Nov 3 Thursday – 4 Friday – Travel to Punta Arenas

Alli’s journal:

Kyu’s ponderings:

As much as this trip was about backpacking in Chilean Patagonia with a mini excursion in Peru, major part of the trip was about hustling thru many flights. The travel agency we used was from hell and it messed up the flight completely a week before departure. And this agency doesn’t have a phone number and their response to request for help was… “talk to airline directly”. So you can imagine, there was unusual amount of nervousness going to SFO to embark on the trip.

When I got the san francisco airport, I found out the original itinerary booked by agency didn’t really secure my departing flight and there was nothing they could do. And I had a number of other connecting flights that I had to catch, which were now all in jeopardy. I had a choice of cancelling the trip or trying to make my way over to Punta Arenas one leg at a time. It does feel quite crazy to flight out of your home airport knowing there might be a chance I might not find the connecting flight and worst case, I might have to return back somewhere in the half way. And although I was never in such situation from all my travel experience, I decided to roll the dice and go for it. Too much effort has already gone in for preparation of the trip and I couldn’t just discard all of that. So at the last minute, I booked a completely different flights on my own to get to Santiago first and then deal with how to get to Punta Arenas from there.

Flight left SFO around noon and arrived in Atlanta around 7:30pm local time for a layover. And 5 minute before landing, my phone died on me. It was fully charged and the reset function didn’t work. I started sweating since pretty much all the information I needed for the trip including the flight info was on the phone and if I cannot revive it, it was going to be a big mess. Soon as I got off the plane, I went straight to the electronics store in the terminal. They couldn’t turn my phone back up but I found out they have an old iPad that I could buy in the worst case scenario. The accumulated stress level from flight changes is now hitting the peak and all kinds of scenarios were being played in my head. I already spent extra to book my own flights last minute. Do I buy an ipad just so I can get out of this situation? or this isn’t meant to be so do I turn around while I am still in USA territory? Fortunately, more like magically, at that moment, a phone number that I could never memorize somehow popped in my head. My wife’s number. So I borrowed a phone from the guy working at the store and called her to see if she can help communicate the situation with Tetsu and Alli, who were on a different path. And as I was talking to wife, my dead phone somehow came back to life. And then my wife goes… “everything happens for a reason so take a deep breath and just make the most out of it”. And those words saved me on this trip. It became a mantra for me whenever things go sideway on this trip and there were lots of sideways. So after changing the mindset, I sat down at a bar and grabbed the best companion I could find. And the bartender lady who was full of strong good energy turns out to be a Korean American. So sorry I forgot the name of the lady already but I am so grateful for the chat with her and the awesome energy boost that came with it.

After a couple beers, I got on the connecting flight and I was off to Santiago. And when I landed in the morning local time, first thing I had to do was to secure the flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas. With the help of google translate and a couple of agents at the LATAM airline at the domestic terminal and a couple of hours, I was able to book a flight which was a day late than the original plan. So now I had to go find a place to spend 2 nights that I originally didn’t plan for. With a couple of uber rides and two different hotels later, I was able to book a hotel nearby the airport. And once that was all settled, I went to meet up with Tetsu and Alli at the airport since they had a few hour layover. I have to say it was a great feeling to see familiar faces after so much stressful events. We hung out for a couple hrs and sorted out the rest of the plan then sent them off to Punta Arenas. Then I was too tired so I went back to hotel and went to bed early.

Next morning, I decided to play tourist Santiago and went out to explore the city. Very interesting city. And I spent pretty much full day walking around the town. Did early morning hike at santa lucia hill located in the middle of the city. Went to see the tallest building in Latin America called Sky Costanera. Checked out a couple museum and the downtown plaza. One thing that caught my eyes was graffiti everywhere including museum walls. But most importantly… I got to meet an awesome beer in that city. And it happened to be the beer that I learned later on that was made in Punta Arenas. For the record, it is my new fav beer. Calafate Ale from the Austral.

After a fun day exploring the city, as I was checking on my phone, I realized several of the flights on return back home have disappeared on the Latam airline app. At this point, I was in “everything happens for a reason” mode, so I decided not to stress about it and deal with it hopefully in Punta Arenas or even after finishing the backpacking in the TDP park. I left hotel at 2am and I got on a 4am flight to Punta Arenas.


Tetsu’s jibber jabber:

Getting from San Francisco to Punta Arenas is a multi-city, multi-country process, and that meant really expensive flights.

So, in our infinite [lack of] wisdom, we decided to try and save money by using the least expensive broker we could find, Jetabroad, based in Australia.

Our original plan was to all fly together on a four leg flight from SFO-LAX-Lima-Santiago-Punta Arenas. But with months of problems dealing with Jetabroad, arguably one of the cheapest brokers around, but also with among the worst customer service when it comes to changed flights, we ended up taking varying routes as we each dealt with flight changes in different ways.

Alli and I dealt with changes in a somewhat similar manner, ending up with just one major difference in flights. Kyu ended up with a route that went through the mid-west, getting to Santiago earlier, but also being stuck in Santiago for an extra day and a half.

Alli and I ended up in Punta Arenas a day and a half earlier. Since Kyu’s destination was also Punta Arenas, we scrapped our original plan of trying to get to Puerto Natales and sleep there, and instead, Alli and I chose to stay in Punta Arenas for two nights, to meet up with Kyu and take local transportation together to Torres del Paine.

Throughout our travels, we met so many people, and enjoyed chatting with strangers, feeling a little like kindred spirits traveling the world in search of…I don’t know…something.

Our very first interaction was at LAX airport, where we met a couple from Montana, Courtney Young and his wife. Accomplished academics at Montana Technological University and global travelers, they had stories to share of many of their adventures, but were most passionate about sharing their current project, building a VRBO just 8 miles from Glacier National Park, and all the beauty and wonder of the surrounding region, from Butte to Yellowstone to Calistoga, day hikes in the national park, eagle watching in June, and simply enjoying the beautiful home they are hoping to have finished soon, resting along the banks of a river, with the gorgeous glacier mountains in full view behind. It was wonderful meeting them, and already my friends and even my anti-camping wife are thinking a trip to Montana could be fun.

Since Alli, Kyu, and I overlapped on our time in Santiago, we decided to meet up for a bit at the airport. It’s a strange sensation meeting up with someone you know in a place you’d never expect, and though we were always planning the trip together, meeting up with Kyu felt a little like that.

After grabbing a light bite to eat, Kyu walked us back to the airport and then he went off to enjoy the sights of Santiago while Alli and I continued our journey to Punta Arenas.

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