No hay mal que por bien no venga*, my abuelita used to say.
Wise words. In the end, bad things usually have a bright side. Even JetSmart!
I couldn't believe my eyes some months ago when I realized that JetSmart has kept flights scheduled all year round to destinations normally served only during high season. Foz do Iguaçu (Foz de Iguazú for me) is among them, and at a ridiculously low price!
At 120,000 CLP (135 USD) round trip I just can't say no.
So here we go!
No need for a flight from Valdivia to get to SCL now that I live barely 100km from Santiago. Can there be a greater blessing for a flight-reporter than living close to the airport? Not at all! (The next greater blessing would be living close to Ryan Gosling, but you can't have everything!)
On the bus to Santiago I get lost in my thoughts for some moments (a common occurrence as of late). When I come to myself I am impressed by the view of the mountains in front of me. This has been a cold, rainy winter…
…which has painted the usually brown hills green again, and has covered the mountains with snow. Days like these are becoming so scarce!
I take my usual TurBus to the airport at their terminal outside Universidad de Santiago metro station. The bus is full. Many passengers are standing. The bus stops at the domestic terminal first. After the passengers get off, I can see only a flight-attendant sitting in front of me. Minutes later we stop at the international terminal. When I get off I can see that we were the only passengers on the bus! Talk about low season!
Wonderful. I'm quite ahead of schedule. The terminal is far from crowded. It's going to be like a nice walk in the park!
Is this some sort of renaissance of Chilean airlines?? Sky is flying to Montevideo again. (Get them some drinking water, please!) In the middle of the low season, LATAM and Sky are flying to Bariloche, Curitiba and Florianópolis, usually seasonal destinations. And JetSmart has direct flights to Trujillo, Perú!
There are restaurants and gift shops for all tastes landside…
…but I prefer to go straight to security check…
…which is very swift. The whole customs and police thing takes just 20 minutes!
First thing I see airside is this little plane, a restored Piper PA-18 that has been in exhibition at the Museum of Aeronautics since 2015.
I stop at the money exchange right there, at the entrance to the duty free, to get some reais for my arrival, just in case. Very expensive!
I start my further descent into abject poverty by purchasing an unnecessary - but wonderful - body wash.
The impossible-to-miss FIDS monitors at the exit of the duty free indicate…
…that I should dirigirme a la puerta E03, and that I'll be there in 9 minutes going that ( → ) way.
That way means to the right. The thing I love the most about SCL's new international terminal is how easy it is to navigate. You can find detailed info in my previous report.
I might stop for a little snack.
Something light like the sushi al plato will be great. Who am I trying to fool? Now that the trip is behind me, I can say that I ate like a pig!
Now you choose left or right again, and that's it! You can feel Brazil in the air already!
I spend a couple of hours sitting around gate E3. Actually, I'm waiting for JetSmart's usual "your flight has been rescheduled/canceled" email.
But it never comes! Can you believe it?? So at 4 o'clock we are getting ready to board…
And guess what! JetSmart has a surprise for me! As the staff scans my BP at the gate, an alarm of the "wrong answer" kind and a red light indicate that the seat I paid for - 3A - has been changed! I am sent all the way back to seat 37A "por razones de estiba" which seems to be the term used to refer to keeping the cabin balanced.
So now I'm the last passenger at the back of the cabin.
"World member." Aren't we all member of this world?? (Much to my chagrin)
I still have a window seat, at least. Actually, there are quite a lot of free window seats today.
And most of the rows at the rear are empty.
JetSmart make their BOB menu and magazine available via this QR code.
I'm leaving the magazine available for download here…
…and the menu here.
Legroom is OK… until you try to recline or get into a more comfortable position.
All text is in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Our neighbor is heading for Sydney, I think. Or was it Auckland? I remember I made that trip on an A340 back in the day. Pre-flight-report.com days, I mean.
Pushback FIVE MINUTES BEFORE ETD!! Am I dreaming?? Is this really JetSmart?? Did I board the wrong plane??
BTW, that poor guy looked like he was having a very bad day. I'm not judging, but you could read it on his face.
I'm really lucky today. As you see below, this flight has a long history of delays. Up to seven hours!
Oops! Another JetSmart is in bad shape.
We must have taxied for some 15 minutes because there was a caravan of aircraft in line to take off at the moment. It felt much like a dream I had, in which my plane never took off but rolled out of the airport to the highway and we drove home like any other bus. 😂
Not this time!
I have made a habit of asking for a wheelchair to be waiting for me every time I arrive at SCL. If you look below, the international terminal is in the center, and the domestic terminal is on the far left. Some domestic flights arrive at the farthest international pier on the right, and then you have to walk more than 1.5km (a mile) to get to the exit at the domestic terminal.
This is the same photo, but I marked the route I had to follow from the gate (on the right) to the bus station (on the left)… with plantar fasciitis.
Thank goodness there's a popular Chilean presenter called Mario Kreutzberger (known as "Don Francisco") who complained about the lack of transportation within the airport for people with mobility issues. Improvements were made quickly. (Source: cnnchile.com)
We quickly fly out of Santiago's…
…into cloudier but healthier skies. Gosh, don't visit this city very often.
I was eager to see the mountaintops covered with snow.
This wont last long. We turn left towards the Andes…
…cross the Panamerican Highway above Buin…
…and the clouds cover the view until we get to the other side, in Argentina. Ain't it beautiful?
The flat monotony of the Argentinean pampas is frequently broken by mysterious features that only a geologist might be able to understand. Are those salt lakes, or what?
Above all this, in all his glory… me about to try the "Ginzotti" I mentioned in my previous report. 😂
The FA is super kind and gives me two cups of ice. I'm also revisiting my beloved mechada sandwich.
Long time no see, baby!
It's hardly visible above, but if you pay attention, I originally had two cups of ice. Now I have only one. Hee, hee. Blame me, but also blame the turbulence. The captain warned us that we would have a bumpy ride, and it's completely true.
The thing is, one of the FAs saw this, and I think she saw me taking the photos, too.
Me: Er… sorry. I knocked over my cup of ice. 😬
FA1 (to FA2): He knocked over his cup of ice.
FA2: He did what?
FA1: He knocked over his cup of ice… 🙄
She utters the first part of the sentence only, but I can read the rest on her face: "…por 'tar weviando." ('cuz he was f*cking around.)
They give me my (third) cup of ice.
Totally worth it!
Something I always wanted to see: The Mar Chiquita salt lake.
According to Wikipedia, it's the fourth largest lake in South America.
Something seems to be evaporating down there.
At 6:30 p.m. I have my first glimpse of the river Paraná just north of the town of Esquina, in the Argentinean province of Corrientes. Incredibly wide. And long! We are still half-way from our destination, which lies on this river.
As we run away from the sun…
…the astro rey sets behind us…
…beyond the Andes and beyond my country and beyond the ocean.
Keep your seat belts fastened because we are having serious turbulence.
Outside… hell breaks open.
The complete darkness…
…is broken once and again by terrible flashes of lightning lighting up the storm clouds.
The video I took the stills from:
I could bet that everyone on this plane was thinking of this Santiago - Asunción LATAM flight that had to be diverted to Foz do Iguaçu because of bad weather last year. When it resumed its journey, this happened:
And this is what the plane looked like when they eventually landed at ASU, its windshields almost destroyed by hail.
So there's a reason why we circumvent the worst of the storm, as you see here, and fly as far south as Rio Grande do Sul.
I'm certain that airlines would make quite a profit if they included rosaries in their BOB menus. 😂
But nothing happened this time.
We descend peacefully into the large urban area made up of three cities: Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil, and Puerto Iguazú in Argentina.
As you see here, the river Paraná flows from north to south between Paraguay in the west and Brazil and Argentina in the east, and the river Iguazú flows from east to west between Brazil and Argentina.
The largest city of the three is Ciudad del Este. You'll see some photos of it further down. Interesting place. Not for a honeymoon, though.
Foz do Iguaçu… lovely place. And I had the luck to have wonderful weather. Even a bit cool. It can reach above 45°C in summer, I was told! The big, dark rectangle is the Ecoparque Itaipú.
By now, my lower back is begging for some rest. I wish I had seen this video before the flight:
IGU has jetbridges, but we are treated to a walk around the apron.
We have to follow the blue path…
…to the entrance of baggage claim.
Since I have no baggage to claim, I walk straight to police control. But even so, I'm almost last in the queue because I was one of the last to deplane. Remember I was sent to 37A! 😑
I pride myself on my not-so-bad command of Portuguese, but I seem to be a little out of training these days, because I just can't understand what a lady is telling us over the PA… in Spanish! She is asking us to have our "cheeky cheeky" in our hands.
I'm at sea.
She repeats it two or three times, but I eventually have to ask the lady in front of me (the circus called, btw 😂)
She understands. The word is TICKET!
Duh! Silly me!
I forgot that TE and TI are always CHEE in Portuguese. And Portuguese speakers just CAN'T pronounce most consonant sounds in final position! They add EE, as in…
WhatsApp = WhatsAppee
Facebook = Facebookee
Club = Clubee
So the lady over the PA is saying chee (TI) kee (KE) chee (T) 😅
I started with the left foot.
In a different announcement, the same lady informs that no amount greater than 100ml of any liquid, cream or paste will allowed in the hand baggage on the flight back.
This is a big OOPS for me, because I just bought a wonderful body wash at the SCL duty free.
Naaah. "I don't think they will be that cruel," I think.
Well, they are. 😭
One thing that I would improve at IGU is the number of police control booths. Just four of them makes the process very slow.
And after glorious Gustavo checks my identity at his computer, I head to the main hall where I call an Uber and heavenly Renato takes me to my Airbnb.
Godddd!! How I love Brazil!! 😋
(Just a little bonus about Ciudad del este and some tips on visiting the Iguazú waterfalls. I'll leave the best for the report on the flight back!)
As you saw in the map above, Foz is located where river Iguazú pours into river Paraná.
From what I saw while there, Ciudad del Este is the commercial engine of the area, since it's a duty free zone. CROWDS flock there every day to buy everything you can imagine, especially electronics. And it's really convenient. I was interested in a cellphone that's around 350 USD in my country. It's 150 in Ciudad del Este.
Foz is the tourist magnet, a large and beautiful city very well prepared to welcome everyone at its hostels or in the most luxurious hotels. I stayed in a building downtown that seemingly used to be a hotel, but was turned completely into an Arbnb hostel. It is all glass doors, and shiny everything. It still has a nice buffet restaurant downstairs, and a reception desk that is not used anymore because you get the instructions to access the building on your own.
And there's Puerto Iguazú on the Argentinean side. Puerto Iguazú is… well… is Puerto Iguazú. It's a small town. A bit neglected, I'd say. You can stop there to buy some cookies. Otherwise, keep driving up to the entrance to the park.
I thought I might leave some tips here.
If you're planning on visiting the area, my advice is to stay in Foz. If you like, you can contact me and I'll be glad to tell you where I stayed because it turned out to be a great place at a very low price, located in a wonderful neighborhood downtown, with everything you need just meters away. Foz is nice and safe.
Leave one day to visit the Brazilian side of the waterfalls. You can buy the entrance online before your visit, or use one of the touch-screen self-serve booths at the entrance of the park. Credit cards accepted. There's a lot of discussion about which is more beautiful, the Argentinean or the Brazilian side. Let me tell you - both are stunning and complement each other. For example, the most impressive waterfall in the park is the Garganta do Diabo/Garganta del Diablo (the Devil's Throat). On the Argentinean side you watch it directly from above. You feel you're going to be swallowed by it. Really humbling. On the Brazilian side you watch it from underneath. Equally impressive and humbling, and you get completely soaked with the mist. So, to live the complete experience, you HAVE to visit both sides.
Leave another day (or two) to visit the Argentinean side. The trails on this side are longer. Get ready to walk a lot. There are three trail levels (heights). My advice is to start with the Garganta del Diablo and then go for the lowest trail, which happens to be the longest and the most impressive. The highest trail is not so interesting because you see everything from above. But this depends on you. I insist - whatever trail you take here, get ready to walk a lot. Fortunately, this side of the park has a cute little train that takes you to different stations. From my own experience - I enjoyed this side of the park walking on my own. I watched other tourists walking in groups i tours they booked in advance, and they were always tired and irritable because they couldn't keep up with the rest of the group or because they lost their group (there are dozens of them!) You'll enjoy yourself more if you go on your own, at your own pace.
You can move easily between the three cities by car, public transport, or even walking, as you'll see below.
And then you can leave one day to go shopping in Ciudad del Este. Just be careful with the cars and motorcycles! The traffic is crazy there! Did I mention that you should always purchase some kind of health insurance when you travel abroad? Just in case, you know? 🙄
Finally, learn some Spanish AND Portuguese. Some people speak some broken English here, but once you're out of your hotel you'll need some Spanish or Portuguese to communicate. And Brazilians DON'T speak Spanish! Written Spanish and Portuguese can be mutually intelligible at times, but the spoken language is completely different. Just read about my experience with the cheeky cheeky above! 😂
My Uber takes me to the north end of Foz. The nice, modern city is replaced with neglected sidewalks and absolutely chaotic traffic, and crowds and crowds and crowds of people not walking, but jogging to the Puente de la Amistad/Ponte da Amizade, the bridge that links Foz and Ciudad del Este over river Paraná.
Be very careful with the traffic! These motos amarelas (yellow motorcycles) are taxis.
I get ready to show my ID card in some migration control, but nobody stops me at any point, and I just keep walking/jogging with the rest of the world across the bridge, a survival strategy that I learned here on the go. There are less chances to be hit by a car when you're running in groups! But why is everyone in such a hurry here? Is the bridge breaking? I can't explain. I just gasp my way across the bridge, breathing in the toxic exhaust from the dozens of cars, motorcycles and huge trucks next to me.
I get a glimpse of river Paraná between the bars on the sides of the bridge. A river with so much historical and commercial significance should have a more glamorous way to be contemplated than this dirty, decaying bridge, I think.
Nobody welcomes me on the Paraguayan side either. Well. Now that I think about it, that would be an impossible task, because the flux of people and vehicles is massive and continuous. There would be no way to check everyone. So the border between Foz and Ciudad del Este is completely permeable.
After successfully SURVIVING (literally) the border crossing, I make it to a city that is all capitalism and consumerism and craziness, all in one. You get tackled by sellers offering you whatever you can imagine. This is the kingdom of shopping malls, the empire of reckless driving, and the unchallenged dominion of litter and poverty.
I try to hide from all this chaos in what seems to be a quiet corner…
…only to discover that it's just as crowded as outside.
I'm a fan of street food, but I'm not really convinced that I should try churrasco griego on the streets of Ciudad del Este. The hygiene standards seem to be very low. Then again, what could go wrong?
Well, I was expecting diarrhea and severe dehydration, but I "only" got nausea, stomachache, and a splitting headache. I must have a new pet in my head, now. One of those brain-eating worms, I guess. 🐛
I walk a bit further along the avenue, but I soon decide that I've had enough of Ciudad del Este. Too many cars and people. Just shops and more shops. A perfect place for a shopping spree, but definitely not for a relaxing walk. Let alone a honeymoon!
Bananas are incredibly cheap here. 25 for less than a dollar.
I head back to the border facilities where I perform my surviving act again…
…and get to see this view of Foz do Iguaçu from the bridge.
There's a lookout on the Brazilian side from where you can see Ciudad del Este and the bridge over river Paraná.
All in all, Ciudad del Este is not heaven on earth, but it's not complete hell, either. It might make for a great shopping destination.
My next cellphone might come from here!
Thanks for reading!! 😁
JetSmart has kept flying to tourist destinations that were normally available only during high season.
Surprisingly, JetSmart was as punctual and efficient as the best airline this time.
Their prices are very convenient. Of course, they rely on you paying for your seat, baggage, and other additional services, but their prices are still reasonable.
They sell alcohol on their flights. That "ginzotti" was remarkable.
And the mechada sandwich is back!
*Lit. "No evil comes for no good reason."