Today I'm heading to Viña del Mar, one of my favorite cities in Chile. Even though Viña and Valparaíso make up a single metropolitan area, they are totally different. Nostalgic, bohemian Valparaíso has nothing to do with young, vibrant Viña del Mar.
Since I live 850km south of Viña, I will fly all the way up to Santiago, and then it's a two-hour bus ride to the coast from there.
No. There are no commercial flights to Viña del Mar or Valparaíso. Both are so close to Santiago that it's not profitable. One airline, Ladeco, used to have scheduled flights to Viña in the 90's, but that didn't last long. Nor did the airline. It was gobbled up by LAN and turned into LAN Express, which was in charge of LAN's domestic flights.
I bought my ticket last April. Unfortunately, something was broken on Sky's website at that time and credit card purchases could not be processed. Nevertheless, I resorted again to despegar.com. The price displayed onscreen is that of the cheapest class. (Update: The problem was my web browser!!)
It's really cheap. The price (37,390 CLP = 57 USD) is for the round trip and includes despegar.com's service fee and boarding fees. I won't pay for my hand luggage and I can carry one 23kg piece of baggage for free. More info on this page.
I am sent my ticket and details of the flight via email.
Unlike my previous flights, I choose a seat over the wing this time. The reason? On one hand, it's gonna be cloudy all the way. No nice landscape for photographs. On the other, the flight is so short that the trolley can't make it to the last rows on time to buy and eat a sandwich in peace! In my last two flights I had the money in my hand, but I changed my mind and didn't buy anything because we were starting to land. Sky Airline is a low cost carrier, and the BOB process is slower than standard catering.
My boarding card. I'm not printing it. I asked Sky and they say I can show it on my cellphone.
Araucanos and Araucanía
Temuco is the main city in an area that has been home for the Mapuche people since before the Spaniards came here. For centuries, Mapuches stubbornly stopped them from moving further south. That's why this city was called La Frontera (The Frontier). Even today, this area is a zone of conflict between Mapuches and the Chilean authorities over land tenure.
For some reason, the Spaniards called Mapuches Araucanos. Hence the name of the region, La Araucanía, which is reflected in the airport that serves Temuco.
Welcome to La Araucanía airport (ZCO)
Stand and deliver
ZCO is located at barely 20km from Temuco, and less than 2km from the highway. Despite this, reaching the airport is more expensive than you might expect. There's no bus service, and the transfer service is quite expensive.
See the map below. In order to avoid the toll (I suppose) the main entrance to ZCO was built 3km to the north. This makes it very difficult to go from the highway to the terminal on foot, even though there is abundant public transportation to and from the city along that highway. There's a gravel road going from the toll towards the airport, but I don't know if a fence or something else is blocking the access to the terminal.
So, the only options to make it from Temuco to ZCO are by taxi (18,000 CLP = 28 USD), by transfer (up to 7,000 CLP = 11 USD), or using your own car. All this is far more expensive than the transfer service in my city, or even in Santiago!
It's a cold, foggy morning today. We're driving south along the 5 Sur.
The fields around ZCO are quiet and wet from last night's rain.
A general view of the main hall.
Very few people are checking in this early.
I've already checked in online, but I'm not sure about my baggage weight, so I queue up all the same. In the end, the staff tells me that I can carry my backpack in the cabin. She gives me an Equipaje de mano (Hand luggage) tag.
Still some 30 minutes for boarding time. I go for a walk around the hall. All signs are in Spanish, English, and Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuches. Very nice, but not much more than a move to pretend some respect for the original inhabitants. Mapudungun doesn't have the political relevance of other native languages, nor is it an official language along with Spanish. It is taught in schools, but only in remote villages, and the vast majority of Mapudungun speakers can speak Spanish, too.
ZCO's ground plan.
All flights at ZCO arrive from and go to Santiago.
You can pay for your parking time here.
The far end of the hall, with the transfer and car-rental stands. Great! The transfer stand is not inside baggage claim! That gave me problems at MHC and PMC.
I turn around and see that more people have started gathering at the check-in counter.
Landside and airside are separated just by these glass panels.
This is the view from the stairs to the left…
…and to the right.
On the left there's this ATM…
and a cafeteria…
…and a gift store where I saw these wooden bandurrias. Bandurrias(Theristicus caudatus) are abundant in the south of Chile, in cities and in the countryside, and they have a characteristic, metallic cawing. They are so romantic! You will rarely see them alone. They are always in couples. If you ever see them in an odd number, you can be pretty sure that you will be able to find another one nearby.
On the right there are more cafeterias and shops, and security check. I think it's time to go airside. I am the only one there, and it's so early that the staff are just sitting and chatting. I feel awkward when they get to see me and jump to their feet, hurrying around as they get ready for this first passenger, as if I had taken them by surprise. I think I could play a joke on them by turning around and walking away… but I'm not that evil! XD
The check takes… 20 seconds, perhaps? Once airside, this is what you see on the left…
…and on the right.
I'm glad to see there's an exhibition by a local painter inspired by local everyday objects and situations…
…like this countryside scene with araucaria pines,
…these hydrangea and a Mapuche chamanto (similar to a poncho),
…or this horse.
Those stairs and escalator in the middle take you down to another waiting room and baggage claim.
My flight is first on the list. We will board through gate 3…
…so I slowly walk there.
I think that a visit to the restroom would be a wise move before boarding.
Are you disabled and get pissed off when non-disabled people use the WC specially designed for you? Well, here's something more. It says "Changing tables are located in the disabled restrooms."
The restroom is clean an nice.
The only downside of this airport (apart from its poor accessibility) is this sort of blinds that obstruct the view on the tarmac. But they are only on the second floor. You can still make some planespotting from the boarding room on the first (ground) floor. Well, I forget this and fail to take a good photograph of my plane. Passengers from Santiago are deplaning.
However, I take one of LATAM's CC-BAG, which is waiting beside our plane.
We stand there until the incoming passengers finish deplaning.
We are soon walking along the jetbridge.
This is the view to the right…
…and to the left.
Our plane today is CC-AID
We are welcomed by the well-know Banco de Chile advertisement.
Good pitch as usual. Take that LATAM!
Table tray cleanliness test… almost. Still some work to do, Sky.
The cover article in this month's in-flight magazine is about Córdoba, Argentina, Sky's newest destination. You can download this issue of the magazine here.
The BOB menu has been updated to a not very convincing "winter season" version.
Me and my bad luck. I expected this flight eagerly because I wanted to try the hot chicken sandwich, which smelled so good in my previous flight… but it's not listed anymore! :(
Safety instructions card.
I am sitting in row 12. Row 11 is by the emergency exits.
Nobody is sitting in row 11. Good thing, for anyone sitting there would need long, long arms to reach their tray tables!
Are you planning to seat by the emergency exit? You might want to pay a visit to your ophtalmologist beforehand.
The safety briefing is performed by the FAs. One passenger is more interested in adjusting the air conditioning. Yes, it's a bit warm in the cabin, but not that much.
The cabins of the three Sky Airline aircraft I have flown in so far are similar to the last detail. I appreciate that because I know what I will get for my money. Every time I fly LATAM I find a different seat pitch, for example, and having a comfortable trip with them is more a matter of luck than a matter of how much you pay.
After a short taxiing…
…we take off.
Soon we are flying above the Cordillera de la Costa, the mountains that run between the Central Valley, where most larger cities are located, and the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
Flightradar24.com registered our flight.
ten or fifteen minutes into the flight, the BOB service begins.
Yee-pee!! My decision to choose a seat closer to the front of the plane pays off. I can buy a wrap and a soda.
But… the wrap is cold and tastes like NOTHING AT ALL!! It's hard to believe, but I just can't make any difference between the flavor of the beef and the vegetables in it. Did they forget the salt? Or is it my taste buds that went on holiday on another flight? Well, this article by the BBC explains this phenomenon. It's not the airline's fault, but I'm never ordering any cold food in an airplane again. :(
Around 100km south of Santiago the Autopista del Sol highway runs from Santiago to the coast. I'm not taking that road to Viña later today, though.
After a steep U-turn we are aligned with the runway. We are heading south now, and I can see the Andes. Can you see that cone rising above all the other peaks? That's Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in America. The Chile-Argentina border runs along the top of some mountains, but not in this case. Mount Aconcagua is completely inside Argentinean territory.
Not many minutes later we land at SCL.
I wait patiently until the other passengers deplane. I'm not in a hurry. These are the ads on the seatback. WOM is a new phone carrier in the Chilean market, and they are being quite aggressive. I don't think I'll try them any time soon, though. They don't have a good coverage yet.
A last photo of CC-AID.
Viña del Mar… here I go!
Tourism Bonus - Viña del Mar
Ever heard about the Festival of Viña del Mar? Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s it used to be a synonym of glamour and famous stars. It has gradually degraded into a sad, decadent, low-budget show, though. Even so, it was a showcase for many emerging artists even in the early 90s. This plump lady, for example, represented Colombia in the festival's song competition in 1993 and won third place. Do you recognize her? This is what she looks like now.
I started with a visit to the Quinta Vergara, a large villa that used to be owned by the rich Vergara family. It's been a public park since the 1940s. Inside the park is the Palacio Vergara, which is now a museum, Unfortunately, it was under maintenance when I was there. Also inside this park is the amphitheater where the festival is held.
I followed a path to the top of a small hill inside the park, from where you have a view of downtown Viña del mar…
…and of the amphitheater.
The reloj de flores (flower clock) is a well-known landmark in Viña.
Walking along the waterfront from the flower clock towards the center of the city you find the Wulf Castle.
Some pelicans near the castle.
Some views of Avenida Perú, the avenue running along the waterfront.
Several bridges cross over Marga Marga, which is not a river, but only a little estuary that runs dry during the summer season. Then it's used as a parking lot.
Other views around the city.
This is the old part of the city, close to the point where it merges with Valparaíso.
I took a train to a nearby town called Limache..
…where I went hiking on a hill…
..from where I had some beautiful views of the valley.
Unfortunately, the path was very steep and I didn't have the time to get to the top. That tree on the left marked the end of my trip for the day. Thanks for reading! :)
Temuco - ZCO
Santiago - SCL
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