Pucon, Chile » Temuco, Chile » Santiago, Chile: That’s Two (Countries) [Days 80 – 82]

Day 80 | Wednesday, January 11, 2017

With a 4:00am alarm this morning we are up,  departing Pucon via Buses JAC, and flying out of Temuco back to Santiago. Steve attempted to schedule a transfer yesterday to pick us up at our hotel and take us directly to the airport but they either don’t provide one this early in the morning (which seems the most likely answer) or they didn’t have any space available. So, we are going to get to take the bus from Pucon to Temuco city center then a taxi from Temuco city center to the airport on the outskirts of town and then a plane from Temuco to Santiago.

We have exactly 3 days left in Chile, this is both exciting and sad. It is exciting because I am ready for the adventure a new country holds for us but it is sad because that means our time in Latin America is flying by and that we have been here almost 12 weeks already.

Luggage in hand we check out of our hotel and walk the quick 5 minutes to the bus station. This early in the morning the only other soul in sight is the security guard for the bus station. He gave us the you crazy foreigners look. Fortunately, they have benches we can sit on and plenty of space for our luggage to camp out undercover should it decide to rain. Steve has taken to his typical travel day ritual and is pacing the length of the bus station to get some steps in. Suddenly the dark silence is broken by the viscous growl and barking of a large dog followed by the sharp yelp of a smaller dog. At a full sprint a young mid-size black dog comes barreling into the parking lot of the bus station narrowly missing the swipe of a German Shepard’s bite as the German Shepard zigged and the black dog zagged. The German Shepard continued on down the street causing chaos as it went evident by all the barking, growling, and howling that ensued. The little black dog paused a moment to assess its surroundings and catch its breath then wandered over to visit with us. Initially it came to me and I had just told it to sit down when it realized Steve’s pacing. As typically happens with kids and animals the dog chose Steve over me and fell into step with Steve and paced back and forth with him for quite a while. After some time the dog deemed the coast clear and ran on in the opposite direction that the German Shepard had gone.

Another crazy foreigner has shown up with luggage in tow to join the wait for the bus station to open. Finally an employee of the bus company has shown up and is going about getting things in order for the day. Just minutes before 6:00am they finally start ticket sales. As we have gotten closer to 6:00am more passengers have arrived as well as the bus to take us to Temuco. Steve purchases our bus tickets to Temuco for $3,000 CLP each, we get our luggage loaded into the cargo hold and we board the bus to claim our seats. An uneventful bus ride with a healthy dose of snoozing and we find ourselves in the center of Temuco. Fortunately, taxis are lined up outside of the bus station waiting to transport passengers to their desired location. Taxis are metered so it is pretty straight forward. We tell the driver we are headed for the airport, he loads our bags in the trunk, and away we go. As expected it cost $20,000 CLP to get us from the city center to the airport. Confirming that the transfer from the airport to Pucon was cheaper by about $6,000 CLP. Not a big deal, especially since options are limited at this time in the morning.

The Temuco airport is nice and relatively new. I would guess that it has been built in the last 5 years. A little fact checking has revealed that it was completed and opened for its first commercial flight in July 2014. It is a smaller international airport and if I am ever going to have issues it is usually at these airports. We are flying Sky Airlines again this morning and they are a budget airline so we shall see how this goes.

Fortunately, the line to check-in isn’t bad. After a brief wait we find ourselves at the counter. We hand over our passports and let the gentleman behind the counter know that we are headed to Santiago. First, he weighs our checked bags. Fortunately, they have not been an issue so far as they are under 20 kg each and very close to carry on size (the limit is 23 kg). At this point I have my carry on (a 40 L backpack) and Steve has a regulation size rolling suitcase carry on and an 18 L backpack personal item left. The gentleman behind the counter then insists on weighing Steve’s carry on which is not supposed to weigh more than 10 kg. Of course it weighs more like 13 kg this morning. Fortunately, we brought some reusable grocery bags with us on this trip and we always travel with at least one of them handy in a carry on. So, to appease the gentleman who was not going to let us through with a 13 kg carry on—on his watch, we moved 3 kg of stuff from Steve’s carry on to a grocery bag which became my personal item. This is a time I am really thankful that we have packing cubes and it is easy to pull a few cubes out. Reweigh Steve’s carry on. Take a few more cubes out and so on until we reached the acceptable weight for his carry on. At this point I am starting to get nervous though because I know for a fact that my backpack is over the 10 kg limit. So, I am very carefully not letting the gentleman get a good look at my backpack or giving any indication that it might be heavy. Also, the truth is that Steve’s 18 L backpack is most likely over the 10 kg limit as well, I am just hoping that the size is deceptive and that the gentleman assumes that it is under weight. In reality our backpacks look ridiculously small in comparison to all the serious hikers you see come through these airports whose packs are easily 3 to 4 times the size of my pack and usually in the 50 – 60 lb range. Thankfully, the gentleman was appeased once we got Steve’s carry on down to the 10 kg mark and didn’t need to weigh either of our backpacks. At this point I am a bit on edge but trying not to let it get to me as we still have security to get through. Big sigh of relief security was a breeze and we got through without even a second look in our direction. Now to park it in front of our gate and wait for our plane to arrive.

Not surprisingly this team of Sky Airlines staff is very thorough and takes their jobs very seriously. We have already gotten a sampling of this upon check-in. They are requiring everyone to have ID out and ready, which at least 30% of people aren’t heeding (which is drastically slowing the line down) because they are actually checking everyone’s ID against their ticket and the names much match exactly and if they don’t it creates great debate. I can’t believe it but they are actually going to delay this flight just so that they can cross check everyone’s ID against their ticket. Finally, a reasonable employee steps into the mix and starts pushing passengers through the line onto the plane. We are finally all boarded and running just a  little bit late.

At last we are in the air on our way to Santiago. What did I tell you about these small international airports. Trouble.

The heat slaps us as we get off the plane in Santiago. It is hot and humid. Welcome back.

Day 81 | Thursday, January 12, 2017

Man it is hot back in the city and this latest Airbnb apartment we are staying in faces the west so we get the hot afternoon sun pounding against the windows in the living room and bedroom. To top it off the AC unit is in the living room so it is warm in the bedroom at night making sleeping much more difficult. The view of San Cristóbal Hill from our apartment.

You can also tell it is hot out by the amount of honking you hear on the roads. Unlike Peru where drivers use their horns to communicate a lot while driving you really don’t hear that much horn honking in Chile. However, as the temperature rises tempers flare and you hear a substantial increase in the amount of horn honking on the roads.

As we only have 2 full days left in Santiago we are rounding up a list of things we want to do before we leave. Unlike when we left Lima it is a pretty short list. There is a park, Cerro Santa Lucía, that is close to the office Steve has been working out of and that we have stayed near that we keep saying we need to go to. Today we are making it a priority to go.

The park is mainly made up of a hill which is supposed to have a nice view at the top. If nothing else it will help Steve meet his goal for flights of stairs climbed today. It really isn’t that big of a hill, about a 15-20 minute walk. The view from the top is nice but nothing compared to the at the top of the Santiago Metropolitan Park San Cristóbal Hill. It was a good walk though. Now that we have checked that off our list of things to see and do in Santiago we decide to indulge in some sorbet from Emporio la Rosa one last time.

It is time to get in the mindset of packing and preparing for a new country.

Day 82 | Friday, January 13, 2017

Another week almost gone. Today is all about packing and preparing for our transition from Chile to Argentina. Time to put aside all the things that have become new norms and prepare for everything to be different. Buenos Aires will have a different pace, currency, slang (or lack of), traffic patterns, grocery stores, taxis, scenery, people, shopping, and Uber may or may not work. We also have to prepare for the whole process of traveling internationally through the airport which so far has gone pretty smoothly but you never know when you might encounter a problem. We have our passports in order, immigration documents, and onward travel booked so we should be good but I never like to count my eggs before they are hatched.

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