Monday, September 6, 2010

From San Francisco to Peru, Chile and Argentina in One Day

(Aug. 31, 2010) It’s an extremely long trip from San Francisco to Mendoza, Argentina, and there doesn’t seem to be any quick way to arrive. Most every connection that was affordable included changing planes 3 times. As it turned out, I was not given a choice on which airline or route to follow as my tickets were purchased by my hosts. Therefore I ended up on a LAN 9-hour flight from SFO to Lima, Peru that landed a little after midnight (3 hour time change from the West Coast). It was my first time to fly LAN—the airline of South America -- and I found that the plane was new and every seat had a TV. The food was decent and they served San Pedro sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon. The staff was professional and efficient, but not overly friendly.

Once in Lima, I only had 30 minutes to change planes and go through another security check before I was on another LAN flight to Santiago, Chile which landed at 5:30am – a 3 hour interval during which I slept. Once in Santiago I had a 3.5 hour layover and was completely exhausted because it was 2:30am California time. Fortunately I stumbled across a lounge called Mistral which allowed me access at a day pass rate of $30. They had comfortable leather chairs, and I immediately fell asleep for another hour and a half before having two cups of cappuccino and macaroons. Best of all was the shower, which included all amenities and was very hot. If you ever get stuck in a long layover in Santiago, I would recommend paying the $30 to go to this lounge.

The bad news was when I came out of the shower, someone had taken my coat. I assumed an employee had hung it up, but after inquiring at the front desk and encountering much rapid Spanish discourse amongst several employees, I discovered that someone had stolen it. Security tracked them down using video cameras, and it turns out that a woman who was seated next to me took my coat and stuffed it in her backpack. They tracked her down to my flight to Mendoza, and a group of around 7 LAN employees and security people escorted her off the plane and made her give my coat back. The whole thing was rather embarrassing. I just pretended that she had mistakenly taken it. However, since it is winter in Mendoza with thick snow in the Andes, I definitely need my coat!

So now I am on the third leg of my trip, which is a short 50 minute flight from Santiago to Mendoza, Argentina over the Andes. They are completely covered in snow and are very impressive (see photo). My flight departed at 9am and I will arrive in Mendoza at 11am, because there is another 1 hour time change – which puts Mendoza at 4 hours later than California. Once I land, I’m supposed to attend a lunch and do a 20 minute Powerpoint presentation, so I guess I should stop writing now and review what I’m going to say. Let’s just hope some of the fog and fatigue that are filling my brain will fade away by the time I have to talk.

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