A band of freezing rain
swept over the Hotel Cabo de Hornos, turning the waters of the Strait of
Magellan dirty gray. Puerta Arenas’s “oldest and grandest” hotel was, well, it
was just a hotel. All of its walls were painted a determined mustard. A bare
minimum of staff kept the Cabo de Hornos open and we all watched cold squalls
spray over the strait.
The Pan American highway
stops at Puerto Montt, 816 miles of Chilean coastline to the north, so there
are no roads to get down here and there is little tourism, because you have to
be damned determined to get here.
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Feliz Navidad. Punta
Arenas was closed tight, for we came in on Christmas night.
I think I snared the last
car for rent in southern Chile.
In the morning I stopped
for coffee and touched Magellan’s shiny toe (this was so destiny would bring me
back), on the plaza, then I found Hertz.
“Buenos dias. You have a
A happy smile.
“If I go to aeropuerto?”
I looked across the street.
This “no” betrayed a smug
certainty, and at the same time a creeping regret that he wasn’t helping. He
allowed that I could always “ask the question” across the street at Budget and
furthermore, the man down the street at Santander might have uno auto. He
wouldn’t open until ten and it was scarcely 9:30. Still, that was something, so
I bid him and a man washing cars adios.
At Budget they had big
smiles but no cars.
“For today!?” He acted