Friday, November 15, 2013

Patagonia-Bound: LAN, Lima, Loose Ends & Beyond

It’s only a few days until I fly south – Monday the 18th in fact – and, as usual, that’s a busy time, with lots of loose ends to tie up before I spend more than four months in the Southern Cone countries while updating Moon Handbooks Patagonia and my apps to Argentina and Chile (see the right hand column for links). It’s a long flight from San Francisco to Lima, where I change planes for Santiago, and yesterday I learned, to my dismay, that LAN’s SFO-Lima route will end next spring. My March 29 flight back from SCL via Lima may be the last on this route.
Apparently, it’s not that the route was unsuccessful – according to a travel agent friend who discussed the issue with LAN, “the flights are full but they’re not profitable because they’re not daily, and they will add flights from Los Angeles and Miami.” It’s still a little unclear, to me at least, whether LAN was unable to schedule more flights because of some glitch at Lima or SFO (whose LAN counter appears in the photograph above). It will be missed, especially since LAN's service is so superior to American, the next easiest connection to Santiago.
My Tuesday arrival will take place after Sunday’s Chilean elections. I’ve been through a Chilean presidential campaign before, when Ricardo Lagos bested Joaquín Lavín in a 2002 runoff, but Sunday may not require a runoff – the conservative UDI candidate Evelyn Matthei’s inept campaign is making Mitt Romney’s 2012 effort look smoothly professional by comparison, and most observers expect former president Michelle Bachelet to win easily. If Bachelet fails to win a majority, though, there will be a runoff December 15th (though Matthei might not even make the runoff).

In other news:

CHILE CLEARS THE AIR…
I’m disappointed to miss the election, but there’s at least one thing I’m looking forward to, and that’s clean air – earlier this year, Chile finally banned smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor spaces, so that I can now go to any restaurant in Santiago or elsewhere without being subjected to second-hand smoke. Many restaurateurs objected to the measure but I expect, as in other countries, they will find that their business returns after a brief lag and, in fact, may even increase. The photograph above, from Santiago’s Barrio Bellavista, comes from a far-sighted restaurant that decided years ago on the tobacco-free option.

THE NUMBER YOU HAVE DIALED…
One other adaptation will be a little more trying. Since my last visit, in fact since the new edition of Moon Handbooks Chile came out last (northern) spring, Chile has changed its telephone system, adding a “2” at the beginning of all numbers in Santiago and most of the regions (a few, such as Valparaíso, had added the extra digit earlier). Thus, all Chilean phone numbers will have nine digits: in Santiago, this means the “2” area code, plus an eight-digit number beginning with “2.” In the regions, where the area codes have two digits (65 for Puerto Montt, for example, former six-digit numbers will now be seven-digit numbers beginning with “2.”

This, of course, means a lot of busy work updating my Patagonia book (a few places in Argentine Patagonia have new area codes as well) when I’d rather be hiking in the Andes or rafting down the Futaleufú. I’ll have just a few days in Santiago, though, before I fly to the Falkland Islands for a week – my first visit in three years, and one I’m looking forward to with great pleasure.

BLUES FOR A PORSCHE?
As you will see by scrolling down the column to the right, Argentina’s “blue dollar” has once again risen above the ten-peso mark. This could be the time to buy that new Porsche 911 that you’ve been dreaming of…

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