We don't celebrate birthdays at home. My family are very religious people and they say birthdays are a pagan celebration.
Well, on the bright side, you save a lot in birthday presents. But it's complicated when your birthday stirs up some deep feelings inside, and you need some cheering up.
That's my case this time. I'm turning 50, and I'm falling head first into an existential crisis.
So I'm going to do something - I'm gonna give myself a present that will cheer me up.
And what could be better than a flight? And the company of some (birthday-loving) beloved ones? And a flight? And lots of sun and warm weather? And a flight?
I want to make this flight special - not the typical ZAL > SCL route I usually post here - so I choose one of JetSmart's revolutionary point to point flights. They're revolutionary because we had no flights between cities north and south of Santiago before them. JetSmart started these flights only a couple of years ago, and they were welcomed particularly by workers of the mining industry living south of our capital city. They don't have to make a stopover at SCL on their way to places like Iquique, Calama or Antofagasta in the north of the country anymore.
What's more, the chance to enjoy the view of the Chilean coast between Concepción and Iquique will be a plus and a first for me.
So, here we go.
I visit JetSmart's website on August 6. My birthday is on October 9. I'm crossing my fingers that the right flights will be available.
They are! I can fly to Iquique on Thursday, October 7, and back to Concepción on Sunday 10 and spend my birthday with my cousin Cecilia and her husband. Perfect!
The heaviest thing in my bag will be the smoked salmon for Cecilia. The 10kg bolso de mano will suffice.
A summary of my trip. (Vuelo de ida = outward flight; Vuelo de vuelta/regreso = return flight)
You are offered to join the Club de descuentos (Discount club). I am tempted to join and pay the 20,000 CLP (25 USD) yearly fee, but I still haven't made up my mind. I will click on No quiero ahorrar (I don't want to save) for now.
The 10 kilo bag is included. I don't need the extra 10 kilo equipaje de mano….
…let alone the 23kg equipaje de bodega (hold baggage)
I want to see the coast and we are flying north, so 12F will be fine. It should have some extra legroom, too.
I will download the boarding pass to my cellphone.
Time to pay. 83,534 CLP = 105 USD (cheaper than my "accidental" previous SCL > ZAL flight!) Lol. Boo - hoo. 😭
Congrats! Payment successful!
You get a summary of your flight under Tu itinerario…
…and what you paid for under Detalles de tu reserva. Something I learned this time: You can change your seat selection only at check-in. You won't be given the possibility even under the Modifica tu reserva tab. In fact, I chose 4F at check-in. However, there is a workaround if you need to select a different seat sooner, but I will mention it in the next report.
I can download my boarding pass for printing…
…or for the cellphone.
I'm not sure if I gave myself a present or a punishment.
I hate traveling by bus!! But I'll have to stand a 6-hour bus ride from Valdivia to Concepción.
You might have seen TurBus buses in my previous reports - the shuttle buses between Santiago and the airport. Yes, this is a large company.
Today they're my preferred way to get to Concepción because they leave Valdivia at midnight and arrive there at 6 a.m. Perfect timing to catch my flight.
Bus services in Chile are quite comfortable… sort of. I paid 20,000 CLP (25 USD) to travel on Salón Cama, which would be the F class equivalent for buses down here, with wide, soft, thick seats that recline almost 90°.
The problem is that - if the passenger sitting in front of you decides to recline their seat completely - your legs will get trapped.
Add to that the typical crying baby, the suffocating heat, people passing gas (air is not renewed as in planes)… No. I just hate buses. No matter how soft the seats.
CCP was originally opened in the 1960s, but this terminal building is much newer. I love that curved design…
…and the natural light flooding the hall. One interesting thing - this building was designed…
…by someone who LOVED restroom signs.
You'll find a detailed description of the hall in this previous report, but some unexpected - though very impressive - new additions caught my attention, like this old-style shoeshine! Unfortunately, the corresponding staff was absent. But it's OK. I'm wearing canvas shoes today.
But what really blew me away was the sight of this centro de impresión (printing center)!! Afaik, this is an absolute first at any airport in Chile! I have not seen something like this available for the perraje even at SCL.
And what I saw next blew me even further!! UBUNTU!! My god!! UBUNTU at CCP!! This is amazing for a Linux enthusiast like me. Well, I'm not a fan of Ubuntu's Unity desktop (I prefer the more traditional XFCE or LXDE), but the simple fact of using open source software sets an example that everyone should follow. Two thumbs up for you, CCP!!
I was expecting some setback - no ink in the printer, perhaps? - would ruin the experience, but everything went smoothly. There was paper and ink in the printer, everything was connected… I had my boarding pass after two clicks. A bit faint, but there it was.
Let's look around a bit.
Gosh! You want information You'll have to struggle for it.
Arrivals and baggage claim at the other end.
Just like foul-mouthed miners flood airports in the north of the country, the most common sight at CCP are university students. The Universidad de Concepción is one of the most important in the country.
Of course, young people demand large amounts of energy.
Can anyone tell me why all flights have D in their number? Oh! And btw, this FIDS is new!
Let's have a look outside. The blue cars of the official taxi service look much better than the average taxi. If you ever visit us, you should know that taxis in Chile have an orange number plate. The standard plate is white.
Just in case you ever need these numbers. :D
Only some steps away is the old terminal building. Is it my cellphone lens, or is that tower really leaning?
I'm freezing out here. I'd better get going…
…to security check.
I'm airside in a couple of minutes.
Yes, that architect really had an obsession with restroom signs. Bathroom deprivation during childhood, perhaps? XD
I will never forget when I sat for eight hours on the same kind of rock-hard seats at AEP. Not a nice experience.
Remember the pandemic has not come to an end yet.
This airport is fool-proof! These arrows are a great improvement over the previous dance steps that only Fred Astaire could have followed. XD
LATAM wants you to feel safe when using the dreaded middle seat.
This information kiosk looks less challenging than the one landside. XD And you can submit a form requesting for boarding/disembarking assistance from it. Remarkable.
And this is where I stuck my nose to the glass to have a peek at the lounge in a previous report. I remember I was shocked at the sight of just some apples and cold cheese sandwiches.
Now they're making some improvements, too.
An ATM (and a vacuum cleaner in case you want to make yourself useful)
There are more shops like this now…
…and new cafeterias…
…and a large new area has been opened for gate 7, implemented for international flights. In fact, JetSmart has seasonal flights to Lima, Peru, from CCP.
This is the new space.
I think I'll try one of the sandwiches at Caballo Pintao. Let me see… vacuno (beef), pollo (chicken)… salmon and watercress! Ah, memories. Once or twice I collected watercress with my father as a small kid.
So, salmon and watercress it will be. Oh! Kunstmann Brewery, Valdivia! I feel at home. :D
Cutlery and serviettes are offered in paper bags.
Here's the order.
I'll be damned if this is watercress! I think I can see one or two leaves, but the rest are dandelion leaves! And it's only now that I notice a blade of something that is neither of them. Not toxic - in fact, fish goes very well with young dandelion leaves - but it's not what they offer on the menu. I confess I ate it anyway. XD
Back to my gate.
In case you were wondering…
…if JetSmart really disinfected their planes, that blue tank looks like something to kill bugs.
Flightradar24.com lets me know that CC-AWN will be landing any minute…
…from the south.
Ta - daaa.
Each JetSmart plane has a different animal on their tail.
CC-AWN has a black woodpecker.
I saw a black woodpecker once…
…while visiting the Paine Towers national park. I wonder what LATAM means by Recicla tu viaje (Recycle your trip)
Not a reference to their environmental policy, I guess. They used to serve coffee in paper cups. Now they only serve water… in plastic cups.
It's time to queue up. We're a bit…
…behind the schedule.
An empty middle seat is a blessing that I've been enjoying frequently as of late.
Unfortunately, the seats don't look very clean. This seatback looks rather worn down, too. The hanger is missing.
Providing a QR code to download the BOB menu is a great idea. I will keep a copy HERE, just in case.
Legroom is… acceptable. I can lean back and relax at least.
The safety instructions card is the only content of the seatback pocket. I'm not touching it.
Some additional information about this flight.
Our neighbor on the apron is CC-BLA. Funny name. Do they chat a lot onboard? lol
We say goodbye to CC-BLA at 13:08. A delay of more than 20 minutes.
After a short taxi…
…we sit there for a couple of minutes, admiring the landscape.
And finally we're on our way…
…above the northern suburb of Talcahuano. (I hope no-one from Talcahuano is reading this. They insist they are still a separate city!)
Penco was the original location of Concepción until the native inhabitants set it ablaze. That's why the inhabitants of Concepción are called Penquistas, not Concepcioneans or the like.
Tomé. The Concepción area is one of the most polluted in Chile, but people keep coming to the beach at Tomé. In fact, my parents and I stayed at a small resort down there when I was a child!
Needless to say, forestry - along with mining - is one of the main industries in Chile.
The fishing towns of Curanipe and Pelluhue
Yummy!!! Chanco!! Have a look at the most popular product of this town.
If you ever visit Chile expecting beaches of idyllic white sands and slender palm trees… sue your travel agency! As you see here, beaches are grey and stony, just like this one by a fishing town called Los Pellines.
The sea down there is rough and the wind is cold.
But windy weather can also be an advantage.
That town down there - just a three-hour car ride from Santiago - …
…is Pichilemu (pichi = small; lemu = forest in Mapudungung)…
…a very popular spot among surfers. Large numbers of young surfers from all over the world visit the place, and there's a competition every October. Center-right you see Punta de Lobos. The competition takes place there. My parents lived in Pichilemu for a couple of years until they divorced.
See more about Punta de Lobos here:
The fog is a sign that Santiago is behind those hills.
The port of San Antonio is right south of that peninsula.
El Quisco and Punta de Tralca.
Starting here - and all the way up to the border with Peru - the beaches get better and the weather gets sunnier. That clear patch is Tunquén beach.
See some nice views of Tunquén here.
Only a few kilometers to the north we find the mythical…
I say it's mythical because some people are fascinated by this port, but I fail to see why. It sure used to be a beautiful city…
…but that was a long time ago. After a series of fires, earthquakes, and the construction of the most horrendous building you can imagine in order to host the Congress, Valparaíso has become nothing but a symbol of urban decay.
The brown lumps on the left…
…are some dunes called Dunas de Concón. Right to left: Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Reñaca, the dunes, and Concón.
Some views of Concón, Reñaca and the dunes:
All this stretch of the coast around Viña del Mar is one of my favorite places in the world. The weather is heavenly. It's never too hot and never too cold. You never feel sticky, and the sea breeze is so refreshing, revitalizing.
Concón also has an oil refinery and an important bay.
As we fly past Horcón and Puchuncaví…
…up here in the cabin…
…the BOB starts. I order a Combo Fácil (Easy Combo) for 3500 CLP (4.5 USD), which has sweet and salty options. I choose the sweet option - my usual muffin de zanahoria…
…and a natural pinapple-mango-orange juice.
The coastline gets out of sight for some moments as we fly over Ovalle and Vallenar. I can only see the rugged terrain of the Norte Chico (Small North), which stretches between Santiago and the Atacama desert.
The Norte Chico is crisscrossed by countless narrow valleys, like that of river Huasco. You can see the town of Vallenar over there, and the Santa Juana dam in the background.
A tour of Vallenar and the dam here:
I'm quite tired after two hours sitting in the same position, so I switch my weight on my seat and take a rest, which must have become a nap because the next time I look out the window I see this soft coastline. I immediately recognize the northern coast of Mejillones peninsula. Aargh!! I missed the view of Antofagasta, Mejillones and the Portada!! All of which can be seen in this report, anyway.
However, I can still see something familiar - this teeny-weeny dot of light in the distance. Yes! Cerro Dominador, which I saw on my recent flight to Calama. Cerro Dominador is the first solar power plant in Chile. These plants might be common in other places, but they're quite a novelty around here.
I squeeze the juice out of my poor Xiaomi cellphone to get a closer view, and I'm happy to discover the whitish spot of Calama a bit beyond the power plant, and the ghostly outline of Licancabur volcano in the distance. Memories of San Pedro de Atacama!
The cliffs towering above the coastline are an indication that we are approaching our destination, Iquique.
65km south of Iquique is Puerto Patache, a private port used by Collahuasi mining company.
Minutes later IQQ comes into sight.
You can see that the airport takes advantage of this wider stretch of land between the sea and the cliffs of the Cordillera de la Costa. We keep flying a bit further north…
…then we make a U-turn and land from north to south.
Welcome to the warm, sunny…
All that scaffolding on the right and the unusual procession around the apron are a warning that inside the terminal building…
…tá la pura cagáaaa!* LOL Indeed, this is nothing like the CCP I visited a couple years ago.
Not only is it crowded…
…but it's full of the noise of drills and all sort of building machinery.
We are surrounded by white paneling…
…and just keep going…
…like hamsters in a maze.
This is reassuring.
A bit more.
"Sorry for the inconvenience. We are enlarging the airport."
Actually, it feels like they're building it completely anew!
Is freedom at the end of the tunnel?
Ahh, free at last!
Nope. Not yet.
Now we're out! That was crazy! Look at that. I can't recognize anything I saw when I was here the last time.
A taxi driver approaches me and offers to take me to Iquique for 10,000 CLP (13 US). I accept. There will be one more passenger, but my cousin lives at the north end of the city, so I'll be the first to get off.
What I didn't know was that our driver was a bit of a philosopher, and he excitedly told us about a book he was writing about the negative consequences of having feelings. Yeah. As you read it. Well, I'm not much of philosopher myself, so the deepest thought he got from me was a reference to the Vulcans in the Star Trek franchise and how they suppressed their feelings in order to follow logic and the teachings of Surak. Just like Mr Spock, you see? Unfortunately, he was not a trekkie. Too bad.
Besides, I could prove his book wrong because it was impossible for me to suppress my feelings of horror when he got so absorbed in his philosophical explanation that he kept forgetting to stay on the road and veered a little to the right at 120km/h.
But I did make it to my cousin's in one piece. Phew!
I spent the weekend with her and her husband. In one of our conversations the evening before I took the flight back home we came to the topic of "age" and she asked me about my birthday. I told her I had turned 50 that morning at 4.30 a.m. She was very upset that I didn't tell her before. "But I didn't want a party" I said. "I just wanted to enjoy your company and have a nice time with you guys." But they wouldn't hear. They scrambled out of the house and when they came back we had a wonderful dinner and… well…
Happy birthday to me 🥳
Thanks for reading!
JetSmart is one of the three large Chilean airlines, and - along with Sky - it's posing a serious threat to LATAM's dominant position. LATAM's only advantage at the moment is - imho - the size of their operations, but JetSmart keeps growing (they'll soon add dozens more planes to their fleet)
JetSmart and Sky have also kept a BOB, which seems to be popular among passengers. I see them buying like crazy on each flight!
I saw evidence that JetSmart has kept safety measures against Covid onboard, such as disinfection and the use of a QR code to download the menu.
As for CCP, it made a good impression today. Literally! Lol. I can't believe how much this airport has improved since the last time I was there! Lots of new services and new spaces!
Tá la cagá (short for "está la cagada) = There's a terrible disaster/a huge mess
Quedó la cagá = The sh*t hit the fan