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Santiago
Craig and Steph's Adventures on Easter Island

Statue in the town centerStatue in the town center (Stephanie Smith)
We got up at 8 and called downstairs to see if they had been able to verify our flight. Francisco, the fantastic desk clerk, had done so, and said that our flight had been set back an hour to its original time of 2:00. Wanting plenty of time at the psychotic Santiago airport, we scheduled a cab pickup for 10:45. We proceeded to shower and pack, and went downstairs to breakfast at 10. The hotel stay includes complimentary breakfast. Due to timing issues, this was the first time we were able to take advantage of it on our three separate stays at the hotel. It was a buffet which contained chocolate cereal, eggs, ham, cheese, meringue pastries filled with manjar, coffee, fresh orange juice, etc. We always like to try to bring home foreign coins for our nephews, and Craig asked Francisco if he had any small change that we could buy. Francisco looked through his drawer and outright gave us some 1, 5, and 10 peso coins. What a sweetheart! He just couldn't do enough to help us, and he was so cheerful. He looked like Mark Montano on the TLC design show "While You Were Out." We collected our luggage from the room, and the cab arrived at 10:45. It was a small 2-door vehicle. Craig sat in the front and I sat in the back with one of our big packs (only one would fit in the trunk). This was our most garrulous cab driver to date, and he asked us in Spanish about our trip, thanked us for coming to Chile, talked about how all of the road construction we saw was scheduled to be completed in 3 months' time, etc.

We got to the airport at around 11:30. For this hop of the journey (Santiago to Sao Paulo, Brasil) we would be flying Varig. So far, we had only flown Lan Chile for any flights that originated in Santiago, and at first we had a hard time locating the Varig check-in desk. We finally found a line which claimed "Lufthansa, Air Canada, Varig Star Alliance." It was a very long line, and we waited for 45 minutes. When we finally arrived at the desk, we were told that this line was for Lufthansa only, and we would have to get at the end of a different line. What had that horoscope said yesterday? We nicely explained that we had been waiting in the line for 45 minutes and that the sign had claimed that this was a line for Varig. Her reply was simply "No." Thanks, very helpful. So we followed her directions to the line which was marked by a very tiny "Varig" sign. No wonder we had missed it before. Although this line had been short, by the time we reached it, several large groups had just gotten in line in front of us, and this whole process took another 25 minutes. Then we were told that because it was so late, there were no more seats together. Wonderful. But the clerk told us that our seats from Sao Paulo to Washington, D.C. would be together. Next we had to go through immigration. All of the lines were huge. It was 1:00 when we got into a line, and of course we chose the line that barely moved at all. The clerk was just plain slow. To top it off, a young girl fainted in our line and a medical team came to take care of her. By the time we got through immigration it was 1:30. Our flight was at 2, and we still had to get into the huge security line. I tried to ask the staff if there was some way that we could cut toward the front of the line since our flight was so soon. This is something they normally allow in the States, but here I was told no. So we waited. And waited. When we finally got to the front of the line, other people started cutting into the line because they were on our same 2:00 flight. Hello? One guy asked if he could cut in front of us because his flight was at 2. We said no, because ours was at 2:00 also, and we were trying to get through as well. He got upset and we got frustrated. But at least we knew we weren't the only ones late for the flight, and hopefully it wouldn't leave without us. We finally got through security, literally ran to the gate, and boarded the plane at 1:45.

We were at the back of the plane, and we were each booked in seat F, the dead center of a 3-3-3 seating configuration. Craig was in the row directly in front of me. Good luck trying to get anyone to switch seats so we could sit together. Want to trade an aisle for a middle seat? Spanish horoscopes appear to be pretty accurate. But then, surprisingly, the people around Craig sat down. They were a Bristish couple booked in two aisle seats with Craig in the middle. They asked Craig if he would swap with them, and he ended up with an aisle seat. Lucky! Here I was stuck in the middle a row behind him. It took a while for it to dawn on me, but I had a single guy to my right. If he moved up one row and swapped with Craig, Craig and I could sit together. I asked him and he was very nice and agreed to swap seats with Craig. So the seemingly impossible task of swapping a middle seat for an aisle, after a couple of iterations, worked. We had personal seat-back TV's and had a choice of movies. We could choose to start it whenever we wanted as well. We decided on Tim Burton's "Big Fish", which was very good. It was surreal and deep and got under our skin. We were served chicken, spinach, rice, bread, cake, and salad. Craig had a Royal Guard and a Kaiser beer. I had some white wine. Our movie ended just in time, because the TV's shut off about 10 minutes after it finished. This left some poor man seated across the aisle from us high and dry; the TV's shut off before he got to the end of "Big Fish", which he had also decided to watch.The descent into Sao Paulo was rather rough, and the overhead bin in the row in front of us popped open. Fearing falling luggage, a woman unbuckled her seat belt and jumped up to try to close it. The flight attendants sitting behind us started to freak out, shouting for her to sit down. The other passengers around her held up their hands in defensive positions to protect themselves from the possibility of falling luggage. It was the most exciting landing we had ever experienced. No luggage fell.

We arrived in Sao Paulo Terminal 2, and needed to walk to Terminal 1 to get to our connection. Our gate was absolutely crowded with people for an earlier flight, so we walked several gates down. The seats were comfortable, which was at least good as we would be here for several hours. I walked around the terminal looking for some fast food, but the choices were severely limited, and we decided to snack on our leftover trail mix and granola bars instead. As the time for our flight drew nearer, we went to our actual gate. There were three leather reclining chairs. We scoped them out, and actually managed to secure two of them. What a way to make an airport layover comfortable. 15 minutes prior to our boarding time, our names were called and we were asked to come to the desk. Leaving Craig to guard the chairs, I went over to the desk to see what was needed. I was told that we needed to go through "the security", and that Craig would need to come over as well. So we relinquished the comfy chairs (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition). "The security" turned out to be a series of questions (did we pack our own bags, etc), and the woman looked up our baggage claim numbers. She looked at our boarding passes and told us that, unlike we had been assured in Santiago, our seats on this flight were not together either. We boarded the plane and found that we were once again in the center section of seats, this time in the same row but with a British guy between us. He was kind enough to swap with me, and I wound up next to Craig. They served us beef with mashed potatoes, zucchini, salad, a roll, and dessert. We had seatback TV's and decided to watch "Ocean's 11", which we had never seen. But there was no warning as to when it was going to start, and we wound up missing the first 5 minutes. We enjoyed the movie and then fell asleep.

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