"Pack plenty of Tigerbalm, and be prepared to fight an irresistible urge of wanting to strangle each other!" he said: My well-travelled Chilean business partner was not impressed with our itinerary as proposed.
The highlight and backbone of our travel plans was a twenty-hour, south-bound ferry ride on a 114 meter long steel ship through fjords and glaciers from Puerto Montt to Puerto Chacabuco, Chile. In Puerto Chacabuco, a small, isolated settlement without a defined town center, we had planned to pick up a 4x4 rental car and drive south, 954 miles to Punta Arenas, drop off the car and fly to Santiago. You can drive 2,800 miles across America from Washington, DC to San Francisco, CA in approximately forty-one hours, so to take nine days to drive less than half of that distance seemed reasonable. Until you take into account the Carretera Austral, which south of Puerto Montt winds along the coast like a serpent made from gravel continually shifting under your tires, demanding your undivided attention. And not only do you have to navigate the road; you also have to be on the lookout for the other travellers on this pot-holed one lane: Other cars; bicyclists; horses; sheep; children; cows; and eighteen-wheelers - more often than not encountered in the middle of the road. Exceeding forty miles per hour is suicidal for the most part. Add to that a $750 one-way drop-off fee for the rental car and we were back at the drawing board.
Our revised, equally shared and separately arranged itinerary, the other person not knowing the details of the other person's preparations, looked as follows when we departed Boston. On paper.
Day 1: Arrival in Montevideo. Prospect of cold drinks on hot beach.
Day 2: Bus and ferry to Buenos Aires for dinner, tango and cigars. (Despite three earlier visits, this was still on my list of things to do.)
Day 3: Overnight bus (20 hrs) to San Martin de los Andes, a Swiss alpine town located in Argentina, to enjoy two days of friendship, generous hospitality and business meetings.
Day 6: Bus departure at six am for eight hours across the Andes to Valdivia, Chile to pick up a rental car. Drive 115 miles to Puerto Montt. PM departure on 20-hour ferry through the fjords and archipelago of central Chile, known for its marine life and stark beauty. Late arrival in Puerto Chacabuco.
Day 7 - 13: Rent a 4x4 vehicle and explore the Carretera Austral for seven days, heading north, 320 miles up the coast and back to Puerto Montt.
Day 13: Overnight bus from Puerto Montt to Santiago.
Day 14 - 15: Business Meetings in Santiago. Fly home at night.
We had made some arrangements: lodging in Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and San Martin de los Andes, booked the bus from Buenos Aires to San Martin de los Andes, the ferry, and a rental car. Everything else was "TBD", To Be Determined, and we looked forward to the element of surprise.
Little did we know just how many surprises the next two weeks had in store for us...