Day 9: Patagonia National Park to Santiago

We had an early wake up call today in order to depart Explora and be driven to the Balmaceda airport in time for our afternoon flight. We enjoyed one more breakfast and said our final goodbyes. We hopped in the van and set off on the six-hour drive.

One last Explora Double Cappucino incoming

The sun finally appears

It rained for the first couple hours but eventually cleared up. The drive was very scenic — especially if you are awake (lol). It was nice to catch the impressive Patagonian views we missed on the drive in when everything was covered by low-handing clouds last week. As a final wildlife bonus, we also spotted a male huemule along the way.

Driving view #1

Driving view #2

Driving view #3

Driving view #4

The Balmaceda airport is pretty small and they don’t start checking baggage until exactly two hours before the flight. Thankfully, our timing was pretty good and we only had to wait a few minutes. We had a drink at the restaurant to pass the time until we headed into the single gate area.

We have arrived at Balmaceda Airport

Maqui ale, good stuff!

All aboard LATAM to Santiago

Flight left on time and was smooth. We arrived at Santiago airport, collected our bags, and walked to the international terminal. We found a table at a cafe and waited roughly 30 minutes to check our bags once again. Once we were allowed, we took care of that task and went through customs. Too bad for us, the only Priority Pass lounge in the international terminal is for people flying on Sky Team flights (aka. Delta), so we slummed it at Ruby Tuesday’s for a very fried dinner.

Don’t make the Santiago PDI dog sad by smuggling anything

Pilot: “We hear a loud tapping coming from our empennage!”

Spoiler alert! We might be here until Tuesday!

We arrived at our gate right as boarding was starting… and then, everything promptly stopped! We were told a maintenance team needed to fix something on the plane and the flight was delayed. After a series of “We’ll give you another update in 20 minutes” announcements, the gate area began to resemble a Lord of the Flies situation as all the children gathered for pre-boarding got their hands on the blue balloons United had decorated the gate with (why??? no idea).

Finally, after waiting about an hour and a half, the flight was cancelled. We were directed to go back through customs, collect our checked bags, and get on a bus. They were putting us all up at the Intercontinental in downtown Santiago. They also said United would be contacting us about re-booking. When we attempted to re-book using the app, it said there were no available re-booking options for THREE DAYS. Not being too keen to learn if that was accurate, we instead chatted with a United agent who booked us on a flight tomorrow night with Delta.

Party’s over! Take down those balloons the kids didn’t already destroy

Loading luggage on the coach buses to the Intercontinental

It took a couple of hours, but eventually we made it to the hotel. They offered us “dinner” of pizzas and pudding delivered to our room, which we gladly accepted. We spent some additional time working on tomorrow’s check-in and baggage issues given the adjustment from United and Delta. But, we pretty much gave up after another few calls with unhelpful agents. Who cares! We have a flight! And, since it was about 3AM, time to get some sleep to take advantage of our bonus day in Santiago tomorrow.

“Sorry we cancelled your flight” pizza

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