I slept like a log after walking all day and eating some not-so-healthy but delicious milcaos yesterday. Now I'm ready to catch some views of this little town before taking my plane back to El Tepual airport (PMC) in Puerto Montt, where I will take a bus back to Valdivia, the city where I live.
A fishing boat in the Gulf of Reloncaví, Puerto Montt
48 hours before ETD I check in using LAN's mobile app. I check in successfully, but when I want to see my boarding pass on the screen all I get is this message: "This document is not valid for travelling. On the day of your flight, come to our airport counters and we will give you your boarding card."
That's weird. For the PMC > MHC flight I was able to access an electronic version of my boarding pass via the mobile app. I can't understand why things are different for the trip back. The only difference between my previous check-in and the present one is that I used my PC the first time, and now I did it via LAN's Android app. Might that have anything to do? Some kind of security concerns perhaps?
Anyways, I am given the option to get the printable boarding pass on my email (the large green button), so that's what I do.
My boarding pass, with some practical additional informartion for people with special needs and baggage allowances.
First thing in the morning, I leave my backpack in baggage custody at the local bus station. Then I head for the long avenue that runs along the waterfront, surrounding downtown Castro. The other side of the bay is flooded by the first golden rays of the morning sun.
I keep walking until I get to see what is considered Castro's trademark within Chile—the palafitos (stilt houses).
They stand along the seashore in some points of the town.
Most of them are still inhabited by their owners, but more and more are being turned into restaurants, cafés and shops aimed at the tourists. Beyond the palafitos the town keeps evolving, and new residential areas pop up everywhere, just like in every other Chilean town.
If you pay attention to their outer walls, you'll notice that they are covered by wooden shingles. These are called tejuelas, meaning "little shingles" (from teja = shingle) and most of them are made of alerce wood. Alerces (Fitzroya cupressoides) are the South American equivalent of sequoias. Needless to say, alerces are an endangered species now.
Many houses in Castro and other towns in the south of Chile are covered with tejuelas, and they come in a huge variety of shapes, like these:
Time is passing quickly and I need to get to the airport soon. Instead of taking a transfer, I go and get my backpack at the bus station and take a small bus that leaves me at the intersection of the main road leading to the north coast of the island and the road leading to the airport. This welcome sign stands at the edge of the road at that intersection.
From there I have to walk some 400 mts to the airport. This lady walking ahead of me came in the same bus. I presume she works at the airport.
The road is bordered by fields on both sides. All of a sudden, a flock of noisy tricahue parrots (Cyanoliseus patagonus) take to the sky from some nearby trees and I'm lucky enough to catch this picture of them.
Some meters ahead, these black beauties are resting on the branches of those trees. They are mirlos (Turdus merula).
I finally make it to MHC.
Here's some technical information about the airport.
And this sign informing about some maintainance work at MHC lets us see its airside front, which is now partially covered by scaffolding.
Can you see the tejuelas?
This is what you find when you enter the building.
On your left, baggage claim, which has one carousel and a transfer stand. I remember this from my arrival the day before.
On your right, the waiting area and security check.
In the middle is baggage drop and two check-in counters.
Across the room from baggage drop are these machines and two car-rental stands.
I noticed that the ceiling lights were flickering wildlybut it is a sunny day and the place is well lit. Most passengers don't even notice what is happening above their heads. Have a look at the video.
But this electrical problem is a bit of an annoyance if you enter the restrooms.
The restrooms are next to baggage drop.
Everything is clean and tidy inside, but I have some trouble taking these photos because the lights keep going on and off.
Two more shots of the action inside the airport before I go to security check.
Believe it or not, this minuscule building has enough room for a 3mts x 3mts café! (Well, maybe a bit larger, but not much) It's embedded in a corner, between baggage drop and security check.
Smoking rules are tough in Chile. No smoking in closed public spaces at all. This sign is quite emphatic about it. It reads "This is a 100% tobacco smoke free environment." We usually say "100%" meaning "completely" or "absolutely".
I go through security in a matter of one or two minutes. Once airside, I find myself in the little area that's called "boarding room", which is nothing more than the far end of the building, isolated from the hall and the other dependencies by a glass panel. The same as baggage claim.
The place is small indeed. So much so that the seats have been aligned by the walls in order to optimize the space, leaving the center of the room free. Of course, there are't many seats, and the room is soon filled with standing people, me among them. I'm tired after walking all morning, so I sit on the floor. This is the view I have from my position. Not very dignified, is it?
For some reason, instead of checking our boarding passes as we go out to the apron, a LAN agent goes around the crowded room carrying a scanner, and gives a transit card to each checked passenger, like this one:
This is something new for me. I guess this is intended to optimize the waiting time while the plane is being prepared for the flight back to PMC. But the fact of staying there, cramped in that little area, standing for long minutes while the agent goes in and out of the room to get more transit cards from that counter outside the boarding room, and seeing that the queue is not moving makes us feel that we are wasting time.
I start a conversation with a senior Argentinian tourist standing in front of me. He's very annoyed by the supposed delay, and starts to get vocal about it. But right then we are invited to proceed and board the plane. Phew!
A last look at MHC. A nice little airport. But I am deeply concerned about the near future. The weekend of my getaway was not a especially busy one at MHC, but it was crowded all the same. I don't want to be here during the summer holidays.
Café, security check and boarding room on this end…
…and baggage claim on the other.
I have seat 28A, so I have to use the rear stairs.
As soon as I board I can see and feel the difference between this plane and the one that brought me here (CC-BAY). The passengers from PMC have long deplaned, so the air is completely renewed. And the legroom… is fantastic!
I inspect the table tray. Oops! Coffee stain.
The inflight magazine celebrates its twelve years of life, and a cover flap informs about LAN's online IFE, which, unfortunately, I can't try because I'm not carrying an appropiate device. Besides, it's a 16-minute flight!
Can you believe that the couple sitting next to me is thrilled to learn that they can watch movies while crossing the Chacao strait? That's sick!
One of the articles shows the attractives of Bariloche, in neighboring Argentina. I was there last December with some of my students. A wonderful place!
All this time we enjoy some nice background music while a video promoting some South American destinations is played.
Nothing new about the armrest and the overhead panel. They are the same as in CC-BAY.
Ground staff come and pull the stairs away.
The safety video is playing.
A male FA is carrying a tray of candy, and is trying to deliver it as fast as possible. I don't really like the way this is done. The FA just puts the tray in front of you and asks "Want some candy?" Then he has to wait until each passenger grabs the elusive pieces that keep dropping between their fingers. I know I'm flying cattle class, but… doesn't it feel a bit unpolished, unrefined? In my opinion, they would go much faster through this task if the same candy was portioned in bags. This would also help them avoid that childish "Want some candy?" question by replacing if with a simple "Your candy, sir" as they hand the treat.
And now, the moment that many of you have been waiting for with your fingers clamped around your knees and sweat drops running down your temples. It's FOOD PORN time!!
Well. This is what LAN's 16-minute flight menu looks like. Take that, Singapore Airlines!
The safety video comes to an end. After a short taxiing…
…we take off.
This is the road that I didn't travel thanks to this flight.
I saw these windmills from the road to the national park the day before, but they were very distant. Now I take this photo at full zoom.
I'd love to live down there!
Leaving Chiloé. I'll be back!
At full zoom, ferries crossing the strait.
Reaching the continent. Are those salmoneras (salmon farms)?
We are flying above Calbuco. More salmon farms on the left.
About to land.
The Ruta Cinco (Highway No. 5) also called Panamerican Highway, runs from Chile's border with Peru, down to Chacao strait. Some 3,400kms in total.
Touchdown on time.
Here's the flight route as registered by Flightradar24.com
I emerge from the jetbridge… at the restaurant! Very convenient in case you only got some candy on your flight.
A last look at CC-BFG before I leave.
I walk actoss the boarding room…
…and find the stairs/escalator leading to baggage claim.
And here is where I miss an important detail. I had a little inconvenient yesterday when I had to get back into baggage claim at MHC to buy my transfer ticket. This is PMC baggage claim now. Can you see the transfer stand in the photo below? Well, I can't either. I just go through those glass doors without noticing that the transfer counter is right there, in the corner, behind that glass panel on the right.
I make it to the main hall and look to the right. Estacionamiento (parking).
I look to the left. Car rentals.
I go outside, where I meet this group of young men. Later I learn that they are conscripts and are being taken to some godforsaken position in Patagonia for their military service. To fight penguins, I guess.
I ask the transfer driver and he explains that I have to go back to baggage claim to get my ticket. The problem is that the baggage claim door is automatic and does not open if you are standing outside, so I have to wait for someone to open from inside, which takes some time because nobody was at the transfer desk at the moment.
Am I missing something? I have been to other airports like SCL and ZAL (my city), and the transfer desks are right at the exit, along with car rental desks, which makes much more sense to me.
Of course, I lost the transfer andhave to wait 25 minutes for the next one. Meanwhile, I stroll around the main hall.
The PIDs inform that Sky Airlines flights are cancelled. As explained in my previous report, their workers are on a strike until next Tuesday.
At Sky Airlines' counters I see this message "To our customers" explaining the situation.
I finally leave the airport and make it to the bus station in Puerto Montt, where I get my ticket to Valdivia. The bus leaves in three hours, so I have time to go downtown and get something to eat.
I stroll along the waterfront.
A sight of the residential area Punta Pelluco.
A seagull is bravely facing the cold breeze from the sea at the top of a flag pole.
I really wanted to watch a movie at the shopping center, but it's Sunday today, and modern parents usually give their little nanny-raised offspring two or three hours of the so-called "quality time", indulging them with all the calorific stuff they want and taking them to the cinema, so it's full of little noisy critters today. I desist and head for the food court, which happens to be a perfect watching deck. I get this photo of downtown Puerto Montt.
One hour later I walk back to the bus station (the blue building in the background)
At the bus stop I turn around and take this last photo of Puerto Montt. Unlike the day before, when it was so dark and cloudy, it's bathed in the evening sunlight now. My weekend adventure has come to an end. It's time to board my bus home. Thanks for reading!
Dalcahue - MHC
Puerto Montt - PMC
This flight back was a much more pleasant experience than the first leg of the trip.
Of course, you can't expect a miracle from a 16-minute ride in economy, but it was a nice experience overall.
I loved PMC and MHC airports.
I'll never forget to check if the transfer desks are in baggage claim before going landside!
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