Monday, January 3

Introducing the instant travel agent

Our unprecedented stranding in Antarctica resulted in us missing two flight connections and pre-paid tour of Easter Island. When we finally touched down in Mainland Chile shortly before 5pm on January 1 we had no idea if any of this lost itinerary could be salvaged. I spent the next two hours making frantic calls to hotels, airlines and travel agents before establishing that we could catch a flight to Santiago in time for a connecting flight to Easter Island the following morning – provided we dashed back to Punte Arenas airport immediately.

We also grabbed the last two seats on a flight returning to Santiago three days later and secured the only room still available in the hotel we’d originally booked on Easter Island. Incredibly, we checked-in at Punte Arenas less than 25 minutes before our flight departed. By the narrowest of margins our original itinerary was back on track, minus a three-day layover we’d planned for Santiago. We also had to forfeit our business class ticket to get onto the January 2 flight to Easter Island.

I suspect everyone reading this post has little sympathy for our cattle class plight. Garry and I totally agree that one Economy class leg won’t kill us and one city looks much like another when it came to keeping Easter Island on our itinerary. We’ll still manage to squeeze in 1.5 days in Santiago so all is not lost. Of course we’ve lost hundreds of dollars in tour bookings which Garry has already committed himself to claiming back on insurance. Fingers crossed he’ll be successful.

Regardless, we count ourselves lucky. Our extra three days in Antarctica came at a painful cost for the tour group that followed us. They lost these extra days and were forced to accept a highly truncated three-day tour. They also suffered the indignity of boarding their flight south on the second day of delay only to have it turn back an hour into the journey. Worse still, the small print in our cruise contract makes it very clear that no refund will be offered if the cruise is curtailed. A partial refund is only available if the entire cruise is cancelled.

However, the experience is still worth every cent.  Antarctica really is the final frontier. It's a pristine, untouched wilderness where people are clearly just the visitors. The only crowds you'll encounter are captured in the video below. Go if you can!

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