Back to Punta Arenas

Having finished my last walk in the park it was time to head back to Puerto Natales and then Punta Arenas. I did stop to photograph a group of ibis on my way out of the park though.

2018 02 16 140

I felt rather guilty ignoring a couple of hitch hikers at the exit of the park but I really wanted to enjoy my last bit of freedom, with my cameras to hand on the passenger seat and the ability to stop as often as I wanted for photos.

2018 02 16 321

2018 02 16 322

2018 02 16 323

2018 02 16 325


I had a few such opportunities, the first being a bird of prey that was sat on a fence post by the road and was completely unbothered by my presence, letting me get very close for a photo.

2018 02 16 011


I had to stop, of course, in Puerto Natales to fill up the van with petrol, fortunately having not run empty! In the end I also made a detour into a small shop selling yarn from local merino wool and visited the cafe I’d stopped in on the way up to email the camper van company to organise the drop off the next morning. The latter issue was my new cause of worry as the paperwork said that they didn’t open until 10am but I needed to be up at the airport by then in time for my flight. Emails sent, I continued my journey on to Punta Arenas, realising that I also had to get the camper van cleaned before I handed it back in the next morning.

The rest of the drive down was uneventful and time passed fairly quickly. I spotted what I think were the same group of ibises I’d seen on the way up and pulled over to get some photographs. 

2018 02 16 043


Not long after my attention was caught by a couple of caracaras eating something at the side of the road and I realised that they weren’t alone. There was an armadillo there too! I quickly spotted a pull off and turned around and drove back. The caracaras flew off but the armadillo was busy eating what looked to be a hare. I took a few photos before it looked up at me, stared for a minute or so, and then turned tail and scuffled away as fast as its little legs would carry it.

2018 02 17 046

2018 02 17 051

By the time I got into Punta Arenas it was close to 9pm. I spent some time driving around trying to find a place to get the van cleaned, but to no avail. Unlike in the UK, hoses don’t seem to be an integral part of petrol stations. Eventually I gave up and decided to find a place to park up for the night. I started at the beach, but it was very busy and I just didn’t fancy it. Plus, I really needed a bathroom stop! Eventually I decided to go to the restaurant that had been pointed out to me at the hostel I’d stayed in and get a bite to eat and use their facilities. Having eaten I drove down the road a little and just parked up opposite the stadium for the night.

Torres del Paine – Lago Gray

Before leaving the park I had one last hike planned, at Lago Grey. I had originally thought to do a couple more short walks that day but when I checked my calendar before going to bed the previous right I discovered to my surprise that my flight out of Punta Arenas was not in the early afternoon as I had thought, but at 11am, meaning that I was going to be very short of time to get the van dropped off in the morning before heading to the airport. My initial plan was to park up and sleep somewhere of Ruta 9 for the last night, but I realised that I was going to need to be in Punta Arenas on Friday night and so I needed to get a move on! 

2018 02 16 245


2018 02 16 249

Despite being under time pressure I wasn’t going to compromise on stopping to take photos and my first opportunity came when I saw a couple of hares by the side of the road. The resulting photos weren’t great, but at least they show very clear evidence of running away hare!

2018 02 16 103


Not much further along and the landscape changed to being more open and flat. Having just started to speed up again after some roadworks I crossed a bridge and then spotted a fox to the side of the road, so of course that meant another stop!

2018 02 16 118

2018 02 16 119


The next distraction was a rainbow over some distant hills. 

2018 02 16 258


Finally, I made it down to Lago Gray, where you can take a boat tour up to see the big glacier at the head of the lake. I was lucky to get there before all the tour buses turned up, when I returned back to the van at the end of the walk there were queues on both sides of the bridge over the river due to the 6 person limit.

2018 02 16 268

2018 02 16 269

2018 02 16 276

2018 02 16 282

2018 02 16 283


Unlike all the other walks I did in Torres del Paine this one was a circular route (or rather, lollipop), but I didn’t know this until near the end when I could see the beach reappearing around the corner.

2018 02 16 287

2018 02 16 288

2018 02 16 293

2018 02 16 295


Having reached the official viewpoint, the walk continued around the coast and I spotted this amazing little iceberg that had calved off from the glacier. I hadn’t really known what to expect from this walk and had wondered if I was making a mistake taking the time for a hike when I still had over 300km to drive but I really enjoyed it and the varied views of the lake.

2018 02 16 297

2018 02 16 299

2018 02 16 302

2018 02 16 309

2018 02 16 310

2018 02 16 311

2018 02 16 314

Torres del Paine – Mirador Cuernos

Having explored the north east of the park it was time to head south west and slowly back towards Puerto Natales. When I’d done all my panicking about running out of petrol on the day I drove up to Torres, I’d forgotten that my explorations of the park would take me back in a homeward direction, rather than being an addition to the 145km I’d driven up to the park.

2018 02 15 100

2018 02 15 102

It was a fairly long drive down to the place where I intended to stay the night and the roads were in variable condition, but by this time I was well used to watching out for potholes. I made quite a few stops along the way for photographs, and was delighted when I spotted a lake, complete with pink flamingo dots. Of course, the flamingoes started moving determinedly to the opposite side of the lake when they saw me coming, but at least I managed to get some photographic evidence of their existence!

2018 02 15 105

2018 02 15 077 2

2018 02 15 111

2018 02 15 118

2018 02 15 122

2018 02 15 133

There were plenty of beautiful turquoise lakes on the way down, but also plenty of dead trees, evidence of the fires that ravaged the park a few years ago.

2018 02 15 134

2018 02 15 136

2018 02 15 139

2018 02 15 146


When I reached the car park in the late afternoon it was full of cars, and there were plenty of folk out either admiring the waterfalls or on the hike to the viewpoint. Once I came back from the walk myself the car park had emptied and I moved the van to a prime lakeview. It was a very windy evening, and judging by the warning signs that isn’t unusual in this part of the park. The walk down to the viewpoint was enjoyable and took in quiet a variety of landscapes, although all with the mountains featuring prominently in the background. After the previous day’s exertions and my morning hike I was feeling quite leaden-legged though and did have a hard time motivating myself at the beginning.

2018 02 15 151

2018 02 15 169

2018 02 15 170

2018 02 15 180

2018 02 15 184

2018 02 15 187

2018 02 15 188

The wind got really strong during the walk and at times I was nearly blown off my feet. There was a huge amount of spray coming off the lake and you could use it to predict the gusts as first the spray built up and then slowly crept towards you before hitting you with a giant blast. I felt like I was in a fantasy world being hit by a blast of magic! I had to protect my camera during the blasts as there was so much spray brought with the wind.

2018 02 15 195

2018 02 15 200

2018 02 15 201

2018 02 15 202

2018 02 15 215

2018 02 15 227

2018 02 15 239

2018 02 15 241

By the time I got back to the van it was nearly 8pm and I was more than ready for some dinner. I had a hard time sheltering the stove from the winds and had to chase after the pot lid when it was sent flying. Sadly, I also lost my cheese to the same gust of wind, although I think that the caracaras may have subsequently enjoyed it. 

Torres del Paine – Laguna Azul

The plan for my second day in Torres del Paine was to travel up to the north of the park to Laguna Azul, where there was a hike between two lakes. Having gone to sleep under an incredibly clear sky, I woke up to pouring rain so abandoned my plan for an early start and snuggled back under the giant stripes blanket until close on 10am. When I dragged myself out of the van, clad in my waterproofs, I realised that I’d managed to park in the muddiest part of the parking spot. At least the spots of pasta sauce I’d sent flying had been washed away.

By the time I’d been to the bathrooms and back it was drying off so I finally set off to Laguna Azul. My first stop was at a waterfall that was just by the side of the road, albeit down a rather steep and rough road. Somehow the tour buses made their way down there, so it didn’t stay quiet for long.

2018 02 15 005

I didn’t linger long before continuing on my way but very soon had to stop again as I spotted some guanaco by the side of the road. I wasn’t the only one who stopped, and suddenly the road was flooded with Belgian tourists, all keen to creep up on the guanaco… until I had a good giggle at the tourist in the middle of the road who was so busy looking had her iPad she was oblivious to the guanaco that was creeping up on her!

2018 02 15 011 2

2018 02 15 018

2018 02 15 022 2


The grey sky was slowly lifting during the drive and by the time I arrived at the park it was looking a little brighter and feeling quite warm and muggy.

2018 02 15 023

2018 02 15 026

I stopped to photograph some geese and swans, and then to chat to a couple Canadians who also had a Wicked camper van before heading off on the walk.

2018 02 15 038 2

2018 02 15 039 2

2018 02 15 049 2

2018 02 15 060 2

2018 02 15 067 2

I didn’t go far before coming to a sign post for a viewpoint. I wasn’t convinced that this was the route I was planning, but lacking any signs for Laguna Cebolla, my official end point, I decided to following the signs instead. Given that the walk I had planned on would take a good few hours each way and I’d had a late start, I was also reconsidering my choice.

2018 02 15 033

2018 02 15 038

A2018 02 15 041

2018 02 15 044

2018 02 15 047

2018 02 15 069

fter a 14.5 mile hike the day before my legs were feeling rather heavy as the path began to climb. There were quite good views across the lake to the towers but unfortunately they were mostly lost in the cloud, although it did clear a bit whilst I was at the summit. It was a nice enough walk, but it was a shame not to have done the walk I’d originally planned, and I think that the main highlights of the trip were the guanaco and the birds that I saw along the way.

2018 02 15 085

When I got back down to the van I took a small walk down to the shore of the lake, a really nice beach, and sat and chatted with the Canadians for a little while. They kindly offered me some black beans, which I very gratefully took having only eaten crisps and nuts all day. They also had a field guide to the local wildlife and I was finally able to identify some of the birds I’d seen along the way.

It was now time to turn tail and head back the way I’d come and slowly start working my way down to the south of the park and eventually back to Puerto Natales. Of course, another guanaco stop was required on the way.

2018 02 15 093

2018 02 15 098

Base de Torres

Having gone to sleep in a howling gale, listening to the sound of rain on the camper van roof, I woke up to silence and opened the doors to find a beautiful blue sky with the Torres del Paine in all their glory. I got dressed at top speed and jumped into the driver’s seat to head up to the park. It wasn’t too far a drive and before long I’d paid the park fee ($20,000, or just over £20) which would allow me entrance to the park for 3 days. Having seen in the weather forecast that this was to be the best day, I’d earmarked it for the hike up to the base of the towers, which would keep me busy for the whole day.

2018 02 14 002

The car park for the towers hike was quite full already and I parked up next to another Wicked camper van. It didn’t take me more than about 10s to decide that I had by far the more attractive van of the two!

2018 02 14 009

I tried not to waste too much time getting myself ready for the hike, but I needed to get my waterproofs and fleece out of the suitcase and into my day pack. As I was about to set off I spotted a caracara strutting across the field, so I stopped to swap over to the telephoto lens for a couple of photos. Then I got as far as the bathrooms before realising that I hadn’t changed from my running shoes into my hiking boots, and that I’d forgotten the trekking poles so I had to go back to the van and extract my suitcase from under the bed again to get at the trekking poles. Finally, after a lot more faffing about I managed to start walking only to be told by one of the rangers that I wasn’t allowed to walk around the visitors’ centre, but instead had to walk through it.

2018 02 14 007

The first bit of the walk was along a track past the campground and hotel buildings. This turns out to be the busiest part of the park, and I think that the hotel is pretty pricey.


2018 02 14 010

2018 02 14 012

2018 02 14 013


What I hadn’t anticipated before I came here was just how many different types of landscape I would see. The walk started out in the grasslands but quite quickly became more rugged. The paths were good quality, and no doubt are quite heavily maintained given the amount of traffic that comes through here.

2018 02 14 014

There were a number of little bridges to cross, most of which only allowed a couple people on at any time. Fortunately, as it was still before 9am, it wasn’t too busy so we didn’t have wait too long.

2018 02 14 017

2018 02 14 021

2018 02 14 023

2018 02 14 027

2018 02 14 030

2018 02 14 032

2018 02 14 034

2018 02 14 035

2018 02 14 036

2018 02 14 040

2018 02 14 042

2018 02 14 050

The path very quickly became steeper and I took plenty of opportunities to stop for photos and to catch my breath. A few times the path became less distinct or split up and it seemed that every now and again its course has been changed to let areas regenerate.

2018 02 14 051

2018 02 14 052

2018 02 14 053

After a little while the path levelled off as we rounded the hillside and entered into an attractive valley with the river rushing along at the bottom. By this point larger groups of walkers were beginning to appear with tour guides. Whilst I’m sure that the guides were useful for providing some extra information about the area I can’t see any real reason to do this walk in a group as there was certainly no difficulty in following the path. My policy very quickly became stepping aside and letting the groups past so that I could walk at my own pace and enjoy the scenery, rather than frogmarching along in the middle of a crowd. 

2018 02 14 054

2018 02 14 057

2018 02 14 060


2018 02 14 063


2018 02 14 070

When we came across a stream I stopped to fill up my water bottle and eat an empanada that I’d picked up at the supermarket the day before. It turns out that empanadas make very convenient hiking food (they’re basically the south american version of a Cornish pasty) and I wish I’d bought a few more.

2018 02 14 073

From the stream the path sloped downhill as we approached the campsite on the river. This was, more or less, the halfway point of the walk, and many hikers stop here overnight to split the walk over two days.

2018 02 14 074

2018 02 14 076

2018 02 14 079

The alternative to hiking to the campsite is to go with a group on horseback. Whilst I suppose this would save some effort, the reality is that the first half of the hike is the easiest so this wouldn’t save as much effort as it first appears, although I suppose that it would make it easier to complete the hike in a single day if you weren’t used to long hikes.

2018 02 14 085

2018 02 14 087

2018 02 14 088

2018 02 14 089

2018 02 14 091

2018 02 14 098

The campground looked rather appealing, but apparently you have to book up early if you want to stay along the way. Some day I’d love to come back and do one of the multi-day treks that this is part off and I can definitely see the appeal of not having to carry a tent on my back, but on the other hand, I much rather stay somewhere less busy. I didn’t hang around at the campsite for long as there were a lot of people around and I preferred to just keep walking. After being in the sun for a while it was lovely to enter the forest and have a little shade. If I’d had any sense I would have stopped and topped up my suncream. Needless to say, despite the factor 50 I did finish up the day with some sunburn.

2018 02 14 099

2018 02 14 100

2018 02 14 104

2018 02 14 107

2018 02 14 109

2018 02 14 110

2018 02 14 111

2018 02 14 112

2018 02 14 116

2018 02 14 120


After a nice stint in the forest the path opened out again and it began to get more rocky, so it was time to get the trekking poles out. I don’t use them often and it took a little time to figure out the best way to hold the trekking poles and still manage to keep the camera from swinging around too much.

2018 02 14 123

2018 02 14 129

2018 02 14 130

2018 02 14 131

2018 02 14 133

2018 02 14 136

Not only did the path get harder to navigate at this point but we were beginning to meet a lot of people coming back down, so there was a lot more stopping and waiting at narrow points. By this time it was mid afternoon and very warm. Like those around me, I was at the point where I would be very glad to get to the top.

2018 02 14 137


Finally I rounded the last corner and the view opened up to the lake and towers. The scenery is beautiful but it was very crowded and noisy. Getting any photos without people in was a real challenge as people were practically lining up to pose for photos. I watched as person after person climbed up onto the big rocks in the foreground and were photographed in various different poses, almost exclusively facing the camera rather than the spectacular sight ahead of them. I did my best to ignore everyone and just soak in the moment, but it was a bit of a challenge. I think I was the only person who saw an orange butterfly flit past, totally incongruous in that environment.

2018 02 14 139

2018 02 14 143

2018 02 14 148

2018 02 14 151

2018 02 14 153

2018 02 14 170

2018 02 14 178

After a while it was time to stand up and head back down again. Clambering over the rocks on the descent with weary legs was challenging and I was glad of the trekking poles at this stage.

2018 02 14 184

2018 02 14 190

2018 02 14 191


Getting back into the forest was a huge relief. I’d woken up with a headache, no doubt thanks to the minimal amount I’d managed to drink the day before and despite my best efforts I wasn’t really managing to rehydrate myself on such a sunny day. Getting out of the light felt fantastic.

2018 02 14 192

I stopped to let some people past and noticed the shiny bark on this tree which everyone was using as a handhold over a tricky bit of ground.

2018 02 14 195

2018 02 14 196

2018 02 14 198

On the way up to the towers I saw one of the tour guides stop and fill his bottle here. I decided to follow his example on the way back down.

2018 02 14 199

I had hoped to find something tasty to eat at the campground on the way back as my empanadas and I’d got bored of cashews and I was feeling very low on energy. There was nothing there that took my fancy though so after drinking my fill of water and sitting for a while watching the sparrows I set off for the last part of the hike back to the start.

2018 02 14 202

Not much stopping for photographs on this last part of the journey as I just wanted to get back and sit down! I hadn’t yet decided where to park up for the night so that was something I also had to figure out. As we neared the bottom of the hill I heard hooves and turned around just in time to see some horses being led past. I guess more people want to ride the horses up to the campground than come back down again.

2018 02 14 212

By the time we approached the hotel my legs were dragging. Not really surprising as it was 14.5 miles and 1100m of ascent since I’d set off in the morning. Having got back to the van I took the laptop and spent a little time in the visitors’ centre downloading my photographs and charging up my laptop as I wasn’t sure when I’d get another opportunity.  

2018 02 14 219

Having ascertained that it would cost me to spend the night in the car park, which I didn’t really fancy anyway (except for the convenience of having the toilet block on hand), I found out that I could park near the park entrance for free and decided to go there instead. That would set me up well for the drive up to the northern part of the park in the morning, so it seemed like a good plan. As I was leaving the car park a young couple of trekkers waved me down wanting to go the same way, so I cleared everything off the front bench and let them in. They were from Santiago, but their English wasn’t too bad so we managed to communicate fairly well. I think they were quite surprised at just how noisy a camper van can be on gravel roads, as they got giggles every time we went over a pothole!

I parked up for the night in a parking area next to the river, along with a couple other camper vans. It was a good spot with a nice view to the towers, but there were a lot of mosquitos which did make things a little unpleasant. I sat out long enough to cook and eat my pasta and then put myself to bed, totally exhausted. Having falled asleep I woke up a couple hours later desperate for the loo. After doing my best to ignore the need and failing I eventually decided that I had no choice but to go outside if I was going to get any sleep. Having opened the van door I was immediately glad that I’d woken – I’ve never seen such a spectacular night sky with stars blazing. I stood in awe for some time admiring the Milky Way before I finally dealt with my call of nature and then put myself back to bed.

Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine

I was up bright and early this first morning in Chile, in part thanks to my fellow guests and in part because of camper van anticipation! With my rudimentary Spanish I managed to ask the owner of the hostel to arrange a taxi for me to the Wicked Campervan depot and the taxi duly arrived with a small delay, having gone to the wrong hostel. Having not managed to find the hostel first time around, it was no surprise when the taxi driver had no clue where to find the address I gave him. I already had the impression from my email correspondence that it was somewhat hard to find and having looked on Google Maps, I knew that it was out of town. After a great deal of discussion with the taxi base, my driver was set on the right track and we headed off in the right direction. I’m still wondering why he didn’t just use the sat nav that was attached to his dashboard. As soon as we hit the outskirts of town the tarmac gave way to gravel roads, a taster of things to come.

I was, I have to admit, a little daunted when I got my first sight of the van – it seemed huge, far bigger than I expected. This turned out not to be a figment of my imagination, when I met a few other vans along the way I realised that although I’d booked the smallest 2 person van, I’d actually ended up with one for 3 people. No complaints there, but everyone I met was jealous of both the space I had and the artwork on my van, which was far superior to the porn star and TV hosts that they were sporting!

Having done the paperwork and had the tour of the van, I tried not to think too hard about the possibility of needing to change a tyre along the way and didn’t hang around for long before heading off. First priority was to fill the van up with fuel and then get myself on the Ruta 9 to Puerto Natales, 245km to the north. It’s been a good 15 years or so since I’ve regularly driven a manual and although I’m comfortable driving on the right hand side of the road thanks to my visits to Canada, I’m used to doing it in an automatic car. Wearing hiking boots it was hard to get a good feel for the clutch at first, but I felt a lot more comfortable when I got my running shoes out of my case and changed footwear. Fortunately, finding the way to Ruta 9 was not too complex and I managed to find a petrol station on my way, although I was a little thrown by the fact that it wasn’t self-service and I had to communicate with the attendant about which type of petrol I wanted.

Car fuelled, I hit the road. Time for the adventure to really start. The route was very straightforward, get onto Ruta 9 and stay on it until you reach Puerto Natales! So that was pretty much what I did, although I did take a couple stops along the way. I was quite taken with the bus shelters, particularly this rather unloved looking one, which had a new shiny one skulking behind it.

It was a rather grey day, with a few spots of rain, which somehow suited the flat open grasslands that characterised the first part of the journey. A few cattle, more sheep. And then, excitement of excitements – a guanaco! Yet further along, a lake. With pink spots on it. Surely not? They must be buoys. No, they really are. FLAMINGOES! Sadly no chance to photograph them as I passed by. And then, trotting along the side of the road. Ostriches? But they live in Africa. Emus? No, they live in Australia. A mystery. Finally solved a couple days later when I borrowed a guide from a fellow traveller and identified them as rhea. Of course. I’d come to Chile expecting scenery, but already I was discovering a wealth of wildlife. I was overjoyed!

I stopped for lunch at a small town called Villa Tehuelches (population 151, according to Wikipedia), a place which seems to have no other reason to exist than being 100km away from Punta Arenas. I ate an empanada – traditional Chilean fare after all, admired the crocheted flowers in the cafe, the horses and the designs on the wooden road signs, and then continued on my way.

The weather started to deteriorate and the rain grew heavier, but by this point I was much more comfortable with the handling of the van and having a fine old time enjoying the scenery regardless. By late afternoon I reached Puerto Natales, important stopping point on the way to Torres del Paine, if only for the reason of re-fuelling as the tank was nearly empty and this was the last petrol station before the park. I also needed to find myself some food for the next few days so I trundled around the town with no real idea where I was going in the hope of spotting a supermarket. Once I’d found one and loaded up with pasta, pasta sauce, cheese and the all important chocolate and crisps I found a wifi-sporting cafe and treated myself to a burger. Which is to say, a burger with the burger replaced by avocado. Quite a feat to order when you don’t speak Spanish, but I succeeded and greatly enjoyed it!

Having finished my burger and headed back to the van, I was all set to complete my day’s journey when I discovered a very soggy looking piece of paper on my windshield. Really? A parking ticket, when I’ve only had the van half a day? How embarrassing! And more to the point, what on earth do I do about it? Lacking better ideas I went back into the cafe and enlisted the help of one of the staff. She kindly came out into the rain with me, spotted a parking warden and took me over to him. He looked at the ticket, told me I owed $1050 (about one pound), I paid up and that was the end of it. Disaster averted! One final stop, then, the petrol station. I got the van filled up, but completely forgot to fill up the jerry can. Given that it was 145km to the park, and the tank was said to hold 300km worth of fuel, this oversight was to haunt me for a while as I worried about whether I’d had enough fuel to do anything once I got to the park.

The weather was pretty grim heading out of Puerto Natales, but the end of my long day’s driving was more or less in sight. Just another 145km or so until I reached the park. Finally, at Cerro Castillo it was time to take a left turn, at a somewhat incongruously placed roundabout in more or less the middle of nowhere.

Having had good quality roads up to now, it was time to do some real driving as a well placed sign warned me of poor road quality for the next 15km. The sign wasn’t lying. Short sections of paved road gave way to well and truly massacred sections of gravel road and my speed dropped from 100km/h to about 20km/h. Rough roads in a camper van are not quiet! The three chairs I had been supplied (I used one of them, once, during the whole trip!) rattled around with every bump, and pole for the table (which I also never used) rolled around in the back of the van. Each short stretch of paving was delightfully quiet, but rarely lasted more than 100 yards.

To add to the roads and the rain, Patagonia is known for its strong winds and we were hit by a lot of them for the rest of the journey. With the size of the van, it really caught the wind, and I had to fight to keep the van from skittering across the road. Ah yes, this is what a road trip is all about! Eventually the road did improve again, which was quite a relief, and around 8pm I pulled over at a mirador (view point) at Lago Sarmiento. Apparently there was a great view of the Torres from here, but if there was, it was lost in the cloud.

As I prepared my bed for the night a caravan drew up with the same plan to spend the night. I set up the sleeping bag and giant stripey blanket that I’d borrowed from the pile of goodies left behind by previous campers and snuggled up in my bed, as the van shook in the wind and the rain came lashing down.

From Dundee to Punta Arenas

After months of anticipation it’s finally time for me to head off on my elective (a self organised placement during your medical degree which is usually, although not necessarily, carried out abroad) – 6 weeks at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in the Falklands, with a short trip to Chile on either side. I suspect that I’ve been pretty insufferable for the last few weeks as the time to depart has come closer and closer.

My flight itinerary out to the Chile was not simple, with stops in London, Sao Paulo and Santiago before finally arriving at Punta Arenas in the southern most part of Chile – Magellanes y Antarctica. The whole journey took 36 hours door-to-door and I was very grateful for Mum and Dad coming up to Scotland to drop me off at the airport, saving me the additional hassle of a train journey at the start.

I had an almost 6 hour wait at Heathrow, which was tedious in the extreme but gave me plenty of time to collect my bag and recheck it in before settling myself in Carluccio’s with an assignment that I still needed to finish and some delicious focaccia. Having dreaded the flight to Sao Paulo, which at 12 hours was the longest leg and overnight, I was lucky to find myself on a fairly empty flight with a whole row of seats to spread out in. The food was surprisingly good (well, in all honesty I can only really remember the salted caramel chocolate ganache, which was amazing!), the cabin crew were cheery and despite having to bend myself around the armrests which couldn’t be raised all the way up, I managed to get some sleep and arrive in Sao Paulo feeling relatively human.

2018 02 12 014 jpg

2018 02 12 016 jpg

My transfer time in Sao Paulo was only scheduled for 1:45 but having been delayed leaving Heathrow we only had an hour – just enough time to clear security and sadly relinquish the extra bottle of red wine they’d given me on the plane. I was not, therefore, particularly optimistic about the chances of my suitcase joining me on the next leg to Santiago.

2018 02 12 023 jpg

Amused by the healthy eating options in Sao Paulo!

Another window seat, and yet again a row of seats to myself. It’s not often you get that lucky on a long journey! I really enjoyed this leg of the trip as the views were fantastic, particularly as we flew over the Andes. The colours of the rock were beautiful and I was amazed at how different it was to the other mountain ranges I know, such as the Rockies and my lovely Scottish mountains.

2018 02 12 025 jpg

2018 02 12 034 jpg

2018 02 12 037 jpg

2018 02 12 038 jpg

2018 02 12 043 jpg

2018 02 12 047 jpg

2018 02 12 049 jpg

Santiago was a bit of a slog as I had to clear immigration and customs, the latter meaning that I had to collect my bag, have it x-rayed and then check it back and go through security. Yet again. On the positive side, despite my expectations I was pleased to be reunited with my bag and know that we’d managed to travel together thus far. We’ve been separated on far simpler trips than this one!

By this time I was running out of energy and enthusiasm for travelling. I tried to get some Chilean pesos out of the ATM but was put off by the $5000 (those are pesos, not dollars!) charge and decided to wait until Punta Arenas in the hope of paying less. I asked at a cafe if they would fill my water bottle and due to the language barrier ended up with boiling water! I was harangued by one of the staff to pay a tip for the privilege, but couldn’t communicate that I literally didn’t have a single peso. She wandered off in disgust before I could open up my wallet and prove it to her. Fortunately the lady who served me was far less demanding!

Finally, the last leg of the journey. I shared my row of seats with a mum and toddler, and I’d be hard pressed to say who was the most fidgety by this stage, me or the toddler! Still, I managed to keep myself occupied with admiring the views, and the excitement of spotting some volcanoes cheered me up immensely. Cute toddler spent some time playing with her plastic farm animals and we bonded over animal noises and pictures of my cats which I showed her on the iPad, prompting many a Spanish miaow. A sighting of the Torres del Paine, my destination for the next few days kept me going until the end, but I was very glad to exit that final flight, and pretty hungry as the only food on offer was for sale.

2018 02 12 052 jpg

2018 02 12 063 jpg2018 02 12 065 jpg

2018 02 12 066 jpg

2018 02 12 072 jpg

2018 02 12 077 jpg

With little difficulty I managed to attach myself to a group of people who wanted to travel into the city centre in one of the minibuses that will you drop you at your hostel door. This despite having to make a hasty detour to the cash machine, where I was sadly charged $6000. Should have gone with the first offer!

Bug eyed but hungry I wandered into town for a quick meal before heading back to the hostel. Plenty of dogs to be seen on the streets, all of whom seem to be very chilled and very friendly, both with each other and passers by. My hostel was friendly, and the owner and I managed to communicate reasonably well despite our lack of common language. I had a cheery green room right next to the bathroom, which was convenient, and the communal area and dining room, which was somewhat less convenient due to the noise, although I was tired enough that it didn’t stop me falling asleep within minutes.