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Departure from Punta Arenas
Craig and Steph Hike in Patagonia

(Stephanie Smith)
We woke up at 5:30. The sun was casting a rosy glow on the mountains, and the clouds were orangey red. We packed up our stuff, went to the bathroom, etc., and at 6:30 we headed into the large domo for breakfast. We had fruit cocktail, cereal, bread with peanut butter, and orange juice. While we were eating breakfast one of the staff brough our passports back and we felt a sense of relief. That is one of those things when travelling. You just don't want to end up forgetting your documents anywhere, as losing them would be a nightmare. At 7:10, we collected all of our bags, and they were loaded into a van. We hopped into the van and took a long quiet ride to Puerto Natales initially on dirt roads. Some of the bridges were very narrow and we could see some rather large busses parked in a lot nearby. We wondered if they couldn't cross the bridge and unloaded into smaller vehicles instead. After a short ride we passed by a small town, which I believe was actually a border crossing into Argentina. It was just far enough away that we couldn't be sure though. By this time we were on a paved roadway and making good time toward Puerto Natales. Once there we stopped at the Cascada offices to sign the guest book and use the bathroom. It was just a small office with a few computers and a very nice woman behind one of them. There were various maps adorning the walls and pieces of literature discussing all the exciting things to do in the area. Despite having a great time in Patagonia, the weather was just so perfect that we had wished we had more time to spend here. We have a feeling that we came at the perfect time and could have easily kept ourselves busy here for many more days, if not weeks.

By 9:20, we were at the bus station for our 9:30 bus to Punta Arenas. There was a couple in our assigned seats (1 and 2, on the left side of the bus) so we sat in 3 and 4, the front seats on the right. I slept through most of the ride, but according to Craig it was a strange wasteland of a ride. There was absolutely nothing to see. You'd approach a house or store once in a great while, only to find that it looked abandoned and had broken windows. There were occasional cars on the side of the road that looked as though they might have been abandoned. It was a highway, but you barely ever passed a car going in the opposite direction. Many times he saw a single car in the distance driving an intersecting dirt road but they would soon disappear over the landscape. Craig wished he could have slept on the bus but he just sat staring at the very uneventful scenery as it passed by.

The bus dropped us off at the airport and we checked in. We were very early for our flight, so we attempted to get onto an earlier one, but had no luck. We had a lot of time to spare. We browsed through some of the shops and ended up in a small internet boutique. We sat at one of the many workstations and sent a quick update email to some firends and family back home. With very little else to do we decided to go sit in the Aeropuerto Punta Arenas Restaurant. We were given a huge menu, but they seemed not to have anything that we tried to order. I wanted king crab ravioli, or, as a second choice, king crab soup. They didn't have either, and told me that they only had king crab omelette or cold king crab. I didn't feel like either of those, so I tried to order steak in pepper sauce. We were told they had no beef. What on this extensive menu could we actually order? We asked the waiter for a recommendation, and he mentioned the scallops in cheese. Figuring this was probably the extent of what they offered, we ordered it, along with a side order of cheese empanadas. The waiter delivered the scallops, but not the empanadas. We asked about them and were told it would be another 5-10 minutes. Time went on, and he came and cleared the table. He asked if we wanted anything else. Again we asked for the empanadas. He apologized and sped off. Eventually he brought them over to our table. When he was not within ear-shot, Craig made a great Spanish pun. He stated that "apparently we had ordered empanadas with the emphasis on the 'nada'". We both got a real good laugh over that one! Our flight wasn't until 4:55, so we sat at gate 3 waiting. A woman directly across from us was reading the novel "Murder With Puffins". What was with this book? We had seen someone reading it on our flight to Guatemala last May. Craig and I have a thing for puffins, so we always seem to notice it. We had a good flight, complete with free beer, toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, a fruit tart, etc. All of a sudden Craig had a panicked look on his face as he realized that he must have left his hat at the gate in the Punta Arenas airport. It was on top of his carry on bag but must have fallen under the chair and he didn't notice it as he left. He was very sad as he had become very attached to it during such a great week of hiking. Not only did he realize he lost it, but suddenly the thought of the Patagonian sun on his bare head scared him. This was a rather unfortunate realization and I know Craig was rather upset with himself for being so careless with his hat.

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