Over the Hills, the Road to the End of the World, Four Flights and Three Drives to Thanksgiving

Palm Desert, CA

It was 42 hours door to door to get from Torres del Paine, Chile to Palm Desert, CA for Thanksgiving. It was a pretty morning in Patagonia. I took a two hour or so ride to Puerto Natales, changed vehicles and driver. We then took the “Ruta del Fin del Mundo” to Punta Arenas airport, where arrived two hours in advance of my flight.

The Punta Arenas airport is pretty small, though the plane was pretty big. There’s a very small lounge and a couple of coffee places that also sell sandwiches and a gift/snack/drinks shop.

Three hours after leaving Punta Arenas, I was in Santiago where the temperature was nearly 80. Chile is VERY long and narrow, with huge climate changes from north to south. At the Santiago airport I retrieved a bag I had stored there, thinking I could then check in my bags and relax…alas that was not the case. Check in is only three hours in advance of a flight and I was there five hours early. So my luggage cart became my lounging area in a relatively deserted part of the busy airport. Having not had internet access for a week time passed pretty quickly. The Santiago airport before security though is pretty basic anyway, not enough room for all the people entering it.

I finally was able to check in, got past security and wandered around the airport a bit. Pro tip: Don’t buy any drinks before boarding the plane to the USA in Santiago, as there is a secondary security check just before boarding and they will confiscate any liquids exceeding 3 ounces/100 ml. On the other hand my laptop never had to be removed and my shoes and hat stayed on my head and feet respectively at all times.

I had a long flight, about 10 hours, to Houston, a three hour flight to LAX, another three hour layover home, a Lyft ride to my house, then a three hour drive to Palm Desert…left at 7am, arrived in PD around 9pm.

Getting home for Thanksgiving Day with my parents and cousins was worth it though.

Tips:

  • It takes a long time to reach or return from Patagonia, plan accordingly. It took me 42 hours without any issues. I could have saved some time not flying via LAX (but it was much less expensive doing it that way)
  • Do not buy liquids before boarding the plane to the US in Santiago (other than Duty Free which is delivered to the plane in sealed bags)
  • Do not wait too long to go to Patagonia. You can see much of the park without rigorous physical activity, including Grey Glacier but to see some of the best views, hiking is really necessary