Chile – Days 14 & 15 – Travel Days

The next two days were mainly travel days. We had to drive back to Punta Arenas, fly to Santiago, sleep overnight, fly to Buenos Aires, and then fly to Iguazu Falls. We were supposed to be able to sleep in but unfortunately our heater in the loft wasn’t working so we both woke up at 7:30am fairly cold. I used the oven to heat the place by turning it on and leaving the door open. We decided to have a lazy morning and hung around the loft until 11:00am when it was time to check out.

We drove back to Punta Arenas and experienced intermittent rain along the way. It looked as if anyone who was hiking in Torres Del Paine was going to have a very wet day because the clouds in that direction were very dark.

Once we arrived in Punta Arenas we decided that we wanted some ramen or Vietnamese food. We found a hole in the wall place that served Korean noodles, but they only accepted cash and we decided it was too much of a hole in the wall. Across the street was a restaurant called Gyros Pizza. We both shared a Hawaiian pizza, which was absolutely delicious. I also had an americano coffee as I was starting to fall asleep.

After lunch we went for a 12km walk along the beach front, which was very relaxing. After the walk it was time to head to the airport, drop off our truck and kill some time. When I returned the truck there was nobody to inspect it so I was told to just leave it and they would clear my receipt. Turns out three weeks later after the trip I am still in a dispute with my credit card company and Europcar because they double charged me for the truck. I had prepaid for the vehicle before the trip and they were supposed to just have a $800USD deposit that would be removed when I returned the truck. Turns out they actually charged my credit card for the cost of the vehicle even though I had already paid in full.

While waiting for the flight to Santiago we found out that the flight was delayed about 45 minutes. We managed to make up most of that delay once we were in the air. The view on takeoff was absolutely incredible. The flight landed at 11:30pm. We parked at a remote stand and had to take a fairly long bus ride to the terminal, which was perfect because I had to figure out how to order us an Uber, since it’s quite different at Santiago airport than other places because its still not technically legal in the country.

Ordering the Uber was the same; you just use the app, but that’s where things differ. Barbara, our Uber drive, texted me on the Uber app and told me she was behind me and to board the parking lot shuttle bus and then she would talk to me on the bus. She was super friendly and we took the parking lot shuttle bus to the parking lot where we walked to her car. She explained to me that they have to keep a low profile at Santiago Airport because authorities were cracking down on Uber drivers, who were not supposed to be there. When we got into her car she had quite the setup to communicate with foreigners. One phone was dedicated to Uber and the other was dedicated to Google Translate communications.

The drive to Hotel Diego de Almagro Aeropuerto was short and sweet and Barbara was extremely nice. After checking into the hotel we went to bed immediately as we had to get up at 4:45am the next day.

The next day we woke up at 4:45am, quickly got dressed, and had some buffet breakfast before boarding the shuttle to the airport for our flight to Iguazu Falls via Buenos Aires. Before boarding our flight we had to clear immigration to leave the country. The lineup at the immigration booth was about an hour long, but the process was simple. Before boarding the LATAM Airbus A320 flight to Buenos Aires I tried to get some Argentinian Pesos at the foreign exchange, but they were out of currency. I was starting to get a bit concerned about obtaining Argentinian Pesos as nowhere in Calgary had any, nor did Chile… more on that fun adventure later…

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We arrived in Buenos Aires after a moderately turbulent flight. We had a two hour layover and had some food and a drink before boarding our next LATAM Airbus A320 flight to Iguazu Falls, Argentina. An interesting thing to note about Buenos Aires AEP airport is that it sits right next to a beach so you can see people hanging out on the beach sunbathing. The next flight was less turbulent and arrived on time. After arriving at Iguazu Falls and the aircraft door was opened we were greeted with 37 Celsius weather and tons of humidity. It felt really nice as we had just spent a week in Patagonia where it was cold, dry and windy.

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After deplaning into the terminal I searched for a bank machine and found the only one in the terminal. Of course this was too good to be true because when I put my card in and requested any denomination of Argentinian Pesos I was greeted with the message of “ATM out of cash”. At this point in time I decided that we would have to find a way to get to our hotel with only credit or debit. Uber was ousted from the Iguazu area by the taxi commission a few years ago so that left us with having to take a taxi. There was only one taxi company that said they took credit or debit so I picked them. All taxi companies have a flat rate of 700 Argentinian Pesos to the main city.

When we were only a few blocks away from the hotel the taxi driver pulled into a gas station and told me I would be buying her gasoline as she doesn’t have a credit / debit machine. I thought it was really weird at first but then told the taxi driver that I will not be paying for more than 700 pesos. She gave me a very dirty look and started to talk in Spanish to the service station agent. After fueling the taxi we were dropped off at our hotel; Boutique Hotel de la Fonte. The hotel beautiful, but fairly dated. You could tell that it was once an extremely prosperous place.

From my research and talking with others it appears that Argentina is going through economic decline, where as Chile is actually doing really well. Their roles over the last decade have reversed as Chile used to be a fairly impoverished country. Argentina’s economy is being eroded due to political instability and corruption and the locals are suffering. It’s extremely difficult to obtain cash because the citizens of Argentina have lost trust in the local banks due to devaluing currency. They panic and take out all their money, leaving the machines empty.

After settling into the hotel for a bit we decided to go explore the town and get some dinner. We came across a quaint Italian restaurant called Il Fratello. I had vegetable lasagna and Catherine had herbed chicken with pumpkin infused mashed potatoes. Both meals were exquisite.

After dinner we found a bank machine that actually had some money in it. I took out 4000 Pesos ($130 CDN) and was charged 385 pesos ($13 CDN) to take it out, which is extremely expensive. Most countries charge $1-5 but this was the most that I had ever seen. Either way I was happy to have cash as I would need it for tomorrow and to also buy some bottled water. We stopped at a convenience store and tried to purchase a few bottles of water for tomorrow, but the store owner didn’t have enough change for my 1000 peso bills. I ended up having to buy four bottles of water, some bottles of beer, and some ice cream just to purchase enough items to receive change. He even had to go into his own wallet, and the next days float to have enough change to give me.

After arriving back at the hotel we swam in the pool and were greeted with a welcome drink of champagne. Catherine started to not feel well, but I was feeling better at this point in time. We had a lazy evening before heading to bed. Tomorrow we explore Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side.

This concludes my Chile series, but I have two posts left for Argentina/Brazil that will be debuting sometime this week.

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Chile – Day 6 – Travel Day & San Pedro De Atacama

Today we woke up at 5:15am because we had the airport shuttle departing for SCL Airport at 6:00am. Security was a total breeze which makes you wonder if they’re even looking at the screens or peoples tickets and passports. I recall when I travelled to Peru in 2014 with my father that there basically was no security for internal flights; this basically gives the same perception. We then purchased some Starbucks; I had a drip coffee and C had a Chai Tea Latte. Our 8:15am flight boarded quickly and we arrived at Calama Airport (CJC) at 10:50am.

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The day fell apart from here and it started with the Budget rental car agency. The rental car took almost three hours to figure out and we were given about ten different excuses as to where the car was, but it was obvious they were not prepared. I left a nasty 1 star review on Google Reviews during the whole process. While waiting for the car we talked with a bunch of people dropped off cars at other rental agencies and they said the entire park was closed due to flooding and heavy rain; which was not great news for us… more on that later! After finally leaving the airport at close to 2:00pm, three hours later we went to Lider (Walmart) and purchased water and a few groceries and started our adventure.

We drove one hour to San Pedro de Atacama and saw the Valley of the Moon from the top of road. The weather looked okay at this point in time and we had yet to see the flooding until when we drove into the town. That’s when things really changed… the roads were red mud and completely flooded. We drove to our hotel; Hotel La Casa de Don Tomas. The hotel was absolutely beautiful and we were greeted with Champagne. After checking in we decided to walk into town and get some dinner at Las Delicias de Carmen. We both ordered vegetable lasagna with a side of potatoes and quinoa. We were told the portion was large and could probably share it, but we didn’t heed to her advice… we should have though! While we were waiting for our meals to come out there was a torrential downpour and the power in the entire city shut off. Our server casually came over with a candle as if this were a regular occurrence. We ordered a thousand layer cake to go for C as it was her birthday. We wanted to have it while watching a movie back at the hotel, but sadly with no power there was no internet.

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We watched a previously downloaded episode of Marvelous Miss Maisel, the second last one before we’re all caught up. If you have not seen this series I highly recommend it! I came up with a plan B for tomorrow for us to explore Reserva Nacional Alto Loa. It was still raining, my cold was getting worse, and it was time to go to bed.

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