Sunday 1st April, 2012
Today is the day, my dad and I set out for a 2 month trip of Chile. He is taking me to see all sides of the country. We will be landing in Santiago, then getting a connecting flight to the town of Temuco, which is located in the South. Here my uncle Lucho, will pick us up and take us to his home in Loncoche. We won't be staying with them, but instead, we'll be staying at the Punta Del Sol Cabañas, which are also located in Loncoche and only about a 3 minute drive from my Tio's house.
We had an early flight at 9.20am, which was then delayed until 11.30am. At the counter, while checking-in, the LAN staff told me that my dad and I were seating separately. I told her, no that wasn't right, as I chose my seats last night and had everything confirmed. Plus the flights were booked under the same booking reference, so there'd be no reason to why we wouldn't be seated together. She had to discuss this with her supervisor, so we had to wait a few minutes until her Sup was able to come over. After going through everything again, they confirmed that dad and I would be sitting together... I don't really know why that happened. I'm assuming the LAN lady was new and didn't really know what she was doing... After confirming everything, we settled at our cafe for some breakfast. Dad was super excited, but I was feeling abit nervous. Chile, although I've been twice before, is relatively new to me. I was younger when I came here last, and back then, I didn't really appreciate travelling like I do now. I also haven't really gone outside of Santiago. And this time round, I'll be travelling without my travel companion- Daniel; which made me sad, because this is going to be our first trips without each other. While I'm in Chile, he will be holidaying in Cambodia for his R&R, with his friend Mick.
It soon came time to say goodbye to our family and make our way to the customs lines. I should be getting VIP service due to the number of times I've done this haha!
We had about an hour before boarding time, so I said to dad, let's go to the Qantas Lounge. It'll be an experience for you- free food and drinks. He won't argue with that. While dad went to get some food, I logged on to send Daniel a message and to let him know we were doing well and that I'd try to give him a call from New Zealand, which is where we would need to do a stop over for 45 minutes.
It was time to walk over to our gate and I noticed it wasn't very busy with passengers, so we checked the TV screen again and as I suspected, they changed our boarding gate. Don't ask me when that happened because it wasn't announce at the lounge. As we lined up, I told dad that we didn't have to line up in economy, as we could line up in the Business Line. He was majorly impressed.
We settled into our LAN Chile Aircraft seats and were greeted by the friendly staff. The flight was good, but alittle disruptive due to some turbulence 15 minutes into the trip. It soon settled back down and breakfast was served. Before we knew it, we had entered NZ airspace and would dock there for just under an hour.
With the flight delay in Sydney, I was abit concerned about our connecting flight in Santiago. I was crossing my fingers we'd be alright and still have time to clear immigration, collect our bags, meet Jose (my cousin) to give him one of our luggage bags and then make it to the boarding gates... all that in 1 hour? We were pushing it, so I was already planning what to do in my head.
We soon had to board our flight, which would see us through to Santiago at 2.30pm the same day.
We arrived well into Santiago. The picturesque view from the plane over The Andes is amazing. It is so breathtaking, although this time, they didn't have alot snow coverage. It's obvious it's been quite dry here this season.
As we came out of the terminal, we had to go through Immigration to pay for our entry Visa fee, which was $90.00 per person. That line took forever, as they only had two cashiers working it. We then opted to go to the money exchange to get us some Chilean Pesos. Dad had some money saved from his last trip to Chile, but that was only going to last us a few days. Dad knew, from experience, that in the Airport and in the city centre of Santiago, always pay a better exchange rate, so we changed over enough to see us through to the next 2 weeks, which is roughly about the time we plan to stay in the South.
We then went to collect our luggage and passed customs before going up to level 3 to the Domestic flights or Vuelos Nacionales to check-in for our 4.30pm Temuco flight. So far our timing was good. I didn't quite know what to do about our tickets, as I only had our Itinerary and I wasn't too sure where we had to line up. I couldn't see the LAN Chile checkouts anywhere, and the TV screen only showed which gate number you had to go in, so not much help. In all that commotion, dad managed to get through to Jose on his mobile and he soon met with us just outside the ticket booths. I haven't seen Jose in so long. He's looking really good- happy and healthy. He said the kids and Pilar (his wife) couldn't come, but we'll be seeing them in a few weeks anyway, so it was OK. I left dad talking with Jose and I went to the LAN counter and asked them about the tickets. They told me it's all self serve, so with my ticket ID number, which was on the Itinerary, I had to go punch in the details at the self serve computers and my tickets would be printed off. I then had to go to the check-out counters (he pointed to where that was) line up and just check- in as normal. Easy. Atleast now I know for next time.
Jose waited for us while we checked-in and then hang around for 15 minutes until we had to head on inside to board. The flight to Temuco was packed, which is alittle unusual for the cooler months, but with the Easter holidays next weekend, alot of people are travelling to be with their families for those days of rest.
Like our LAN flight from Sydney to Santiago, dad and I were seated in different sections. I still don;t understand why because again, these domestic flights were booked under the same reference. I didn't bother changes seats on this flight as it was only an hour long and at this stage we both just wanted to relax. Dad's seats were called in first as he was in the back. My seats were then called in and I soon settled into my window seat. I don't usually like the window seats because I like being able to just get up without disturbing anyone, but I was so tired by this stage I just plonked my head next to the window and with my cushy pillow, fell asleep....
The flight only took an hour and we soon made a safe arrival to the Airport of Temuco. It's so tiny lol. We walked over to the luggage collection carousel and we could see our family waving at us. There was no customs or checking points. We collected our bags and for the first time, I met my Tio Lucho, Tia Mona, Milena (their daughter) who is about my age and Agustine (her baby son, who's a real cutie) We huddled into the car and prepared ourselves for the hour car ride to Loncoche.
The landscape is very green and full of trees. Like a forest really. It very beautiful and not at all what I imagine. You must understand that I've only seen Santiago and well, to me, Santiago is just like and looks like any other major city. The South of Chile is so different and a real contrast to the Chile I knew. They tell me the South of Chile or 'El Sur' is what the real Chile is. I love it already.
I manage to stay awake for the entire car ride!!! That's a first haha. We made a short stop in Villarrica for some grocery shopping at the 'Oriente' Grocery store. Here we bought some supplies, such as milk, bread, juice, some snacks and the ever important, toilet paper. My family welcomed us into their home, where we had some dinner or 'once' as it's called here, which is more of a supper, consisting of tea with ayuya or marraquatas, a Chilean bread with ham, cheese or jam.
After Once, they all drove us to our cabins (cabañas) which is where we will call home for the next two weeks. It was now late at night, around 9.30pm. We haven't slept properly for two days, so it'll be so good to have a long hot shower and then fall asleep. Tomorrow is another day- we'll be doing alot of exploring
It's 3am and jetlag has hit. I can't sleep. As I force myself to dooze off, I can hear these duck type birds singing, the horses neighing and the neighbourhood dogs all howling in tune. It all feels very surreal.