Before the second flight took us back home, we admired the striking beauty of Paine Towers National Park.
Then I continued my trip on my own. JetSmart was my savior after the demise of Latin American Wings (and subsequent loss of my ticket). This third "replacement" flight took me to Santiago…
…because this is where I'll board the current flight… back to Patagonia!
Patagonia again? Yes. Mom wasn't able to walk very well when we went together, so I planned to revisit some places on my own.
Let's get down to business.
Who needs Air Force 1 when you can have LATAM 1? It might not be paid by taxpayers but you're in much better company! XD
LATAM has seasonal flights to Puerto Natales - the door to Paine Towers National Park - from November to March. The flights for this season started on November 14, 2017, as reported here. The code for this flight is LA1.
After a relaxing weekend in Viña del Mar - escaping from the heat of Santiago - I make it to SCL on Tuesday morning.
The new terminal's "Pacific Ocean waves" or "wavy Andean peaks" - as they are described by the concession's holder - are still under construction.
SCL is quickly becoming too small for the growing demand.
They manage to keep queing times short, at least on the domestic side. But I have read that they are struggling on the international side. Customs, International Police and the Agricultural Inspection Service (SAG) are not providing enough personnel.
LAN1 will board through gate 24. I think I have boarded almost half my flights through this gate. I should buy a lottery ticket with this number! LOL
On the way I come across a…
…book swap kiosk. The project is still en pañales, though.
4-year-old CC-BFX will be tasked with transporting my plump humanity to meridional latitudes today.
Those boxes are extremely flimsy. I doubt the donnuts in them will make it to Puerto Natales in one piece!
The plane is in the old LAN livery…
…but inside it's furnished with the new LATAM colors.
Not only the colors are new, but LATAM refurbished their cabins completely, doing away with their old, thick, blue, LAN seats.
At least on the Chilean side of LATAM the space for your legs…
…is acceptable. I didn't experience the same in Brazil.
Long flight ahead. I'd better pay a visit to the lavatories before my seatmates come.
Oops! The baby changer seems to be out of order.
Back in my seat, the boarding process is still in progress…
…and my seatmates have not yet come.
The donnut guy is still trying to find a safe place for his precious cargo. One of the female FAs suggest he could place them on her bag. She's very kind! (As long as she isn't planning to keep them for herself!) XD
While our baggage is being loaded…
…I can spot a KLM in elegant Skyteam livery…
…and this AR 737-800 in what I think is a very well achieved livery. One of my favorites.
Time for pushback.
Some big ones as we move past the international side.
CC-AFY! So many adventures together! Three, actually: here, here, and here.
Those buses always park there. I wonder what is their purpose. They don't look like the standard airport shuttle bus, do they?
Just like all other 747s in Qantas fleet, VH-OEF's days are numbered. The airline has announced its intentions to purchase six more 787-9s and withdraw its "queens", as reported here (with a nice video)
Taxiing past the least glamorous corner of the airport, albeit the most interesting for me…
…the junk yard!
There are works by the runway, too.
One of the advantages of having two parallel runways only…
…is that taxiing never takes…
On your marks…
Before we take off, some technical information about this flight. Yes, I know the map is a bit long. Just wait to see the one for the flight back! XD
We're taking off almost 20 minutes late.
I blame it on the new single-line boarding schedule.
How cute. This reminds me of those times when I used to play with my toy trucks.
Here's an example of a housing project built for the higher strata of the local middle class…
…who want to live outside the city, but can't escape too far from it.
Lomas de Lo Aguirre. The cheapest house there costs about 300000 USD, which is prohibitive for most Chileans considering our income, but doesn't surprise anybody anymore. Buying or renting a house in our own country has become incredibly expensive. TV report here.
For the first hundred kilometers…
…we follow the usual route…
…along the Central Valley…
…of which I have posted so many photos before.
But then I realize that we're flying east of Convento Viejo reservoir…
…wich means that we are flying closer to the mountains this time.
Yes. We are east of Curicó…
…and east of Colbún dam.
The dam is a very picturesque place, popular among tourists.
On minute 33:59 of this TV show, its hosts visits Colbún dam and shows off its attractives.
Meanwhile, onboard, BOB service has started.
It's gonna be a long trip, so a coffee and a muffin are welcome.
The coffee is Colombian Juan Valdez. Hm. That moustache. That hat. I have seen this guy somewhere.
Aha! LATAM's dirty little secret!
For the rest of the flight the cabin looks like this. Not even a little bit of turbulence to shake up the sleepy atmosphere.
Volcanoes, lakes and glaciers
I can't get my eyes off the window.
We're flying as east as you can in Chile, which is about 100km from the usual routes. XD
But this close to the Andes and Argentina, I'll be able to behold some frequent vies from a different angle, like this area north of Laja river…
…with countless little valleys lined in native forests and this little dam in river Polcura.
…one of the most active in Chile, with frequent but moderate eruptions.
Its most recent major eruption occurred in 1994.
Then comes one that gives me the jitters. Villarrica volcano is the background for a very popular touristic area, but seeing it from above it looks different…
…and menacing. It has a permanent lava lake inside, which usually rises to the top of the narrow crater. There are lots of picturesque towns around it, like Pucón and Villarrica, and more than 15000 people climb to the edge of its crater every year. In fact, my sister did so some years ago. I'd love to! Brrrrr!! Cooked Nechus. :D
But the sight that literally blows my mind during this trip is Chos-Wenko volcano, which happens to be the closest to my hometown! At first I can't recognize it because, from ground level, I have always seen what looks like two craters, one to the north and one to the south. But then it hits me…
At some point in history (a long time ago, luckily) the top half of the volcano blew up, leaving an enormous circular rim that now contains a huge glacier. What I thought was the northern crater is just part if this rim.
The new crater is growing in the middle of the glacier. Fascinating.
Lake Riñihue lies at its foot. I've been there. It's beautiful but its stony beaches don't attract many tourists. Good thing, anyways. It means less pollution.
South of lake Riñihe are lakes Ranco (background) and Maihue (foreground).
The western tip of lake Maihue.
In the middle of lake Ranco there is a large island…
…called Huapi. Most of its inhabitants are of the Mapuche ethnicity.
Here's a recent TV report about "ethnic tourism" on the island.
The largest town north of lake Ranco is Futrono.
Llifén is another small town on the east shore of the lake.
South of lake Ranco is the wide crater of Puyehue volcano.
Mischievous Puyehue is part of a complex of four volcanoes called Cordón Caulle. The last time that this cordón, or range, erupted in 2011, it covered a large area with pumice stone…
…and the ash cloud went around the world. Some impressive images here.
I'll share more images of the area in a future report, when I'll be travelling by bus to Bariloche, in Argentina, to board a flight on a new LCC.
And finally, before the continent sinks under the sea and turns into a thousand fjords and islands…
…the beautiful cone of Osorno volcano…
…emerging between lakes Todos los Santos - All Saints - on the east (foreground) and Llanquihue on the west (background).
Three rivers - Petrohué, Cochamó and Puelo - empty into Reloncaví estuary which, in turn, pours into Reloncaví Sound. Puerto Montt (PMC) lies on this sound.
The town of Hornopirén is barely 107km south-east of Puerto Montt, but it takes over 3 hours to get there by car. The route includes a ferry, and is the beginning of the extremely beautiful Carretera Austral (Southern Road).
From here on, the clouds cover most of the landscape, but they break once in a while, allowing me a glimpse of the glaciers and glaciar lagoons underneath.
I have a terrible pain in my neck as we start descending, after almost three hours twisting myself against the window…
…trying to get some good photos.
We softly bank to the left…
…in a U-turn.
Now we are flying to the north west…
…above lake Balmaceda, which is just south of Puerto Natales, approaching the runway…
…more or less like this. Because of the wind, I suppose. The white line upper right is the border with Argentina.
The forests of lenga trees cover this side of Patagonia.
The road to Río Turbio, Argentina.
And after these rocky hills…
…and the road to Paine Towers national Park…
…we finally make it…
…to tiny PNT.
Welcome to PNT
The wind is really strong here.
Just look at how it blows the rain on the runway.
Everything, even the smallest plant, is shaped by the relentless wind.
While we taxi towards the terminal…
…you should know that Lt. Julio Gallardo Airport (aka PNT)…
…did not receive any commercial flights between 2013 and 2016…
…after the LCC Sky Airline replaced its 737-200s with A319s. PNT was too small for such aircraft.
The enlarged runway and other works were inaugurated in December 2016.
Thank goodness the rain is stopping.
I didn't bring an umbrella with me!
Isn't it a nice little airport?
Of course, we disembark…
…via stairs. Brrrr!!! It's freezing, especially after the heat of Santiago!
I suppose I have all the time in the world…
…to take all the photos I want!
That sign welcomes us to the airport.
The black lines are supposed to be the outline of the Paine towers…
…which are advertised everywhere around here.
This is PNT inside. I like it.
No baggage to claim, so I get my transfer ticket…
…which costs 3000 CLP (4.5 USD)
…and head for the exit.
Cabs in case you don't want to go for a tour around the city in the transfer van. Puerto Natales is a very small town, anyway.
It's a small building, but it has a double access door. The terrible weather must be the cause, again.
That's my van.
A handsome front. More info about those ornaments in the next report.
PNT is barely 7km from the town.
There's a very active tourism industry.
The town itself is quite picturesque…
…but this report is already long enough…
…so I will leave the tourism bonus…
…for the next report, when we will fly less than 200km to Punta Arenas, in a stopover on our way back to Santiago.
And the swans of the cover picture? Here they are by the road! I told you they were part of my flying experience. Well, sort of. :D
Santiago - SCL
Puerto Natales - PNT
A first for me and for flight-report.com, this time we fly LATAM to tiny PNT, serving Puerto Natales, a tourist spot in the Chilean Patagonia.
LATAM offers great value for your money. Its national fares are almost even with its two competitors in the domestic arena, JetSmart and Sky Airline, but it offers better seats, nicer cabins, good seat pitch, and far better IFE system (which, unfortunately, I am not using now)
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