Punta Arenas, Chile
7AM bus. I had my usual front row seat. This bus service had better service than the “new” United Airlines. The ayudante passed out blankets first and then brought us coffee. Perfect. Inside, I warm and caffeinated an excellent way to view the beautiful sunrise over the snowy landscape. A few suicidal bunnies periodically would test their fate by racing across the road. A herd of cows stuck to a trail adjacent to the road as they walked their morning commute to whatever field they were supposed to trim today.
It is amazing how quickly 3 hours on a bus could pass. Before I knew it, I was already in Punta Arenas. My first stop was to Al Fin del Mundo…Hostal!
Unencumbered, I went back out into the cold. As I walked around the small and quaint little port city on the edge of the continent, I kicked it old school in my head. Vanilla Ice’s song Ice Ice Baby was in my head because it was indeed “too cold, too cold”. Ice covered the streets and sidewalks forcing me to walk slowly careful to watch my step. There were several Chileans I had passed sporting arm casts. Walking with some school kids, some glided along while one dude kicked it old school busting out a moonwalk.
This sighting made me miss the street I had been looking for: Patagonia. The most austral Coca-Cola plant made me miss the turn for Ceveceria Austral. I wanted to see about taking a tour of the facility which usually involved tasting a few at the tour’s end. Like old people like to say, I had to hike up the hill in the snow both ways. However, in my case it was ice.
I walked up a hill that could hold it’s own in San Francisco to the mirador to view the city settled next to the Strait of Magellan. Behind me, I spotted something else a Coca-Cola sign. This was not one of the usual ubiquitous signs that dot the landscape but one that belonged to the bottling plant “La planta Coca-Cola mas austral del mundo”. The plant was called Coca-Cola Polar. I wondered if this was what inspired the marketing with the polar bears. From Atlanta, Georgia to Punta Arenas, Chile! I wondered if this would be a good place to have a Piscola (Pisco mixed with Coca-Cola a Chilean drink).
Halfway up the icy slope, pack of 3 dogs came racing in to tell me my kind was not welcome here. The 2 little bastards were fast and vicious. Fuck! There were no immediate rocks to pick up and throw. Even if there had been, there was no time. Quickly, I lifted both arms and made it look like I was about to hurl something at them. Simultaneously, I started kicking my legs at them. For extra effect, trying extra to be an Alpha Bitch, I may or may not have started making sounds that were a hybrid growl of a dog and roar of a lion. A few Chileans stopped at the bottom of the street to watch as I backed down the hill in this manner. Bottom-line, I was happy to escape the dog attack unscathed. No need for stitches or a rabies shot. My ego was bruised since there were witnesses.
OK, so down the hill I will go. I run into more ice-covered sidewalks and streets but see a beacon of hope: The Ceveceria Austral Brewery. Wahoo!! I walk up. Chain across the path and sign: Cerrado! Boohoo!
Well, maybe it was better I did not have a few beers before booking my flight to Puerto Williams. Originally, I wanted to go via sea but it looked like I missed the last ferry for the season, yesterday. No worries, there was one company that flew to the island at 10AM each morning except for Sundays. The DAP office was around the corner from my hostal, although you could kind of say that about almost everything in town. There was a friendly old guy just hanging out. I think his role was to entertain customers while the super-lento system searched. He was amused I was from California “Eres de un estado con terremotos y vienes un pais con terremotos.” Daniella informed me there were no seats for Friday. She said that there were 2 reservations in the system for Saturday. If they did not book by 10AM by tomorrow, I would have a seat. The other guy joked and told me I could always swim. I told Daniella I would see her “mañana”.
Damn! No beer. No flight! Ugh! I told myself not to stress. Simmer down chica! The flight, I knew deep down it would be mine. Everything always end up working out because
No brewery tour, so what! I would go and sample sola. Around the corner was a cerveceria serving up some schop aka draught along with some dinner. Jose and a few other Navimag buddies told me to eat calafate, like a blueberry, while in Punta Arenas in order to guarantee a return to the city. Like everything else, I was here outside the season. However, something caught my eye: calafate beer brewed by none other than Austral. Sweet, I killed 2 birds with one pint glass! Since I am a girl, I can happily drink a fruity beer without getting chastised for not having a penis. It was awesome! I was reminded of the blueberry beer I sampled in Maine that was served with the little blueberries floating in my pint.
After a pint, perhaps 2, I returned to Al Fin del Mundo. I was the only guest. Me and the owner hung out over tea. What I like most about the Chileans is their patience with non-native speakers. At first, their rapid-fire Spanish is impossible to understand. Once you tell them you are borderline retarded, they slow down and are willing to help you improve your grammar. It was a good night just chilling and chatting with him. Having a slight buzz generally improves my ability to speak by decreasing inhibition to allow the conversation to flow without me caring if I sounded like a complete moron or not.
Between the sun setting so early and the extreme cold weather, I felt like I was one of the polar bears featured in the Coca-Cola ads. I guess that is why they drink so much Coke: to stay awake. I opted to hibernate rather than consume a syrupy caffeinated beverage. My slight Austral buzz exacerbated my sleepiness. It was time to peace out early.