good views,

and a nauseating balcony- eek!

We spent the next day cruising the fish market, a museum about the dictator Pinochet, and of course, enjoying Chilean Pisco Sours:

The next day we did lots of walking- it was national election day in Chile, which in addition to meaning most restaurants were closed, also meant no purchase or consumption of alcohol, and no congregating in groups. We had unfortunately missed the memo and forgotten to stock up... At least we found a nice park.

The following day we headed south- first a 2 hour flight to Puerto Montt, where we dropped off and picked up passengers, then another 2 hours south to windswept Punta Arenas on the Straight of Magellan.We only had a half day in Punta Arenas, which we spent stocking up on backpacking supplies, and visiting the local watering hole:

The next morning we returned to the airport to board our Aerovias DAP flight to tiny 2,000-person Puerto Williams, Chile, the southernmost settlement in the world. We had quite a chariot- a 20-seater twin otter, made for short takeoffs and landings.

And here's the view as we flew into Puerto Williams.

After dropping our stuff at a hostel and picking up a few last minute supplies, off we went on the Dientes de Navarino trek, "the Teeth of Navarino". After a 1,000-foot climb we arrived at our first landmark, the summit of Cerro Bandera (Flag Mountain). Here's Matthew battling 35 mph winds:

We also got our first peak at the Dientes (on the right). It turns out that they do look like teeth.

We arrived at our first camp on the shores of a lake just as it started snowing and hunkered down. Once the sun finally set at 11:30 PM, the wind really picked up, and we woke up (once the sun rose at 4:00 AM) to three inches of snow!

The snow continued to fall, so we decided to stay put for the day. I don't know that I've ever spent so much time in a tent- thank God for the Kindle. I only set foot outside the tent twice all day. It was certainly cozy.

Thursday dawned clear, so after packing up camp, we day-hiked up to the pass through the snow,

where we decided it was probably best to turn back.

After hiking back into town we settled in for a celebratory (even though we didn't finish our trek) dinner. Somehow we ended up with this:

Hard to say how exactly we ordered french fries with hot dogs, especially since there was no menu. Afterward, we walked to the Micalvi- a German freighter that was grounded in Puerto Williams and is the world's southernmost yacht club. Lots of character and lots of characters.

We met a couple who had spent three years sailing a boat they bought on Craigslist from San Francisco to Patagonia, a USC postdoc who had spent six weeks hiking alone, and a Dutch economist who occasionally buys boats and sails across the Atlantic. Okay drinks, but great company. 

The next morning Matthew and I were wandering around town looking for things to do (since we had finished hiking a day early), when we ran into the town's tourist agent who asked if we wanted to enter that evening's "maraton familiar", a 3K run to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Puerto Williams. Of course! 

That evening at 6:00 PM we showed up at the starting line, and uh-oh- I forgot that Puerto Williams is a military town full of young fit sailors. The race was frantic- I ran for my life and managed to gasp into third place!

After a brief award ceremony (all in Spanish) we went home and celebrated with a bowl of fresh king crab. Even better, we walked to the yacht club that evening and discovered that were was a barbecue to celebrate the next day's regatta between Argentina and Chile. Nothing quite like eating prime rib sandwiches and drinking Miller High Life at the world's southernmost yacht club. 

The next day it was off to Argentina! Puerto Williams was a perfect example of why we travel- it's always the unplanned events that mean the most. 

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