Peruvian Pelican

So Tuesday was supposed to be a fairly easy travel day – drive from Vicuña to La Serena, fly to Santiago, change planes to fly to Antofagasta, pick up our rental car that we have reserved, and drive to the vacation rental apartment.  We got to Santiago, got off the plane, went down the corridor, and followed the sign that said “Conexiones / Connecting Flights”.  And found ourselves outside of the secure area and in the place where you’d be if you just come into the country.   We had less than an hour to get to our connecting flight, and we were facing immigration, customs, who knows what. 

So we talked to the officer at the immigration line, who took us to the Latam counter, where we got moved to a later flight.  And then an old guy with a fancy ID hanging from a lanyard came and led us and about a dozen other confused ducklings through the airport to a secure door, entered a code in a keypad, and then pointed us to our new gate.  Whew!

So we got to Antofagasta, and amazingly our luggage had been transferred with us, so we were feeling good.  Out we go to the rental car counters.  Hamner, what rental company is it?  National.  Hmmm…. Europcar, Budget, Avis, etc. etc. … No National.  Hamner digs out his email from the rental company, which gives us instructions on how to get to them from the airport.  Sigh. One of the horde of taxi guys who had been orbiting us came up, we told him where we wanted to go, and after a lot of consultation with his buddies, we loaded our gear in his totally unmarked “taxi” and off we go.  For a really long way.  The National rental agency is in Antofagasta downtown, basically, miles from the airport.  We pull up to a very seedy looking place at the address given.

Sketchy car rental place  UntitledSketchy car rental place.

It says “Alamo” in grungy letters on the façade, and there’s a locked grill at street level behind which there are some cars.  Our taxi guy yells at the window, pounds on the grill, no dice.  Finally Hamner finds the phone number, and we get taxi guy to call them; the Alamo person says he’ll be there in 20-30 minutes. Peggy by this point was convinced it was an elaborate scam.  Sure the email has a nice logo, anyone can do that; they’ve taken Hamner’s credit card info and directed us to a place where there used to be an Alamo car rental years ago, but it still shows up on Google Maps.

At the sketchy car rental place

Hamner and Peggy put a brave face on it, though Peggy knows it’s all a scam.

I was starting to wonder, but after about 15 minutes a guy wearing and Alamo shirt (Alamo and National did merge, right?) shows up and lets us in.  But then we have to wait for his boss to come do the contract.  Hey, we were supposed to be there at 4, it’s now 6.  Of course, Google Earth says the place is open till 8, but whatever.  Finally his boss shows up and she’s very nice and apologetic that we had to wait.  And poor quasi-taxi guy has waited patiently the whole time to make sure we’re okay.  We paid him with a sizeable tip, as he’d been super helpful when we were pretty lost.  And then we drove to the apartment.

At least Maria, who’s renting us the apartment, is prompt and very nice, and we get our stuff upstairs and get ourselves situated.  I don’t even want to talk about what it took to get the rented SUV parked in the underground parking garage; suffice it to say that we plan to walk places for the few days we’re here.  And in fact, we walked a couple of blocks that evening to the nearby Lider supermercado to get food for dinner.  We’re about two blocks from the ocean, and the Lider is right on the waterfront.  Based on the logo, it’s owned by Walmart, but it’s about four times the size of the Walmart in Cape.  In any case, we managed to buy bread, cheese, ham, olives, and plenty of wine.  We had a lovely meal and then slept like the dead.

The next morning I got up about dawn and took my binoculars and scope out on the balcony.  From the 11th floor you can see the ocean, a couple of jetties, a wharf with a lighthouse, and some of Playa Paraiso.   View from balcony at Montevideo 143

And as it turns out, you can also see Peruvian Pelicans, Neotropic Cormorants, Kelp Gulls, Gray Gulls, and one Whimbrel with a pretty bad limp.

We spent much of the morning eating, washing clothes, and looking at birds at a distance from our apartment, and then a little before noon we walked down to the beach. The beach is called Playa Paraiso, which seems like overselling it a bit, but it’s nice enough.  We walked on down a way to where we could see the wharf with the lighthouse on it, and saw Guanay Cormorants and Red-legged Cormorants.  There was a fish market, and we ate empanadas outdoors at a little café next to it while sea lions, cormorants, and pelicans played around in the harbor next to us.

We went back to the apartment and dropped off our binoculars and such, and then Hamner and I went on an expedition to get dinner supplies.  Lider/Walmart didn’t have any fresh fish, so we went to the fish market, where we were accosted by every booth owner in the place.  There were lots of different entire fish, but that seemed ambitious given the supplies in our kitchen.  But every one of the booths seemed to have a bunch of the same kind of very nice fresh-looking filets, so we bought some of them.  I asked the girl who sold them what kind of fish they were, and it sounded like “Jueneta” to me; this was wrong, but Robin later figured out it was reineta.   In any case, we baked the filets with a little olive oil, salt, and oregano, and we made a fresh mango/pepper/onion/garlic salsa, and served it all with rice.   Nobody complained.

Dinner at Antofagasta

One Response to “Antofagasta”

  1. Wayne Dye says:

    What a day, what an adventure, what fun and what luck.
    Living the dream through you guys. Thanks

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