If you ever find yourself in the city of Punta Arenas, in the Patagonia region of southern Chile, and you do not stay with Juan Pedro, you are making a huge mistake!
After returning from Easter Island we had a two day layover in Santiago before leaving for Patagonia. In Chile, most flights to Patagonia go through the city of Punta Arenas. Located on the Strait go Magellan, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Punta Arenas is a working port town that is used as a base for excursions and tours to Antarctica and the wilderness such as Torres del Paine in southern Chile. Patagonia is often described as "fin del mundo" or "the end of the world."
I started looking for a place to stay in Punta Arenas on my booking.com app. I soon came across a reasonably priced hostel by the name of Dundo Ivo Spa. With a very high rating from guests who had stayed there, I looked at the comments from previous guests. I usually get a good feel for a place by reading these unedited reviews from previous guests.
“I don’t understand why this hostel doesn’t have a perfect ten rating!” read one review.
“Exceptional! The perfect host!” Read another.
“Staying with Juan Pedro and Ruby was one of the highlights of our entire trip!” exclaimed another.
I continued scanning the reviews. I couldn’t find a negative comment. In fact, the more I read the more glowing the comments became.
“Juan Pedro was very helpful and very hospitable. He took us around town in his own vehicle and got us a meeting with a very prominent businessman. He also took us to the ferry and picked us up on our return from the penguin Island!”
It all sounded too good to be true. I began to think that some guy was writing his own reviews on booking.com. No one is that good. But, what did we have to lose? We could stay almost anywhere for one night. I booked a one night stay at Hostel Dundo Ivo Spa. If it wasn’t good, we could check out in the morning.
Our flight out of Santiago was the “red eye.” We left had to be at the airport at 2 a.m. and our flight arrived in Punta Arenas at 7 a.m. It would be a long day. Check in was not until 3 p.m. that afternoon. We had our backpacks loaded and we would find a way to spend the day in the city.
“Why don’t we get the taxi to drive by the hostel and ask them to store our bags?” Jennifer asked. “That way we won’t have to haul them around all day waiting for 3 p.m.”
That sounded like a good idea to me. And, besides, we could meet the guy that everyone raved about online. If he was really that good he surely wouldn’t mind storing our bags for a few hours.
It was 8 a.m. when I exited the taxi with our backpacks and rang the doorbell. Jennifer waited in the car. Not only were we early, we were very early. Checkout time was not until 11 a.m. We were there before other guests had time to check out from the night before.
The door opened and a casually dressed man with a beaming smile and a mullet haircut appeared.
“Hello! Welcome! I’m Juan Pedro” the man said.
Hi. I’m Oliver. We have reservations to stay here tonight. I know that I’m very early but I was wondering if you would mind storing our bags until we can check in at 3 p.m.?” I asked.
“Where are you going now? What are you doing until 3 p.m.?” Juan Pedro asked in perfect English.
“We can just explore the city and be back for check in” I said. “We don’t want to bother you before then.”
“No! Come in now! It is early. You probably haven’t had breakfast. Come in and have some coffee at least” he insisted.
He walked to the taxi and insisted that Jennifer get out and come inside.
We entered the house and Juan Pedro led us to the breakfast room. His wife, Ruby, was cooking and cleaning the table from the prior guests.
“Have some coffee” Juan Pedro insisted. “Where are you from? What are you going to do in Punta Arenas?”
We talked for over and hour telling him our plans and asking for advice on how to do the things we wanted to do. Juan Pedro was enthusiastic. He pulled out brochures, maps, and books and immediately began planning our stay. He was like a one man tourist information office.
Not only did Juan Pedro know about the attractions and the people to talk to, he was also well versed in history, geography, and politics.
“Do you know the story of the Shackleton rescue in Antarctica?” He asked. “It is one of the greatest rescue stories ever! Shackleton and his ship were trapped in ice for over a year before he was able to make it to Punta Arenas and stage the rescue of his men” He asked. “It was staged from here in Punta Arenas. I will show you all of the places!”
It seemed that Juan Pedro genuinely loved engaging in conversations and getting to know everyone. It certainly looked like the reviews that I had read were correct.
“You look tired.” Juan Pedro said. “Let me get you in a room so that you can take a nap. When you wake up I’ll take you to the ferry to buy your tickets.”
“We didn’t expect to check in early.” I said.
“Don’t worry about it. Get settled in now and I’ll take care of everything!” He said.
Jennifer and I just looked at each other, stunned. We did not expect this. After the overnight flight and no sleep for almost twenty-four hours we were too tired to protest.
We shut the door to our room and settled in for a much needed nap.
“I think the reviews were right. This guy is ‘the nicest guy at the end of the world.’”