February 29, 2004

Chile flagWe got up at 7:30 am so that we could have breakfast at 8. We had packed up last night, and this morning only last-minute items needed to be put away. The sky was clear, except that Volcán Villarrica was still shrouded in cloud, so things were looking good for the seven people from the hostel who hoped to climb it today.

Breakfast at La Torre Suiza was good—Claudia’s homemade bread with plum jam and tea. We paid up for our three nights stay (14000 pesos per night plus Internet time) and said goodbye to our hosts. We picked up our bags and walked up the street to the JAC bus terminal. Luckily it was a short walk, as our carry-on bag was quite heavy. We were early for the bus, so we had to wait a while for it to arrive. And when it did, it didn’t pick up any passengers. First it went over to the bus-washing area, and then it went out of the terminal with no passengers. Twenty minutes later it came back and everybody got on as if nothing unusual had happened.

The bus was full, with a lot of people standing in the aisle. Going to Puerto Montt should have made it a middle-distance bus, but it started out being a local bus that made stops in little places like Loncoche and Lanco. After a while, though, it did become a middle-distance bus and only stopped at larger places like Valdivia and Osorno. None of these places looked particularly appealing, but that might also be due to the fact that it clouded over and started to rain. And we couldn’t see any of the volcanoes along the route, either.

Last stop was Puerto Montt. It was only 2:30 pm, more than five hours before flight time, so we stashed all our bags at the bag check and bought our tickets for the 5 pm bus to the airport. As we walked over to the Angelmó craft market the rain was absolutely teeming down. We were both wearing our wind jackets, which were not nearly waterproof enough to cope, so by the time we arrived there we were drenched!

The craft market was the same as last year, and we knew somewhat what we were looking for. The vendors were glad to see us as not many potential customers were braving the downpour. We bought two alpaca shawls for 7500 pesos each and three hats for 1500 pesos each. They had the wooden sugar bowls too, but since they all said something like “Souvenir of Puerto Montt” we didn’t buy any.

We wanted to get hot chocolate at the bus terminal, but none of the restaurants and kiosks there had any. So we recovered our packs and tried to dry ourselves with towels. It was still raining as we took the half-hour bus ride to the Puerto Montt airport, in fact so hard that it was difficult to see through the front window of the bus. Then as we arrived at the airport, the rain let up a bit.

We checked our backpacks in first of all. There was no problem, fortunately, and the airline staff were intrigued by the exotic “YVR” on our itinerary. Paul’s backpack weighed 18 kg and Rosemary’s weighed 14 kg. That left us the Mapuche carpet as one carry-on and the absurdly large black bag containing all our other purchases as the other. It must have weighed 10 kg by itself.

Now that we had our boarding passes we were all set. We still had 1600 pesos in coins, so we went to the gift shop to spend them. We noticed it had the wooden birds we had purchased in Villarrica, except the airport wanted 12000 pesos for each of them instead of the 6500 we had paid. We spent the coins on two chocolate bars and some marzipan fruits, and then went through security to sit at the gate. Up there Paul wandered around a bit and found that we could get large hot chocolates for 1000 pesos. We still had two 1000-peso bills, so we used them for our last Chilean hot chocolate.

The flight from Puerto Montt to Santiago was only a bit over an hour long, and mostly over clouds so we saw no volcanoes. Dinner was served at 8:45 pm; we both chose the pork loin, which was excellent. Along with the meat we had rice with spinach and crème caramel for dessert.

When we got to Santiago we went straight upstairs and through the Chilean exit control. Our flight to Los Angeles was already boarding, so we joined the line and got on. Dinner was served on this flight, too, at about 11:45 pm. It was salmon; Paul accepted and ate some of it, but Rosemary declined it.

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