Saturday, February 4, 2017

Travel Day. Punta Arenas.

Photo taken from the front window of our apartment. Timestamp is 9:40p!

Greetings from Punta Arenas!  Bro and I flew out of San Pedro de Atacama earlier today.  As part of our denomades.com tour, we had free hotel to airport shuttle.  We waited outside the front gate of the hostal, along with the French couple who had occupied the room next to ours.  They were also on the same flight as us but they had booked their ride through another company.  Oddly, a van, with the name of their company drove right  by us.  I could immediately see the look on the man's face - wondering if  their ride had literally just passed them by!

Our ride arrived on time and the French couple approached our driver to see if he had space to take on two more passengers and unfortunately, he didn't so they had no choice but to wait.  Bro and I got on board for the 90 minute ride back to the airport in Calama.

As the desert view whizzed by the window, I got more and more sad to be leaving this place.  I have truly enjoyed my visit here and luckily, we did not see all that the Atacama Desert has to offer so I have a good excuse to come back one day!                         

Our Sky Airlines flight to Santiago left around noon and from there, we took a second Sky Airlines flight to Punta Arenas.  It turned out to be a very easy and uneventful travel day - that's the way I want it.

We landed at a very small regional airport in Punta Arenas.  I could feel the cool air and as soon as we stepped outside the terminal, I was greeted by cloudy skies.   After checking around for ride options we realized that pretty much the only option is taxi and that all the drivers charge the same fee 5,000 CLP per person or 10,000 CLP for two, we just picked a cab.  Our destination was our Airbnb apartment located in the heart of the downtown area.   It was about a 30 minute drive, in literally no traffic, to get there.

I had reached out to our host, Carlos, to arrange to meet up with him.  We exchanged text via WhatsApp which was great because I could use Google Translate to write out the sentences.  He never told me that he lived in the same apartment building so I was so confused exactly where we had meet him.  He just kept reply, "No problem" anytime I tried to ask him about meeting location.  As we neared the apartment, I just held out hope that somehow he would be there to meet us.

Our taxi driver got us to the apartment with no problem but there was no sign of Carlos.  The front door was locked so as we stood outside, I texted Carlos to tell him were were waiting for him downstairs.  He replied he would be down so we just waited.  Then, another resident appeared.  He was leaving the building and I told him we were arriving.  In perfect English, he acknowledged us and told us that we were likely heading to the apartment on the top floor and proceeded to hold the door so we could enter.  I was surprised that he let two strangers in.  By then, I heard a set of footsteps making their way down the stairs.  It was Carlos.  There was no elevator so he carried my suitcase up the two flights of steps. Indeed we were on the top floor!  Carlos unlocked the door and we followed him inside to a very large apartment albeit one that is sorely in need of some updating.  No matter really as it had all the amenities we needed - two beds, full kitchen, washer and really fast WiFi.  Not to mention, it's just a few blocks from the main part of town.

Bro and I settled in and then decided to head out in search of a supermarket called Unimarc.  When I was do the trip planning, it showed up on Google Maps as being about two blocks away.  We would be staying in Airbnb apartments for the next few days so this was a good opportunity to pick up some basic provisions, including dinner for tonight if we decided to not eat out.  Not to mention that Bro could do with more fruit.

Today is Sunday and as we walked along the streets, I realized we were in a commercial area.  Unfortunately, all the stores were closed and even many of the restaurants.  We did pass by a few places serving food but it was mainly pizza and fast food.  Nothing appealed to us so we decided it would be dinner in for the two of us.


Unimarc is like any other supermarket these days.  We are in the land of Chilean sea bass which Bro is head over heels obsessed with and the moment he stumbled on frozen filets, he decided to check them out. He had done his research and explained to me that Chilean Sea Bass is actually a made up name, for marketing purposes.  What we know as Chilean sea bass is actually Patagonian toothfish,  a species of cod icefish that is found in cold waters.  Yeah, that name would not have not gone over well in US supermarkets! :-)  In this part of the world, Chilean sea bass is known as merluzza negra.  There's also another variety of merluzza called merluzza australis but that is a variety of hake and not Patagonian toothfish so not quite as desirable to Bro.

While Bro checked out the fish, I concentrated on getting the other basics - eggs, bread, cheese, pasta, some sausage, etc.   Sadly, the fresh produce here is really low quality and expensive!  I guess that's because everything has to be shipped down from the agricultural regions in the country - I don't think there's much arable land around here.

Then, I got in the line for check out.  I know it's a Sunday but in all honesty, I have never ever stood in such a long line that moved so slowly.  It took me almost 40 minutes to get to the front of the line!  Thankfully, I was not holding on to any items that would have melted!

It was past 8p by the time we made it back to the apartment.  We cooked up some of the frozen fish.  Taking the thin filets out of the package, we immediately knew it was not Chilean sea bass which is an incredibly thick piece of fish.  But, it did taste good.

I had forgotten just how far south on the globe we are.  It was past 10p when I took the photo below and it was still light outside!


Tomorrow, we are headed to see penguins!!!  VERY excited about that as I have never seen penguins in the wild before.  We have an early pick up time so I am now off to bed!

Goodnight from Punta Arenas!