from Buenos Aires to Quito via Ushuaia
Beginnings … Good Airs … A forgotten country … Dodgy deals … Brazil, briefly … Across the Río de la Plata … Into Patagonia … Land of Fire … The southernmost … Torres del Paine … Glaciar Gray … Middle of the W … Leaving Las Torres … Moreno Glacier … El Chaltén … Laguna Torre … Ruta 40 … Carretera Austral … Pumalín … Sailing up the coast … Close to the heat … Santiago … Valparaíso … Into the Atacama … Desert heat … Geysers … Higher and higher … Breathless heights … Altiplano crossing … Days of salt … Train cemetery … Bolivian steam train … In the mines … The two capitals … Christmas by the lake … The most dangerous road in the world … Island of the Sun … Machu Picchu … El Misti … Such great heights … Back down to sea level … Ruins of the north … Journey to Ecuador … Trapped in Loja … One last volcano … Quito … Ends
It was a cool, foggy morning on 18 October 2005 as I left Ealing for the airport. I'd been packing until 4am, and then left the house at 4.30am, so I had a hard time at Heathrow stopping myself from falling asleep and missing my flight. I managed it though, and flew west. I was flying to Buenos Aires via New York, and I arrived at JFK airport in the early afternoon, a little bit refreshed after sleeping all the way across the Atlantic.
I found my way to Howard Beach subway station and took the long ride to Manhattan. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day as I emerged at 34th St and Penn station to find the Empire State Building right ahead, and I decided to go up. The queues were not bad, but made worse by the harassment from over-enthusiastic audio-guide sellers, falsely claiming that there were no information panels at the top to try and flog their gear.
I brushed them aside, looked deliberately angry on the cheesy photo they insisted on taking of every group going up to superimpose onto a fake view and sell at an exorbitant price, and got into the lift. A short climb up some stairs at the top, and there I was, high above New York in the afternoon sunshine. London seemed a long time ago, and South America still a long way away.
I enjoyed the views, and the assault of noise coming up from the streets far below. I was tempted to stay up there for sunset, but my onward flight was at 10pm and I thought that missing it would not be good, so I came down at about 6pm, had a quick wander past some of the famous streets of Manhattan, grabbed a huge portion of cheap greasy pizza, and headed back to the airport for my flight to Argentina.