With a well developed transport infrastructure at the Patagonia end I guess it was always going to be relatively straightforward to get to the start of the walk – and thats how it turned out. Chile is only three hours behind the UK as well so there isn’t really any jet-lag to worry about.
Tuesday 12th March
Left home at 13.45 heading for Darlington Railway Station, caught the 14.45 train to Kings Cross, arriving at 17.20.
Tube to Paddington. Heathrow Express to Heathrow Airport, arrived 18.30pm
Took off on time, 20.45 flight to San Paulo, Brazil.
Getting an overnight flight turned out to be a good idea, I’d called into Boots before leaving and was recommended Sominex as a mild sleeping tablet, after a meal and a movie I popped a tablet and settled in for the night. Next thing I knew we were a few hours from our first destination.
Wednesday 13th March
Disembarked in San Paulo at 5.55am local time, 8.55 GMT.
Boarded the 7.30 flight for Santiago, Chile, arrived 12 Noon.
This is where things started to unravel – we missed our flight connection despite having a theoretical 90 minutes.
There were three things that contributed to this, firstly we had asked and been told in Heathrow that our bags were booked through to our final destination – Punta Arenas. This wasn’t true, we were expected to collect our bags at the first destination airport in Chile for inspection by customs. We didn’t realise this for some time.
Second issue was the customs entry forms – there were none on the plane for us to complete before we landed – so completing these form would take precious minutes on the ground.
Thirdly – on entering the airport we asked an airline official where to go for our flight to Punta Arenas – they sent us to International Departures instead of Domestic Departures. Its not easy to get out of International Departures once you’re in there.
A workman ended his lunch early to take us through to where we needed to be, we completed our forms and went through to customs – this is when we were told we had to get our luggage – which was easy to find as it was the last luggage on the carousel. We rushed on through – we had to unpack our freeze dried food for inspection and we finally got to the check-in about ten minutes late – they wouldn’t stretch a point and we’d effectively missed our next flight.
We got ourselves on standby for the 20.30 flight which was currently full, if we couldn’t get on that then the next one was 02.15 the next morning! We got to know the airport pretty well.
At 20.00 we reported to the standby desk, there were about half a dozen other travellers that had also missed the previous flight – they were all ahead of us in the queue – anxious minutes as their names were called, then finally ours were too.
We raced to the plane and boarded quickly, it took off at 20.50. We landed at Punta Arenas airport at 12.10am.
Had we not missed the connection we would have landed in Punta Arenas at around 5pm. That would have given us time to get food and fuel for our trip before getting to bed – meaning an early start the following morning to get to the park. As it was we would have to do our shopping on Thursday morning before heading off.
Thursday 14th March
Got to bed at 01.45am. Got up at 07.45am.
After a decent continental breakfast we did our food shopping and bought our fuel at a Pharmacy. We were both packing meths stoves and I’d written down the Spanish equivalents – we discussed it with one of the staff in the supermarket who directed us to the Pharmacy.
The supermarket close to the hotel only had limited options for food – I’m sure that there were larger ones that would have been better – however we made the best selections and got what we needed. We then booked an 11.00am bus to Puerto Natales. There are a number of bus companies that you could use and they helpfully arrange their timetables so that there’s a good range of departure times.
We arrived in Puerto Natales at 2pm, immediately bought a ticket for the Park on the bus due to leave at 2.30pm – again the departure times were sensibly set to provide a smooth journey to the park.
We entered the park at 5pm and could have started our walk here, however we had planned to start from the CONAF Administration centre which entails another 90 minutes on the bus, - glad we did as it turned out.
Arrived at the start of the walk at 6.30pm. 56 hours after leaving the house, and about 3 hours later than we’d planned to arrive.