January 1, 2007
Vina del Mar to Santiago to Puerto Varas
Today is a travel day. We leave the hotel a little after 9:30am bound for the Santiago airport, some two hours travel from Vina del Mar. Boarding the flight presents the same bugaboos for one individual we thought we had completely eliminated, but we work through it and all are happily aboard a very crowded flight to Puerto Montt, the gateway to Patagonia. The flight lasts about an hour and a half, and includes a snack lunch.
Our new guide is a young gay man named Marcello. He is very friendly and helpful, but his English isn't great. When people ask questions he sometimes misses the meaning and answers a different question he thought he heard. It is too soon to judge, however, as he merely transferred us from the airport to the small town of Puerto Varas, about 20 minutes drive.
Puerto Varas is on the shores of Lake Llanquihue, the third largest lake in all of South America (after Titicaca in Peru/Bolivia and another lake in Chile). The weather is partly cloudy, and the nearby volcano is obscured from view.
Arriving at the hotel we do the group check in. I am finalizing all the paperwork at the desk when a client reports that he is missing his camera, and thinks it was left at the restaurant where we rang in the New Year. Fortunately, Marcello is still here and is able to make calls to both the restaurant and the hotel. The camera is found in his hotel room, and arrangements are being made to have it sent to our next destination! What a happy outcome!!!
I finally get to my room, and absolutely love the view over the lake. Tomorrow's excursion will see us outdoors on the volcano, so I unpack some of the warmer clothes in order to be ready for any kind of weather.
A brief walk along the beach into town reminds me of how exhausted I am from little sleep the night before. I check out several restaurants but many are closed today for the holiday.
It is a charming town with many historic buildings reminiscent of the area's German immigrants. Nevertheless, I decide that for me the best option is to stay at the hotel and have an early dinner. Two other clients join me, and we have a wonderful dinner overlooking the lake. Mine is beautifully prepared talapia fish.
I get in bed with lights out by 10:30pm. It is the first night I have the potential for a full eight hours of sleep since we don't have to leave until 9:30am tomorrow! This is about the mid-point of the tour, and I am grateful to have the chance for a much needed battery charge!