Welcome to the second flight of my 2018 summer holidays.
My mother and I visited cold, windy Punta Arenas for one week. Now we're flying back home, where I'll drop her before flying… back to the south!
But before we board, let me share with you some images of our visit to two of the main local landmarks: the milodon's cave, and Paine Towers National Park.
BTW, this is flight 2 of 9 of this trip. You can also have a look at the reports for flights 1, 3, 4, and 5 if you like. The rest are coming soon!
Pre-Flight Bonus - Paine Towers National Park
The day after our arrival in Punta Arenas, we take a full day tour to a place some 300km north of the city: Torres del Paine National Park.
The van picks up at 6 a.m. and we travel north…
…along this road that connects…
…Punta Arenas and the small town of Puerto Natales.
The whole trip is very scenic.
In fact, we'll be watching awesome landcapes…
…all day long.
A brief stop at Puerto Natales.
As we continue northwards…
…the mountains get higher.
…and we are in the middle of lenga forests.
Before we enter the national park, we visit la cueva del milodón (the milodon's cave).
The price of the ticket…
…is not included in our tour.
I'm not sure how much it was. 2500 CLP (4 USD) I think, but all tickets are three times more expensive for foreginers.
Before you get to the cave, you find some information about the site.
This was the milodon…
…and other animals that lived…
…around here thousands of years ago.
The path leading to the cave…
…is lined by lenga trees.
There's the cave. Let's follow that path on the left.
What if one of those stalactites falls on someone's head?!
Some plants grow here thanks to the water that filters throught the cave's roof.
Certainly not a good moment for an earthquake.
And that would be all. Not much more to see…
…but being there makes you feel like you are the size of an ant.
On the way back I learn…
…how this cave formed.
This beautiful bird is nesting in a hole in the stone wall outside the cave. We'll see a similar bird later and, as we'll learn, they are very friendly!
That one seems to be a tordo.
We travel one more hour from the cave to the park, with Prat mountains on our left.
Then we have our first encounter with them…
…Cuernos del Paine (Paine Horns)
We are watching them from Lago Toro (Lake Toro) (toro = bull)
So, we're now inside the park. We find a series of hostels and cabins…
…by río (river) Serrano.
Then we make it to the park's administration. Admission is 21000 CLP (34 USD) for foreigners.
This map was on the wall, but we visited so many places and went on so many roads that I just can't trace our complete route on it.
The park covers this group of mountains and lakes carved in the soft rock by glaciers.
Next stop is Río Pingo. There's a cafeteria there…
…with insulting prices! And I thought that LATAM's BOB was expensive!
Opposite the cafeteria is the park guard's house…
…at the foot of some cliffs that reveal the turbulent origins of this land.
Behind the cafeteria is this hanging bridge…
…over Pingo river…
…..leading to this trail that winds through a forest…
…of lenga trees.
The work of woodpeckers.
And to think that lenga forests were seriously threatened in the early 2000s…
…when a forestry company called Trillium planned to harvest thousands of hectares.
Afaik, the case was taken to court in Chile…
…and Trillium eventually cancelled their operation in Chile…
…though they are still active in Argentina, under the name Lenga Patagonia.
I wouldn't allow this to be destroyed.
While we wait for the rest of our group to come back from the trail, this little guy - similar to the one we saw outside the milodon's cave - comes hopping between our feet.
And he (or she?) is not alone. There's a different one wearing a brown scarf…
…and one more that looks like a common sparrow.
At first we think that the three of them are a family, but some research shows that the mom is a rufous-collared sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis)
…the young one is her baby…
…while our colorful friend is a Patagonian Sierra-Finch (Phrygilus patagonicus)…
For the rest of the tour…
…we get to see the horns…
…from every possible angle.
Those huge rocks are stunning!
Ah! A reminder of the route…
…that we will fly in this report!
Next to the horns there's a mountain called Nido de Cóndores (Condors Nest)…
…for a reason.
Condors became an endangered species after sheep farmers hunted them, believing that they preyed on their sheep. Sheer ignorance. Condors are scavengers and they feed exclusively on dead animals! BTW, here's a heartwarming video of a condor that has a close relationship with an Argentine who used to be its carer The condor pays him a visit, and the guy greets the bird saying "Hola! Cómo estás. Tanto tiempo! Me viniste a saludar?" (Hi! How are you? It's been a long time! Did you come to say hello?) And the condor is the cutest thing on earth!
We get some of the best views from Pehoé, a camping site…
…with a great barbecue restaurant.
Luckily, it's not raining in spite of the menacing weather during my second visit…
…and we can stay here for a while…
…and have our lunch with these views.
As we keep going around lake Pehoé…
…we find evidence…
…of the damage produced by some careless people.
Thousands of hectares have burned after someone smoked or burned a little piece of paper…
…which is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN in the park.
The reason? The wind! These images give us an idea of how strong the wind is around here.
So, if you think you can't stop smoking during your visit, PLEASE DON'T VISIT THE PARK! If you drop a single cigarette butt, even by accident, you won't be able to recover it, and you'll start a terrible fire.
Our next view is of the well-known (at least locally)…
You can check the prices under the tarifas tab on their website. (I didn't find an English language version of it!)
Eventually, as we near the end of our day-long tour, the mystical towers get in sight.
You might notice the absence of trees.
The landscape becomes dry as we move east.
That change is evident from the plane, too.
We stop at the umpteenth lookout of the day, by these rapids.
If you ask me, I prefer the horns. The towers might be more attractive…
…who can get to the base of the towers…
…on a boat like this one.
Finally, we leave the park with a wonderful sight of river Serrano.
It was a long day, and we still have a three-hour trip back to Punta Arenas. But, in spite of her arthrosis, my mother is planning to come back after she has her hip replaced in a couple of months. She wants to reach some places that she could not go to this time.
As for me, I think this is one of those places that you should visit before you die. Besides, just imagine the cool flight-reports you could post!
Punta Arenas Airport
Reaching PUQ is relatively easy. In our case, we arranged to be picked at our Airbnb by a taxi.
A taxi will charge 10000 CLP, and the transfer service 5000, so a taxi will be more convenient for two or more people travelling together.
As for the premises, I have noticed…
…that Chilean airports are usually modern…
Most of them follow the same design…
…with the counters area on one end of the main hall…
…and the stairs/escalator/elevator in the middle.
The only downside would be the lack of shops.
Most of them are gift shops.
Something more practical would be very welcome, especially considering that PUQ serves passengers flying to destinations…
…as exotic as Antarctica! Aerovías DAP has commerical flights to the white continent.
Antarctic Airways and Mineral Airways are DAP's subsidiaries.
JetSmart is a relatively new ULCC. Unfortunately, their cabin baggage policy is quite strict, and a small bag that you can carry for free in LATAM or Sky Airline (the other Chilean airlines) is paid baggage with JetSmart.
Looks like some local products are appreciated in other lattitudes.
I guess they also enjoy a warm woollen sweater in…
Porvenir is across from Punta Arenas, on Tierra del Fuego (lit. Fireland), the large island that makes up the southern tip of South America. Puerto Williams is the absolute southernost town in the world, on Navarino island. There's also a Chilean settlement in Antarctica called Villa Las Estrellas, where military and scientific staff live with their families, but I'm not sure if that can be called a town.
Floating above the hall are some ethereal, transparent…
…"sliced" acrylic whales.
Not sure if they look like whales…
…or more like giant spermatozoa. LOL. They might fit better at CCP rather than PUQ!! (CCP = Concepción airport)
An ATM! You sure take it for granted at an airport, but there's none at ZAL, my local airport!
PUQ's ground plan.
First (ground) floor…
Arrivals is on the other end of the hall.
Let's go upstairs.
Apart from the restrooms, a cafeteria, and some tourists that decided not to pay for their last night in Punta Arenas…
…there isn't much to see airside on the second floor. So we go straight through security.
Airside, first thing you come across with is BrittShop…
…and a little cafeteria on the left.
To baggage claim.
There's this lounge, which hopefully serves something more than the cheese and ham sandwiches I saw at CCP.
Those less fortunate can buy more souvenirs.
At the far end of the boarding room you realize…
…that you'll be very hungry if you didn't visit the cafeteria when you were airside.
Well, let's go back…
…because mom is waiting for the little cafeteria to open.
It's 8:35. Shouldn't we be boarding?
LATAM has adopted the general boarding system in Chile, too. Today we have priority, special needs and general boarding lines.
See how spotter-friendly PUQ is, with those seats facing the apron. There must be some interesting spotting here.
You bet! Here's CC-ARN, Aerovias DAP's British Aerospace Avro RJ100.
And over there…
…a British antarctic survey aircraft.
That one I couldn't find on the web.
Salmon shipping. To… Jamaica?
Romans had the verb bibere (to drink), from wich many Spanish words originated (beber = to drink; bebido = drunk; etc) But for some mysterious reason, our word for "drinkable" comes from a different Latin word: potare, which also means "to drink". So, meet agua potable (drinkable water)
The road connecting Chiloé island to the continent.
It's a bit cold today. I don't think our young spotters from last week got their mother's permission to sit by the road today.
Did you know that it's warmer inside the terminal?
Welcome to PMC.
Nice! Arriving at the same gate from wich we left.
The scary LATAM scales are still there.
The passengers to Santiago are already waiting.
Wanna live in the middle of the Patagonian forest? (Dorm. = short for dormitorio = bedroom)
Our baggage is delivered in minutes…
…and we're ready to take…
… the bus to Puerto Montt's bus station.
And what better way to finish this absolutely thrilling week…
…than making a final spotting…
…of the plane that brought us here.
Thanks for reading! :)
Punta Arenas - PUQ
Puerto Montt - PMC
PUQ For decades, PUQ has been the center of intense military and scientific activity. That might explain why it feels a little too "basic" for a commercial airport in an area with a growing tourism industry. However, I have heard that a new terminal (or deep changes to the current one) is being planned.
PMC Clean and efficient. Not much better than PUQ.
LATAM The best cabins among Chilean airlines. But their BOB menu is not as good as Sky Airline's.
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