And so it begins..... / by Mark Boyd

It takes a long time to reach the region known as Patagonia....  I spent the 10 days previous in the Scottish Highlands trying out all my camping/outdoors gear, I wanted to ensure I was well prepared, but having slept in old stone bothies, my car and my buddies caravan, the camping gear only got used on one of my nights!  Haahahahahahaha!  Poor preparation?  Nah.

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Even the direct flight from London to Santiago takes almost 15 hours and with my taking off at around 10pm and landing somewhere around 8.45am Santiago time I'd need somewhere to relax and friend Lucas, whom I'd met three years earlier in Gokarna, India was kind enough to offer me his place near the city centre. 

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As the aircraft became bathed by the orange glow of the morning sun over the Andes mountain range I began to ponder over how I'd get to Lucas' place.  In the airport I decided to pay the couple of quid necessary to allow me to leave my pack in left luggage.  I wandered outside and found the bus to the centre.  I handed the bus driver a large denomination note (all that the ATM offered), he looked at me and handed me some change.  It would later come to my attention that said driver was a thief, charging me the equivalent of almost nine pounds for a fare that was actually nearer two pounds.  You live and learn (again).  Lucas had provided directions.  They were difficult as I had no data to use for GoogleMaps or MapsMe, so I kinda 'smelt' my way there..... and just as I was doubting my directional sense (which is totally justifiable) there he was walking towards me!  It was great to see Lucas again after such a long time.  We walked the rest of the way to his flat, he showed me around, gave me the wifi password and headed to work.  We met later that evening for a couple of beers, and his friend Yorch (an ex-guide from Patagonia) joined us for the final half hour before I headed back to the airport.  Why was I heading to the airport?  To sleep of course!  My next flight was departing at 6.45am so I needed to be at said venue early, therefore it seemed wise to find a quiet spot and sleep.  Which is exactly what I did.  SleepingatAirports.com is an absolute Godsend!  The next leg of my journey was a 3.5 hour flight south towards Punta Arenas.

Punta Arenas airport:  How do I get to town when there's no bus service..... Okay.... I'll ask the nearest tourist.  Her name was Angela from Spain.  Handy!  And she was booked in to the same hostel!  What are the chances?  We shared a taxi with two Chinese tourists and 15 minutes later we were at the hostel, and a fine hostel it was too!

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Angela's plans were to head further South, all the way to 'The End of the World' in Ushuaia....

I wasn't fussed about Ushuaia, but I did want to visit Karukinka National Park, so off the beaten track that tourists don't visit.  A car is required.... Hmmmmmm. 

After a bit of chatting Angela asked if we could split the cost of car hire and drive South..... Sounded like a plan... Though I was hoping for a bit of solitude and wild camping, the cost saving would far outweigh the inconvenience of having to be sociable.... The following day we bought supplies for camping and researched and booked a car.  £30 per day seemed pretty good for Patagonia, having already blown away by the cafe and supermarket prices.... 

Tomorrow we'll head to Avis at 10.30am and hope to be on the road for midday.....