Patagonia – Day 0: Travel to Santiago

And so it begins…

Today is Thursday, November 6, 2014, and this evening at 8PM PST, I boarded a plane to Santiago, Chile.  I changed planes in CA at LAX, and in Panama City, Panama, before boarding the final leg of the journey, which got me into Santiago about 8PM on Nov 7th.

Map of Panamait took an additional hour to clear immigration and customs, but in a somewhat strange twist of fate, the most complicated part of the journey was locating the minibus that would take me to my hotel.  It seems that very few people in Chile speak English, and so I manged to walk up and down the row of taxis and minibuses about 6 times.  Each time, I would find someone in charge, or at least someone that looked like they were in charge, or thought that they were in charge.  This person would say, with confidence, that I was snot in the right place.  They were always very nice, and they always sent me somewhere else.  As it turns out, I eventually was able to locate the minibus, and off I went.

The journey so far was a little over 6500 miles in the air, and it took about 20 hours, of which 15 was in the air.

On the plane

Map of S AmericaThe plane ride was exhausting, and over the entire trip I think I’ve probably slept about 3 hours, but I’m not as wiped out as I expected to be.  It seems that the level of excitement that comes from anticipating my arrival at the starting point for the tour was set to Def-con 5 and I’ve remained very excited for the past 24 hours straight.

I’ve flown into LAX many times, so there is nothing new to see there, but I had hoped to be able to see the canal in Panama as I arrived but my seat was wrong, the approach was wrong, the canal is too far inland, and it was raining.  So, sorry gang, no pictures of the canal.

I’ve also included a few pictures of the Panama City airport, including some of the unique shops, the people, and the security.

IMG_0339As the plan settled into it’s final arrival vector for Santiago, I had a chance to look out at the countryside, and I took my time to try to absorb it all.  Many of you that read this do quite a bit of flying for business, as I do.  And there is usually not much anticipation when arriving in a new city when you’re traveling on business.  There is however a significant difference when you’re flying into a new and strange place for fun and pleasure.  My imagination was running wild as I began to imagine what the next 3 weeks would bring.

SantiagoApproach350For at least 60 minutes as we approached Santiago, the view from the plan changed very little.  We could see mountains, valleys and peaks for as far as the eye could see.  I remember thinking, hey, those things are the Andes, and that’s what I’ll be riding through.  There did not seem to be any passable roads, so only time would tell what our actual roads would be like.  That said, as we got closer to Santiago, the terrain changed, and the mountains were replaced by less aggressive peaks, and even a good amount of lush green terrain was visible.

I already mentioned, I speak very little Spanish and I can see that this is going to cause some serious issues.  By the way, when I say I speak very little, I should really say, almost none.  And when I say almost none, I should really say 15 words.  Perhaps this will enhance the adventure, perhaps not…

Given my limited command of the language, I expect to be able to order beer, and find a bathroom.  Hopefully, the first does not beget the second.

A few fun facts about Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile, it has a population of about 5.5M people.  The weather is comparable to the SF Bay Area, and in fact when I’m visiting Chile, the temperature in the day has consistently been within a few degrees of the temperature in the Bay Area.

The city was founded as Santiago del Nuevo Extremo (“Santiago of the New Frontier”) in 1541 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia. The area was inhabited by the Picunche Indians, who were placed under the rule of the Spanish settlers.  Today, Santiago is a cosmopolitan city with lots of great food, night life and natural beauty just outside of town.

Chile has a long history of making wines that dates back to the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors brought Vitis vinifera vines with them as they colonized the region. In the mid-19th century, French wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère and Cabernet Franc were introduced. In the early 1980s, a renaissance began with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation tanks and the use of oak barrels for aging. Wine exports grew very quickly as quality wine production increased. The number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 80 in 2014.

One of my favorite varietals of Chilean wine is the Malbec.  It seems to go well with everything.  I’m hoping that the Malbec varietal is well represented on the wine tour.  As a matter of fact, I was already beginning to test some of the local Malbecs on the plane.  So, I’m practically an expert as i write this.

What’s next

Well now, you’ll just have to check back tomorrow to see…

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and on July 10, 2019, he began a 120 day trip through Europe, and then on to Russia, China, and parts East. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.


    1. For this adventure, I’m relying on the tour company (Compass Expeditions) to supply the bike. I’ll be picking up a BMW F800 GS in Bariloche, where we will spend 2 days getting the bikes fitted, and kitted. The tour company will then apply a little due-diligence, and try to see if each of the tour participants is capable of handling the bikes, as they said they could.
      We will arrive in Bariloche on Monday morning (2 days from now).

  1. Reminds me of an experiment living abroad where the language was a big hinder. The trick for me was to finally convince myself that even the 15 words I knew were more than enough and I just had to free myself from excuses and practice them in various sequences :-))

    1. Agreed, good sound advice. I think I’ve been doing what you’ve suggested, but I’ll describe our day in more detail when I get a chance later this evening. Great to hear from you.

  2. Great start Cliff, looking forward to your reports. And as always- keep the rubber side down!

    1. Hi Burke,
      Great to hear from you. thanks for the well wishes, and more to the point, I’ll be sure to keep the rubber side down. I do however reserve the right to raise the front wheel in the water crossings. Wish me luck!

  3. Yippee, you’re off! Have an AMAZING TIME, my friend. Ride safe and take it all in… thinking of you!

    1. Hello my dear,
      Say high to little Maddy for me. Thanks for thinking of me, and for the well wishes. I promise; No, I double promise to have fun.
      By the way, I never got that camera from you before I left. Now, whose fault is that????

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