Gone to See Patagonia 2010/2011. Photography Workshop with Thom Hogan. Day 21: Beginning the Journey Home!
Yesterday we moved from the Hotel in Puerto Natales to the Red Cross Refuge center (in the E3 School). Early in the morning we thought that things were about to be settled and thought about a dash in a bus to Calafate Argentina. Our local guide visited the nearest barricade and found that the protesters were in no mood to let anyone through. Therefore, we decided to go with the safe option. By the time we got to the Red Cross site, they had us stand in line to be registered. A line in the main auditorium was for folks wanting to go to Calafate, Argentina, and another line in the gym for folks wanting to go to Punta Arenas. Looking at air schedules out of Calafate, made it look like we could be there for a week or two before catching a flight. Punta Arenas had more flights and appeared to be a better overall choice (even though it is still blockaded from the city 24 km away). Lunch for 1000+ in the Red Cross center was pasta, some meat sauce, an apple, bread, and orange juice – a typical elementary school meal on the school lunch trays. By late afternoon two buses had been organized to bring folks to the local airport. The initial selection was families with small children, elderly, pregnant women, and sick. With my cough, I ended up on the 2nd bus, and the rest of the photography group was with the 3rd group.
NOTE: As we were leaving and going through the roadblock we saw others being separated from their transportation and having to walk the 10+ km into Puerto Natales rather than being pointed to the local airport for transportation out of southern Chile.
After running the blockade and being dropped off at the local airport, the Chilean Air force transported us to Punta Arenas via a B737. This got us past at least 6-10 additional blockades. I ended up sleeping in the airport and taking the first flight out at ~5:40 AM to Santiago. I am currently working in the LAN Executive Salon waiting for a flight to Miami that leaves late tonight.
22-January-2011 edit: Check out Thom Hogan’s blog about being held hostage in southern Chile.