Day 1: Chicago to Calama
Starting in Chicago on Saturday, it took just a little over 24 hours to get to Calama. We left home following the usual routine: walk to bus, take bus to Blue Line, take Blue Line to O’Hare.
The first leg of our flight plan had a connection in Houston and we put our fancy lounge access right to work with dinner at Landry’s before heading to the international terminal.
On the next leg (Houston to Santiago), we were seated all the way in the back of the plane (row 50 of 51) for the almost 9 hour flight. Thankfully, we both were able to entertain ourselves and even sleep a bit on the flight.
Touchdown was at 6am in Santiago where we collected our bags, headed across the airport outside and checked back in on the domestic side. When we were in the Santiago airport in 2019, it was packed and took 3 hours to get through the checkin line. At 6am it was… not crowded at all!
Santiago does still hold the record for the most amount of people full-on re-packing their bags in the checked luggage line. Also, the baggage drop was fully automated, so after printing our luggage tags at the kiosk, we then scanned tags ourselves, placed our bags on the belt, and hoped for the best!
We had plenty of time before our flight to Calama, so we spent time in the Primeclass Condor lounge (fancy again!) eating some breakfast, taking some naps, watching some tennis, and drinking multiple lattes. When it was time, we went to the gate. I had originally bid about $35 to get an upgrade to first class (cause apparently that’s a thing now?) but our tickets said exit row 12. When we got to the gate, my name got called to the counter. Unfortunately, we got moved to row 24. But…
The flight was only about 2 hours. We collected our bags, which did — in fact — arrive after the self-scanning, and met our pre-arranged driver to take us to the hotel. We checked in at 2:00 and looked at interesting things to do in the area. Two miles away is the world’s largest (by excavation volume) open pit copper mine that looked cool, but since it was Sunday, they were closed. So, instead of exploring a strip mine, we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying our welcome drinks (mango pisco sours), sharing a lunch (delicious cheeseburger), and acclimatizing to the altitude (napping).
To close out the night, we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner and got ready for our 11-day Travesia with Explora to start tomorrow. They will pick us up in the morning and the real adventure will begin.