The perspective of spending two days in Santiago before I can take my flight back home after my trip around the north of Chile triggers some kind of survival instinct in me. I desperately search for a ticket to fly somewhere else. And I find it!
I’ll arrive in Santiago from Iquique on Wednesday 18 a bit after noon. Then I can take this 5 pm flight to…
La Serena is a beach town some 400 km north of Santiago, at the tip of the valley of river Elqui, which stretches eastward from the sea towards the mountains and is covered with vineyards that are the base for the production of a spirit called pisco.
This town is also popular nationwide because of its candied-papaya industry, as you will see in the tourism bonus below.
Finally, another attraction of this area is the large number of space observatories. Cerro Tololo is one of them, and it’s one of the fantastic views of this trip. Oh! And frequent UFO sightings, too, and even a UFO crash!!
Aahh… I can almost see myself lying on the sand while munching on all the candied papaya I can lay my hands on!
This is leg 5 of 7 of this trip.
If you like, you can also read the reports for legs 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7.
Back at SCL
I'm on my way back to the airport from a bus station in downtown Santiago, after sending a package I brought from Iquique for my mother. Yes, it's the coca leaves from my previous report, and lots of mangoes. :D
Oh, my. A lot of traffic to the airport this afternoon!
You can't squeeze anything else in here!
The terminal must be crowded, too.
We really need that new terminal.
Two bus lines run to/from the airport: Centropuerto and TurBus. I usually take the first, but I gave TurBus a try this time. For some reason (maybe because they are double deckers and high speed can be dangerous) TurBus buses are extremely slow compared with Centropuerto. Not advisable if you're in a hurry! Another problem is what you see below. The baggage is stored inside the passengers cabin, and it can't be handed back to the passengers until every single person has gotten off. This makes things very slow!
Yep, I was right. It’s crowded in here. Nevertheless, the line moves quickly. I get to the counter in around 10 minutes… or less.
Darn. I bought this new wheeled backpack for this trip, but I didn’t realize how heavy it was. I’m only carrying some light clothes, but it never gets below 10kg. >:(
Restrooms at SCL are always neat and tidy.
Landside, the terminal has three levels. This is the first (ground) one, with cafeterias and the like, and passenger arrivals. Right outside are the taxis, transfer vans and buses to the city.
The east end of the first level is used as a dormitory. It’s not especially comfortable, though. Just lie there and sleep. I tried, but I couldn’t. The second level is used for offices, and the counters are on the third level…
…here. All transportation drops passengers at the third level. To take your bus, transfer or taxi, you must do it at the ground level. Capisci?
International departures looks empty at the moment. All the movement is on the national side, it seems.
This little guy was whining inside a pet carrier moments ago. I see he was convincing.
The line for security check is long, too. But no matter how long it is, I have never been more than five minutes in it. The are plenty of scanners.
I’m airside in no time.
If you walk straight ahead after security check, you get to the second level of national departures. My gate today, 23B, is the first one on the left, around those restrooms.
Here it is.
Still 30 minutes before boarding.
I can go for a walk and see what’s new.
These are still available, just in case.
A LATAM flight to Antofagasta has just departed from 23B. Everything seems to be OK.
Aah… the chargers that I didn’t see before. There are plenty of them all around the terminal. They seem to be sponsored by Entel, the main Chilean telecommunications company. Dropped my contract with them years ago. Their customer service is worse than bad. You will never ever get to talk to a human assistant in case of problems. However, they get the “Best Customer Service Award” every year. I wonder how that can be.
Awww… memories. I grew in a small town in the countryside, and views like these façades were common for me during my early childhood.
More than once I visited a fundo (ranch)…
…and most buildings in my town where made of adobe and looked exactly like this.
Who’s coming there? Wow! It’s CC-AFY! It took me on a thrilling adventure last year, when I thought I wouldn’t make it alive to my destination!
Coming to our gate. I wonder what all those buses are for.
Always grouped together. Always isolated. They never share with others.
Time to queue up.
Hey, Loukas! One of your fellow countrymen is visiting La Serena!
I only hope the pattern of those shorts is not the latest trend in Poland. Is it? My eyes! XD
As you can see here, the “one piece of hand luggage” policy is not strictly enforced. Let’s hope this won’t change when Sky’s new stage of its low-cost model starts, when you’ll have to pay for things like checked baggage.
No one there to welcome us with a hug. :’’’(
Not the most beautiful cabin in the world. What if they used green antimacassars matching Sky’s institutional colors? It would lighten the cabin up a little, wouldn’t it?
The atmosphere inside the aircraft is relaxed… but very hot and humid! I have some problems with my camera lens getting fogged up.
Sky’s magazine. On the cover, Manuel García, a Chilean singer. Sorry, I have never listened to his music!
Sky Airline’s current destinations in Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay.
The BOB menu.
Hm! The beef wrap has a new recipe! Too bad this is a very short flight and I’m sitting at the back. I doubt the FAs will get to my row before we have to land. I’ll leave it for the flight back.
Safety information card, two sides.
Table tray… wow! I could lick it!
Great legroom at row 24 as usual. But the aircraft is showing signs of wear here…
…and here. In fact, I had a lot of work trying to fix the photographs a little. I’m no expert though.
Sky Airline’s low cost model includes lots of advertising, of course.
Share your trip (by uploading a selfie) and win!
Next to us, CC-BEF is ready to leave for Iquique.
Last bags to be loaded, and we’re all set.
Pushback. I have expressed my concerns about the quality of some of Sky Airline’s staff before. This time I’m shocked when see this man here.
I have the impression that he’s not taking his job seriously for the way he marches playfully, and by the lack of the gear I normally see for this job. No ear protection, not even gloves. Only the reflective jacket. His hair looks long and untidy, too.
According to flightradar24.com we are 17 minutes late.
The long taxi becomes an interesting tour of the airport. Aviasur - charter, aircraft sales and maintenance.
Control tower and Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil.
Fuel (Chilean Copec, and Brazillian Petrobras)
We reach the runway at last…
…but we still have to get to its end.
Aerocardal - Charter and executive flights, and ambulance aircraft. They also fly to Robinson Crusoe's island!
Oh! How beautiful. One of LATAM’s 787s.
I wonder what she’s doing there, so alone.
<GASP> She’s not alone. It’s mating season! Did you ever wonder how new little planes are made?
The male watches her all day long, face to face, and when the night comes and nobody is looking… bada boom!
Any psychiatrists among the readers? I think I need one! XD
At long last!
You might notice that I didn’t take any photographs between this one at the beginning of the runway…
…and this one when we start climbing into the air.
It’s because the take off roll scared the s**t out of me! The wind was very strong, and it felt like the captain was having a difficult time keeping the aircraft in a straight line. The plane jolted violently to the left at least twice, and I hit the wall with my shoulder. Taking photos was impossible.
Even after taking off the plane kept shaking like crazy as we climbed. In my mind I started reviewing episodes of Mayday - Air Crash Investigation to see if some plane had crashed after shaking so much. I MUST stop watching that!
We took off towards the south. That's Ruta 68 going to the west.
So we start turning to the right.
We fly towards the west for a while as we climb higher above these hills…
…in order to finish our U-turn towards the north.
There we go. It’s all quiet from here. Phew!
This is how flightradar24.com saw it:
Clouds of smoke from several wildfires cover the land…
…though, in the distance, Mount Aconcagua looks better than this morning.
Some 100km north of Santiago I see the valley of river La Ligua.
The little town of Cabildo is in this valley.
Cabildo means meeting, assembly, or council. The town’s original name was Cahuín, which had a similar meaning in the language of the Mapuche people.
But the word cahuín was adopted by the Spanish language with the meaning of gossip. That’s why the town’s name was replaced using the Spanish word.
Further north we fly over what I think is a beautiful lake but, alas, as I learn later, it’s actually a tailings dam called Tranque El Mauro, where the waste from Los Pelambres mine is stored.
So, this is not a place where you’d like to swim, unless you want to end up reduced to an oily spot on the surface, or a crisp.
Accoring to Los Pelambres mining company, this dam is safe and harmless. However, there's been a tug-of-war between the inhabitants of the area and the company for over 10 years about its safety. A court ordered to demolish the dam, but a court of appeals cancelled the order.
I saw Cerro Mercedario this morning, but it looks better under the evening light.
The valley of river Choapa…
…and the town of Salamanca.
El Bato dam. Quite new. It was opened in 2012.
The valley of river Illapel.
Between Santiago in the south, and Copiapó in the north, the mountains reach the sea.
In Combarbalá you can buy beautiful ornaments made of a stone called, obviously, combarbalite.
…and the valley of river Cogotí.
La Paloma dam…
…and Recoleta dam are close together.
Water from river Hurtado feeds Recoleta dam.
This view baffles me. A mine?
Wow! It’s large!
See what they have done to the hill! It’s Carmen de Andacollo copper mine, belonging to the Canadian company Teck.
This mining company is also in a tense relationship with the town of Andacollo, which is right beside it…
It’s 80km east of La Serena and it can be visited.
Unfortunately, I won’t be visiting it this time. But it’s a great excuse to come back!
We keep turning to the left in order to align with the runway, which runs from east to west. Here you see the valley of river Elqui descending from the mountains.
Some images of the valley as we descend:
The towns of Marquesa and Nueva Talcuna.
Welcome to LSC.
A last photograph while the other passengers get off: Tierra del Fuego. Next year, maybe.
LSC has no jetbridges. Unnecessary because the weather here is usually sunny.
Control tower and the offices of the DGAC, the aviation authority.
Cafeteria on the second floor. Boarding rooms on the first floor.
That was a second nice trip with CC-AFY.
This is the humble gate for international and domestic arrivals or, as they put it, “internationals/nationals”. And I thought my English was bad! By the way, LSC gets no international flights, afak.
Immediately after the “internationals/nationals” gate is baggage claim.
CC-AFY is right out there.
While you wait, you can inform yourself about the newest housing developments in the area… at prices out of reach for a Y traveller, unfortunately.
Baggage claimed, I head for the door…
…and this is the main hall. Transfer stands are here on the left. I get my ticket and the staff tells me that the vans are “outside”.
But “outside” turns out to be a large space with no vans at sight. Nothing here…
…or over there.
I go back to the transfer stand and they clarify that “outside” means “outside, to the right, at the end of the terminal.”
There we go.
So, papayas, here I go!!
Going papayas! (tourism bonus)
First things first. I’m not here for the beaches. I’m not here for the sun. I’m here for PAPAYAS! And the paradise of papayas is right here at La Recova, the town’s central market.
At your local supermarket you might find papayas (Carica papaya) that are big and heavy, much like a melon. But Chilean papayas (Vasconcellea pubescens, or Carica pubescens) are completely different. They are yellow, have a thin flesh like that of a bell pepper, and fit in your hand. See them here. They are abundant in La Serena and, of course, they are big business for the locals, who sell them preserved, candied, turned into beverages, syrup, etc. See for yourself here and here.
Inside and around La Recova there are restaurants and lots of shops selling textiles and other handicraft…
…but the most abundant products are those made of papaya. These are preserved papayas, and also little trays of bombones de papaya (a papaya confection with the consistency of fudge)
They also sell whole candied papayas (my favorite) and papaya syrup. In the foreground you see pots of manjar. Manjar is not made of papaya, but it’s hugely popular in Chile and other South American countries, where it’s called dulce de leche (lit. jam of milk). It’s caramelized sweetened milk. If you don’t have this in your country, just get a can of condensed milk and boil it in a pressure cooker for 70 or 80 minutes. Take it out of the cooker (after it has released the pressure, of course) and leave the can to cool off at room temperature. (Don’t put it in cold water because it might explode!) You will love it forever. :)
I’m getting dizzy. Papaya juice, papaya bombons, papaya candy, papaya torrone… I’m going to faint and fall all over that! And tonight I will dream that I’m swimming in a sea of papaya juice!
And if you like chocolate, you can also try alfajores. An alfajor is like a little sandwich, usually made up of two little flat cakes, and manjar in the middle. The word alfajor is pronounced alpha-whore, but don’t be dirty minded! XD
This street is across from La Recova. There are no tall buildings in downtown La Serena. They try to keep a style that reflects its colonial past as closely as possible, with different degrees of success, of course.
The BancoEstado building. My dad used to work for this bank when it was called Banco del Estado, in correct, understandable, sense-making Spanish.
The Plaza de Armas, or main square.
There’s a flee market at the Plaza de Armas! I’ll take my time to look around.
Some buildings around the Plaza de Armas: the Municipalidad (city council)…
…and another bank.
Somewhere across from the main square is this scale model of a project called Agua Negra (Black Water) International tunnel…
Have you noticed the "empty" street lights? The light bulbs (or LEDs, I guess) are attached to the "roof" of the lamp, pointing downwards. It's a requirement in La Serena, because of the observatories.
Someone told me that the best way to admire a city is by looking upwards.
He was right! That’s absolutely true, at least for Chilean cities.
I keep walking towards the west because I want to visit a place I really like.
La Serena’s Japanese Garden!
Aaahhh… peace and quiet. Just enjoy the views.
Before going to the beach I’d like to see this river that is so mystical, always mentioned in conversations about pisco, UFOs, and La Serena: River Elqui.
This is it. Not an impressive river. But it keeps the valley alive. Coming from the mountains…
…and flowing to the sea.
On its north bank young people are enjoying their summer holidays.
To finish with, let’s go to the beach. You can walk all the way there along Francisco de Aguirre Avenue, but it’s a bit too far. You can take a bus or a taxi, too.
The avenue has a nice park in the middle…
…with replicas of Roman and Greek sculptures.
This faro (lighthouse) stands where the avenue meets the beach.
The faro is representative of the city, but it’s in serious need of maintenance. The floors, especially.
Those apartment buildings are at the beginning of the Avenida del Mar.
More are being built… at very low prices! (1 UF = 40 USD) The reason? The fear of tsunamis! After the 2010 earthquake, when around 500 people died because of the subsequent tsunami, the prices of all properties by the sea plummeted. It was an avoidable tragedy, but our president insisted that there was no need to flee to higher land.
Avenida del Mar.
That would be the end of this flight report. As for me, I will stay here on the beach and enjoy a sweet moment with my candied papayas. Yum!
Thanks for reading! ^^
Santiago - SCL
La Serena - LSC
Nice short trip with Sky Airline. Though, if you ask me, LATAM is fighting hard to keep its leading position. Sky's cabins need a serious revamp. Concerned about Sky's staff. Sometimes I get the feeling they are not being professional. LSC - Beautiful little airport. You will see more of it in next report.
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