It was a very cold morning when we disembarked from the Silver Cloud and took the bus to Port Williams airport. We were scheduled to leave the ship at 7:00, and ended up doing so at 7:15.
The bus was small, no room to store luggage, so we all squeezed into our seats and sat with all of our carry-on luggage on our laps. It is only about a 10-minute ride to the airport.
There were 4 planes at the airport, and we were guided to the “penguin plane”. Our plane was painted black and white, and if you used your imagination it did have a penguin sort of look.
The plane was smaller than the one we had flown in to Puerto Williams. The seats we in a 2 and 3 configuration, and the overhead bins were smaller, especially in the middle of the plane.
When I boarded the plane I was told that my carry-on bag would not fit in the overhead bin, and would be transported in the hold. I was OK with that, but we did notice that bags that were clearly larger than ours did fit well in the bins.
There was an inflight magazine called Aventura. It was dated 2019 – 2020. Al fin del mundo. There’s that end of the world thing again!
As the plane started off down the runway, I had my last look at the beautiful Silver Cloud in the distance. I thought about all of the lucky people who would be flying from Santiago to join her today. What a treat they have in store for them.
We flew over Ushuaia again,
and then we started making preparations to land. This keeps on happening to me. I end up in Argentina when I least expect it.
The last time was when I was flying from Porto Alegre in Brazil to Washington DC for a meeting. I was chatting to a friend when I checked in for the flight, and didn’t look at my boarding pass. Just when I thought we had landed in Sao Paolo, the captain welcomed us to Buenos Aires. I like Argentina as much as the next person, but it is troublesome to find yourself there when you are not planning on it.
Well the Argentina thing happened again. We had just landed in Punta Arenas, Argentina. Three passengers got off the plane, and then a tanker pulled up and they started fueling the plane.
Erin kindly pointed out to me that Punta Arenas was in fact in Chile, it’s Ushuaia that’s in Argentina. Alas, I was geographically as confused as ever. Of course it makes sense that we would fuel in Chile rather than Argentina. So there was no need to worry about being in the wrong place again. Phew!
I later found out that the runway in Puerto Williams is quite short. If the planes are full of fuel they would be too heavy to take off. So they take off with very little fuel (but clearly enough) and then land in Punta Arenas to refuel. That also explains why they are so concerned about limiting the weight of passengers luggage.
After half an hour refueling we were off again. The area around Punta Arenas looked quite flat,
but soon we were over the mountains again. It was quite cloudy, so we didn’t get such a great view of the mountains, but what we did see was impressive.
Five hours after leaving Puerto Williams we were flying over Santiago and preparing to land.
I was able to get a couple of photos of the plane
before we walked into a hangar where we waited for our luggage.
There were flags identifying the destination of the luggage: the Mandarin Oriental, the Airport Hilton, and International Flights.
We just had to take our bags to the Mandarin Oriental flag, and then waited for a coach to take us to the hotel, where our suitcases would be delivered to our room. Our suitcases were about the last to be unloaded, so by the time we got to the hotel everyone else had checked in, so there was no wait, and we could go straight to our room.
Guess what? It was the same room we had been in 10 days previously! It was so bizarre going back to that room. There was a definite sense of Deja Vue, but also that strange sensation that maybe the Antarctica trip was all a dream, and we were still planning to go.
Then reality set in, and we changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool for a wonderful afternoon in the sun.
Dinner was at Matsuri again. Another really great meal. I love that restaurant!
We woke up the next morning facing the reality that today was our final day. Our plane wasn’t until midnight and we wanted to make the most of the warm Chilean sunshine.
We had a wonderful day lying by the pool, reading and swimming. The water in the pool was cold as far as I was concerned. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t do the polar plunge. We had to check out at noon, and had lunch by the pool. French fries with a Chilean pisco sour. The lunch of champions.
Finally that time came. After a farewell dinner at Senso we boarded the coach to the airport. 7:00 PM seemed a bit early for a midnight flight, but I was assured by the Silversea rep that we would need all of that time at the airport.
We arrived at the airport at 7:30 and were ready to head in search of the lounge by 8:30.
There is no American Airlines lounge at the airport, but if you are flying in business class you get to use the Pacific Club lounge. There was a long queue of folks waiting to get in, and looking through the window, it looked like there wasn’t much space to sit.
As we stood in the queue, a very nice lady came up and directed us to the front of the queue. I like to think I can fade into the background as a local, but alas something about us must’ve screamed American tourist. Maybe the Silversea backpacks were a dead giveaway. Anyway, she directed us to a table in the club, and we settled in for the evening.
I had read that there was a 2-hour time limit to how long you could stay there, but they didn’t throw us out, and we stayed until 11:00 when we headed to the gate to get ready to board our plane.
At 11:09 they announced that group 1 could board. We fought our way onto the plane along with about 90% of the other passengers. This was it. Our Antarctica adventure really was over. However, we will always have the memory of an extraordinary 10 days. We saw a whole new side of nature we really hadn’t explored before; we had a greater appreciation for the fragility of our beautiful planet. I was fast asleep before we took off, dreaming of penguins and snow-covered hiking trails………………..