Subject: Re: More about Chile
Good Morning Susie,

Your question is a difficult one. So much so that I consulted with Sara and then mulled it over during the night. Obviously my fluency in Spanish enhanced our experience of traveling in Chile. Just as your abilities in French have made you so comfortable on your repeated trips to France. And yet you often cross the border into Spain and Catalan. How do you feel then? Does your comfort level drop dramatically? I recall standing at a bus stop in Telc, Moravia trying to decipher the Czech timetables and resigning ourselves to forced communiction by way of hand signals with fellow passengers and the bus driver. Now, I look back at that trip with great fondness (and avail myself of every opportunity I have to use what little Slavic lingo I picked up). My point is that your style of travel is perfect for Chile. And your sense of adventure should help you to overcome any language barriers. As for the Chilean people, my experience is that they are very helpful and gracious. And in the more popular tourist areas you will find English and/or French speakers.

Now to your itineraray. At Torres del Paine you'll have no problem with language. The night we stayed at a refugio the guests were literally from all over the world. And the staff is capable of helping them all. And once you get on the circuit probably the number one language spoken is guanaco. That is if they speak to one another. And there are alot of them on the east side of the park. I'll write a more in depth review of our visit there soon.

We didn't make it to FitzRoy which is in the north end of Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. We stayed in El Calafate and did a day trip out to the Perito Moreno Glacier. On this portion of our trip we were without a car. We flew into El Calafate from Puerto Madryn and took a bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales where we rented a small SUV and backtracked up towards Torres del Paine. Traveling between the two parks (Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares) will take most of a day, especially when you include the added distance to El Chalten, the entry point to FitzRoy. And you do cross the border. If you decide to rent a car and cross the border be sure and confirm that you can do so. We came across two young men in Temuco who had been trying to take their rental car across to Bariloche for a week without success. The Chilean-Argentinian relationship is a complex one to say the least.

As for Darwin country our experience was limited to overnighting in Punta Arenas. Definitely the windiest place I've ever been in my life. And the ink-black color of the water in the Straits of Magellen was otherworldly. Our sense was that this town is very used to foreigners passing through; with it's long history as a resupply port for ships passing between the Atlantic and Pacific and more recently as a jumping off point for scientific parties heading to Antarctica. From here we could see Tierra del Fuego but didn't cross over.

Well, Susie I hope this has been some help. I can tell you whichever way you decide to travel you'll be enchanted by that part of the world and want to return.

John in sunny San Diego