Monday, December 18, 2006

Calgary to Puerto Varas

Long day in transit. We started in Banff, returning from Erik's work party. We left extra early as we had been tipped off that the security workers at the Calgary airport were on strike and that travellers should leave arrive four hours in advance. As it turned out, they were not, in fact, on strike - and it we actually faced some of the smallest lines I've seen in recent memory at the counter, security and security. Maybe it was because we were the only ones that were there so early. In any case, it was nice to start the holiday in a laid back way.
We flew with American Airlines on the way to Chile. It was refreshing not to have to fight with the person at the counter over whether I had to pay the bike fee even though my bike fit within the allowable baggage guidlines by size and weight. Maybe its the American way or maybe I just got lucky, but American Airlines scored some points with me today. Before we even left the airport in Calgary, I had a close call involving my passport and the toilet - but I will spare you the details. First stop was Dallas. It was my first time in the Dallas airport. What a great airport. We only had to move five gates over to catch our next flight, so we had time to enjoy the amenities - the highlight being a FREE 15 minute deep tissue massage from the massage chair at Brookstone. I was pretty impressed with how effective it was. Before we knew it, it was time to board our next flight through to Santiago. When I booked our flights, I was a little bitter about the three hour layover in Santiago but, as it turned out, we needed the time. An hour and sa half to get through customs. Then we had to pick up our bags and check in for our next flight. Two guys that worked for the airport (or at least I think they did), helped me and Erik through the baggage screening area and upstairs to the flight check-in area. Sounds easy eh? Not so much. I bet they saved us half an hour as they speedily led us through a disorienting mass of family and friends, chilean police, taxi drivers and tour operators...and then up to the second floor to the check-in counter. These were two of the skinniest guys I've ever seen - I'd bet they weighed very close to the total of our luggage plus the cart. It was evident in the way they had to throw their whole bodies into getting the cart going, desperately steering around people and then being dragged along the ground on their feet as they tried to bring the cart to a stop. It was entertaining.

Finally, we arrived in Puerto Montt at 2:40pm. I had arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport. When he saw how much luggage we had, his eyes popped out of his head and he had to find another driver to take some of our luggage for us. From there it was a 30 minute drive to Puerto Varas, where Erik and I will be staying tonight. Nice place. Similar to Vancouver in terms of weather, though its a bit inland. Perfect cycling temperature, although the forecast calls for rain for the next little while. Our hotel is more like a hostel - but nice. Its a big bold blue building run by a german guy named Arvid and there appears to be only two other guests here - from Austria - on a much longer trip than ours. The town population is about 22,500 people. We've gone for a quick walk around town and put our bikes together. We had an early dinner at a cute little place that had homemade pasta. It was great. I was able to get some maps and info, but not all of the info I I still don't know which way we will ride tomorrow. I guess we will decide at breakfast. Time to get a real nights sleep.


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