Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jobs Well Done

The last post got us to Easter Island and this one will take us from there to Santiago. Don't worry, I will be posting about our visit to Rapa Nui after I get a block of time to write and organize the photos for your viewing pleasure; I should be able to do it in Mendoza after we get into our apartment there tomorow night.

Our flight to Lima from Easter Island went off without a hitch. We are becoming more and more impressed with LAN--the large Chilean airline; they are very professional and from our viewpoint the equivalent of any US airline.

Moai vs Boeing

We landed on time in Lima and after an hour to clear immigration, picked up our bags and were soon in a taxi to Miraflores House. We knew that our friend, Dan Saari, and his brother, Dennis, were there by lookng at Dan's SPOT site. Dan and Dennis have been travelling by bus from Quito and eventually will fly home from La Paz, Bolivia, in two weeks. Our taxi pulled up to the hostel exactly at midnight and after signing in and getting our picture taken, we were escorted to our room.

The next morning RA hiked down to the laundry we had used in 2010 and ran into Dan and Dennis who were engaged in the same task. I went down to the common room for breakfast and ran into the owner, Francis, and was catching up with him when the cleaning trio returned.

We took a walk to the huge artisan "mall" where RA added to her jewelry collection and Dan did a little gift buying. We returned to the hostal and agreed to meet the Saaris for dinner. We headed for the cliffs to watch the sunset before hiking to the excellent Italian rstaurant that Francis had recommended.

Dan, Steve, RuthAnn, and Dennis at the Parque del Amor in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

On Tuesday morning (2-21) we waved good-bye to Dan and Dennis as they sped off to the bus station in their taxi. We hopped in our taxi and were off to the airport for our business class flight to Santiago; our attitude towards the airlines was about to change; big time!

When we arrived at the LAN check-in area, there were at least 200 people in line waiting to wend their way through the maze of barricades to the counters. I asked about business class check-in, and we were directed to a counter where there was NO ONE in line! Score at least an hour saved in shuffling along with the economy class crowd. After we were given our boarding passes, we also received a pass to the VIP lounge near our departure gate; comfy chairs, wi-fi, snacks and drinks made the 2+ hour wait acceptable.

Boarding was a breeze as the premium class line was short, and we were some of the first to board the Boeing 767-300. We were allowed to carry on our bags this leg, so we had all of our belongings with us. It was nice not to have to fight others for the over-head bin space due to the low number of seats in business class.

In a previous post, I mentioned the excellent service in first/business class on American Airlines; LAN takes this up notch. As soon as the doors to the aircraft were closed, we were offered champagne or a pisco sour; it was served with a small cup of mixed nuts.

When we reached cruising altitude, it was time for a late lunch. When the flight attendant brought the white "table cloth" for the seat tray, she even addressed us by name and asked us if we had had a chance to look at the menu! We both opted for the filet of beef; RA chose a malbec and I a cabernet to wash it down. Yummy! The desert was a lemon flan with passion fruit and is in the lead for the best dessert of the trip to date.

When I saw the seats we were in, I was wishing that this three hour flight was about three times as along. There were seventeen (yes, that's right 1-7) buttons on the seat "control panel" for adjusting that sucker from head to to toe. It even went more than flat (felt like I was in the dentist's chair); I said good-bye to RA as I sunk out of sight for my nap!

We will be attempting to upgrade from economy to business class for our flight to Miami in a couple of weeks. We both agreed that the LIM-SCL flight was the best that either of us had ever experienced. I see now why first/business class is so expensive and why people use it; when you get off the plane you are rested, well fed, and ready to do what ever it is that you must when back on terra firma.

We landed on time and being first to disembarque, were at the front of the line for immigration. This is where we had to fork over $140/ as we were entering Chile for the first time by air. The little piece of paper the official stapled into our passports is good for the life of the passport.

Our hostal, Rio Amazonas, had called ahead to Transvip for our transportation to the hostal and in just a few minutes we were on our way downtown in a newish air-conditioned mini-van.

The hostal is comfortable, busy, has a friendly staff, and has a good location near the Univesity of Chile, and some good eating options. It was a good choice.

We bought our bus tickets today at the subway station near the University of Chile. The multi-level station reminded me of the one at Times Square in NYC, but more open and cleaner. Lots of shops, snack bars and small offices for various businesses. Turbus had a small office there where we booked our round trip to Mendoza. It cost about $80 each for the round trip in a "semi-cama" seat. Cama translates as bed in Spanish, so this is a semi-reclining seat; for more money one can also receive a "cama" seat which would be good for an overnight bus trip. We are doing the 200 mile trip to Mendoza during the day as we will be crossing the Andes and the sceney is supposed to be spectacular with a view of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the western hemisphere at 22841 feet.

Here is another link to SPOT: There was no SPOT coverage in Rapa Nui, so on the return trip to Lima I shoved it under the window shade and you can see where it finally started to pick up satellites.

Stay tuned for the Easter Island post--it was an enchanting place and a bit surreal at times; you will enjoy the pictures.




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