Thursday June 27: Trip to Chile
A Long Walk
As we half expected, the shared van arrived 15 minutes before its scheduled time. So Amy was just getting out of the shower, and I was putting on my clothes after my shower.
There was a flurry of activity as Sam carried out our suitcases, and Amy finished getting dressed and I carried the trash out to the garage.
The drive in to the airport was uneventful, and we checked our checked bags and got through security without a lot of incident (except that Sam's bag was selected for deeper scrutiny).
We had about two hours to kill before the flight, so we walked the length of the concourse and had lunch at a b.good. By the time we returned to our gate, it was almost time to start boarding our plane. We were boarding in group 6, which was near the end of the line.
When group 6 was called, and we got to the head of the line, they suddenly told us that there was no more room on the plane for carry on, and that we would have to check our carry on bags to Santiago.
I was not very happy with this, as my carry on was filled with expensive and delicate camera equipment. No dice. The most the gate clerk offered was that I could take my camera out and carry that on board. So in a flurry of activity I opened up my carry on, removed my camera and big lens, and consigned the rest to be checked.
Just after I boarded the plane, I suddenly remembered that I had put my sunglasses in the outside pocket (rather exposed to breakage), and even worse, I had put my cell phone in the outside pocket (figuring that it was going to stay with me as carry on). I was rather concerned that it would be stolen.
The part that hacked me off more was that the bin literally directly over our seats was completely empty! So much for the plane being full and there being no space for more carry on bags. Even worse, people boarding after us were bringing their carry on bags onboard. I have no idea why we were singled out. Maybe because there were three of us traveling together?
In any event, I was in a rather dark mood, picturing what I would do if my phone was missing when we got to Santiago, or if my sunglasses were broken, or the bag hadn't been labeled properly and never made it.
To make matters yet worse, the plane's form of entertainment was to provide wifi so that you could watch movies on your own device. Of course, both my phone and my laptop were in the bags that we had been forced to check, so there was to be no entertainment for Jim.
We had paid extra for better seating, but we couldn't see any real difference with the seats around us. But as we were leaving, Amy noticed that our row of seats was slightly wider than the rows around us. I was somewhat shocked, as I felt that our seats were rather cramped, and it was shocking to think that it could have been even worse.
In Miami, we had about an hour layover. Amy and Sam were hungry, so they got some sort of calzone like thing, but I had had a large salad at b.good's, so I wasn't really hungry.
The plane for the longer flight (a 777-200) was much nicer than the first plane. It was a wide body in a 3-4-3 configuration, and we had one of the 3's. They had a video screens on the backs of the chairs. Too bad that I was going to try to sleep for most of the flight.
I ended up watching one movie (Free Solo) waiting for the beverage service. Even though our plane took off at 11pm, I was shocked when they gave us a free dinner even though it was midnight. I still wasn't very hungry, so I only ate about half of it. Then I made a pit stop, and it was time to try to sleep.
For the first half of the night, I couldn't really sleep. I would be just almost falling asleep, and then I would wake up again. I was trying to sleep somewhat on my side, and I don't think that gave my head proper support. At that point, Sam decided that she wanted to get up and stretch her legs (she was in the window seat, so Amy and I had to get out to let her by).
After she came back, I think I was lying more "on my back", and I ended up dozing for real. I was in the middle of a dream when I heard Sam's voice saying "they're serving breakfast". That woke me up, although I would have preferred to sleep longer. The breakfast was basically some yogurt, some granola, and a cookie. I ate the yogurt and had a glass of OJ, but that was it.
I made out better than Amy, who didn't sleep at all. Sam slept somewhat.
Going through immigration was easy. I was eager to get the luggage and to verify that it was all there and safe and sound. I found my checked bag fairly soon and was very relieved to find that my glasses were intact and my phone was still there.
They were more paranoid about customs. Even though we were not declaring anything, they still x-rayed everything but us.
We hit up an ATM, got a taxi, and found our way to the hotel. It is definitely winter here, cold with an overcast sky. We had difficulty getting all of our bags into a normal car. Most of them went in the trunk. Two of them were put in the front passenger seat, so the three of us were all crammed into the back seat.
To our pleasant surprise, our hotel room was ready for us, so we checked in, went to our room, and crashed for a few hours.
We got up at noon and then wandered off. We ended up eating at a small sandwich shop. It was an interesting experience ordering. The guy there didn't speak any English, and my Spanish skills were severely limited.
Amy was hot, so we ate outside. At one point, a guy sat in a nearby seat and started to stealthily reach towards Amy's purse, but when she noticed what he was doing, he got up and walked away. That was a potentially close call.
After lunch, we wandered a little more and found an area that was filled with several varieties of sex shops, that is shops selling clothing and gizmos for sex, not selling sex itself. Sam found it rather eye opening. Amy was tired and I was feeling chilled so we went back to the hotel. I stopped to buy some bottled water and some Kleenex. I looked for hand soap, but I couldn't find any.
By the time I got back to the hotel (maybe around 2?) I was feeling chilled and tired and sort of not well. So I took off my clothes, crawled under the covers, and tried to rest and warm up. After a while, I got up to type this.
It is now just before 4pm. The intro meeting with the tour group is at 6, so we have about two hours to kill. It is going to make dinner a bit awkward. There isn't enough time before 6 (and we aren't that hungry), so it looks like we might have a late dinner followed almost immediately by an early night.
Tomorrow is going to a somewhat quiet day. The plan is to do a tour of Santiago in the morning, but then the afternoon/evening are free.
I just came back from another shopping trip to the grocery store. This time I got the 6 liter bottle of water, and I got a bar of soap. It is somewhat strange. They provided no soap at the hotel, and at the grocery store I had great difficulty finding a bar of soap. As far as I can tell, this is soap, but it is some sort of spiffy kind. It seemed to be all that they had. Don't people use soap around here?
Today is a rather gray day. It is overcast and somewhat cool. It is not very inviting to wander around. This is particularly true as there is basically just "city" around us, so there isn't much to see.
On the other hand...
I got tired of sitting around the hotel room, and there was just over an hour before the intro meeting, so I decided to go for a walk. My goal was to cross the river and visit the base of a mountain park. According to the map, there was a gondola up this side of the mountain and a funicular up the other side. I figured that if I walked for a half hour, I would turn back, but I got there after about 20 minutes, so I spent a while wandering around, and then returned.
Along the way I saw some interesting things. There was a guy apparently commuting using a one wheeled "uni-segway". There was another guy doing deliveries on a bike, but the bike had a tiny gas engine for assistance.
Talk about "gated communities". Most of the houses in this area are surrounded by walls or fences topped with functional spikes. But I found a number of places that had an electric fence above the spikes, sort of like barbed wire, but these wires were straight but electrified. At first I wondered whether the house was a consulate or something politically significant, but then I decided that these were just well to do houses.
I returned from my walk with just enough time to collect Amy and Sam and then head down to get to the meeting. It turns out that our guide is a French guy who moved to Chile 20 years ago, so his English is not the best. He is understandable, but sometimes he has trouble pulling up the correct word.
There are about 40 people in the other group, and I think 31 in ours. Even though we are doing the same stuff, we will be operating about 30 minutes apart, to keep the group size manageable.
The eclipse night is going to be a pain. We will watch the eclipse (hopefully), then eat dinner while hopefully most people will be leaving. We'll leave maybe around 9pm, and then we have a *6 hour* bus ride back to Santiago. So we'll be trying to sleep on the bus. We'll get to the hotel around 4am, crash for a few hours, and then get a few hours of sleep before getting up and catching a plane to the Atacama.
After the meeting, there was a "happy hour" where Sam and I each had a (free) glass of wine. We spent most of our time talking with a couple on our tour (Sheryl and Wally) who do a lot of travel. Their goal is to visit 100 different countries. I was going to call them an older couple, except that I realized that he is about Amy's age, and she is about mine.
For a late dinner, we tried going to a restaurant that was one of the suggested ones. We walked I would guess maybe a mile, and we didn't find the restaurant where it should have been. Looking at Google Maps back at the hotel room, we were actually at almost the right place. We were on Nueva Providencia ave, and we wanted to be on Providencia ave. These paralleled each other for a short distance.
But we didn't know that at the time. So we walked back to an Italian restaurant very close to the hotel. It was almost 9, and a lot of the stores we passed were closing. I was worried that the restaurant would be closing as well, but it was in the prime of business. Just before we finished, a large party came in and just started ordering.
It looked very spiffy from the outside, but the prices weren't too bad. I figure that we got away with a bit more than $10 per person. Once again, they didn't speak any English, so my rudimentary Spanish was put to the test.
So our fiasco ended well enough, and Amy got quite a bit of exercise. I'm typing this up, so that I can give my dinner a little time to settle before I go to bed.
Tomorrow we are supposed to take a bus to a part of town where the presidential building is, and the cathedral, etc. Ironically, that is very close to where we walked last night. The main problem is that we might get some rain tomorrow.