Early start this morning. With a 9:30am international flight out of Santiago, we needed to be checking in by 7:30am.
Fortunately, the travel time between the hotel and the check-in area was about 5 minutes by foot. Indeed, it took longer to check out of the hotel than it did to walk to the airport check-in area.
We decided not to have breakfast before we left, instead went straight to the airport, bought some milk for Andres to keep him going while we checked in, and then went to drop our bags off.
Checkin was pretty smooth – again they were looking for a fourth person to be flying with us and we had to explain that Nicol was only flying on the return leg. They did point out that our seats on the 767 airplane (2-3-2 seating configuration) had us with a window/aisle and then a third seat across the aisle, which we figured would work okay.
For some reason, Santiago airport has one of the quickest immigration / security process of any airport I’ve flown through. We were through in under 5 minutes (although I must say that it was pretty good at Sydney yesterday too).
So we got to the departure lounge area with plenty of time to spare before our flight would start boarding. Our first duty was to find some water for the flight. Although I don’t think Santiago airport places security restrictions on bottled water like most airports do (which is a little strange), we have got into a routine of not taking any liquids on board with us (other than small necessities such as medicine, etc).
We came across a small play area for kids, so I left Leanne there with our bags supervising Andres while I went to find water and check out where we could buy some breakfast.
It seems that some of the smaller cafes we had previously used on flights through Santiago in 2008 and 2009 had closed, so our choices were a little limited for the types of things we were looking to eat. We ended up settling on some Starbucks – which just happened to be right next to the play area.
While I was gone buying water, Andres had made friends with three young brothers (all older than him, the eldest possibly 8-10 years old perhaps). None of them spoke English and Andres wasn’t using much of his Spanish skills, but that didn’t stop them running around vigorously and making alot of noise. I felt sorry for those people trying to sleep nearby while they waited for their flights – but only for a moment. I figure that if you are going to sleep in an airport terminal – don’t try and do it near a kids play area!
When it was time for them to leave and for us to go and get some breakfast, Andres got hugs from all three boys, which was nice.
We bought toasted ham and cheese panini, some yoghurt, muffins and hot chocolates from Starbucks and sat down for breakfast. It was enough to fill our tummies and keep Andres happy.
We managed to get to our departure gate in time to board, but just before we boarded we looked at our boarding passes more closely and realised that not only was I seated across the aisle from Leanne and Andres, I was actually 5 rows back! That was not ideal for helping to look after a lively 3yo on a 6 hour flight. We checked with the staff at the gate, but they indicated it was a very full flight and they had multiple families not sitting together, including one where the child was completely separate from its mother! Someone did a really bad job of allocating seats on this flight!
We were able to jump the boarding queues again and so were pretty much first on board the plane. While we were waiting for other people to get on board, we discovered that Leanne had inadvertently sat in the row behind the one we had been allocated (the signs were not very clear – being offset from the actual seating position, as if the seats had been added at a different time to the signs!). The couple supposed to be in that seat were happy to take the seat in front to save Leanne having to move with Andres, which turned out to be quite fortuitous.
Soon after, another family came to their seats and I noticed that the people sitting across the aisle from me were talking to a guy sitting directly behind Leanne. I asked them if he wanted to swap with me so they could be together, which they were very happy with – and it suited us too, since I would now be able to sit much closer to Andres.
Andres actually insisted that I sit next to him, so Leanne moved to the seat behind. She was able to enjoy the flight largely undisturbed by Andres – who was happy to watch the in-flight entertainment for a while. He was still able to turn and talk to Mama when we wanted to, so he was quite content with the seating arrangements.
I had bought an ASUS Transformer Prime tablet computer for the trip as something to keep Andres amused if he got bored. I had pre-loaded it with most of his favourite TV shows – Pocoyo mostly, plus some Lah Lah’s Big Live Band, videos of himself when he was younger, some train DVDs I bought last year and a few other bits and pieces. I was quite pleased that I didn’t need to use it on the long flight from Sydney to Santiago. However, Andres got a bit bored with the in-flight entertainment this time, so I pulled out the tablet and he was very happy to be watching Pocoyo for the rest of the flight with my headphones on. The tablet comes with a keyboard dock which turns it into a laptop configuration (hence the “transformer” name), which makes it ideal to sit on a tray or table so you can watch content without needing to hold the tablet. It worked very well.
About an hour out of Bogota, Andres got a bit sleepy and came to snuggle with me, he fell asleep in my arms and I was eventually able to put him down in his seat with his seatbelt around him. He stayed this way until after we landed in Bogota – so we stayed on the plane until everyone else got off and then Leanne carried him while I carried the bags.
Immigration was okay, although they insisted on Andres entering the country on his Colombian passport – which we had been warned might happen. It’s no big deal at this age, but not really something we want to have happening when he is older.
We managed to find our bags and asked for directions to where we might find the hotel shuttle bus for the Holiday Inn where we were staying. The international terminal at Bogota airport is quite old and very over-crowded. It’s obvious they desperately need a new terminal (it is being built right now), the chaos just outside the terminal for taxis and buses is a big problem – although there are lots of police and security around to keep things as orderly as possible. Fortunately, there was a girl holding a large sign for the hotel standing up the back of the crowds and she had a list of people checking in that day so was able to confirm that we were there.
We had to wait about 20 minutes for the hotel shuttle, which gave Andres a bit of time to take in the sights and sounds of the airport. Lots of police, lots of taxis – all of them small yellow cars, although there are a lot of other coloured “private” taxis too, lots of buses, lots of cars.
The shuttle bus ride to the hotel was only about 10 minutes and we were able to check in and go to our room with no problems.
We relaxed in the room for a while and then decided to go for a walk to a local shopping centre to stretch our legs.
The area around the hotel is quite up-market, with a lot of high-rise apartment complexes – all in gated compounds with security guards at the front. The thing we found amusing (and even Andres commented on it), was the number of small playgrounds we saw. There seemed to be two or three apartment complexes for each block, and in the green-space between the complexes was a grassed area with a small playground. I lost count after about 15 playgrounds in the few kilometres we walked.
The street we walked down was a wide avenue with a large nature-strip in the middle containing a meandering bike-path. At several points along the strip, they had put in sunken indoor-football (soccer) sized pitches, combined with basketball courts (the basketball ring rose up over the soccer goals). It was a good use of space. It was a very nice area to walk through.
We eventually found the shopping centre (Salitre Plaza) and wandered in. There was a large open area just inside with a lot of seating around a stage and it was obvious that someone was getting ready for a performance. We decided to sit and wait to see what was happening – it turned out to be a circus-style act with lots of performers and lots of noise. Andres got a bit upset by all the noise, so we had to quickly leave that area and go and explore another part of the centre.
We started to get hungry, and since it was nearly 6pm we decided to stop at the food court for some dinner. Andres was a bit tired and grumpy by this time, so we chose something we know he would like – some chicken nuggets from KFC. I got a chicken burger (“sandwich” they call it), which was one of the worst I’ve ever had, however, the nuggets were made from real chicken (not processed like they are back home), and were the nicest nuggets I’ve ever had. Think KFC chicken fillets, cut into nugget-sized round chunks and then covered in the standard KFC seasoned crumbs. Very nice and great flavour.
Leanne also discovered that they serve Colombiana soft drink, so got some of that for us when she ordered our food. We discovered this drink on our last trip here and it brings back many fond memories for us. We even seek out the Colombian food stand at any South American festivals back home, to see if they have Colombiana for sale. Apparently there is a restaurant somewhere in Sydney who import it – which we have been meaning to track down for ages now. Anyway, we really felt like we were back in Colombia sitting there sipping on some Colombiana.
We stopped down at the Exito supermarket for some supplies on the way out. Exito is a large supermarket chain found all over Colombia with gaudy large black and yellow signs – difficult to miss!
It was dark by the time we got back to the hotel and I was pretty tired after carrying Andres all the way there and all the way back on my shoulders – but the outing had served its purpose, getting us some exercise and getting out of the hotel room for a while.
After a shower to freshen up, we all headed to bed early, still tired and jet lagged from the trip so far.
Since we had a window seat on the flight to Bogota, I was able to use my suction-cup mount to position the GoPro camera on the plane window, looking out at the scenery. I remember our last flight to Bogota, flying over the Andes and seeing fascinating scenery and smoking volcano craters and such – I was hoping to capture some of that and make a great looking time-lapse video. Unfortunately, when I got to look at the footage at the hotel later, I found that a combination of factors had lead to a rather unsatisfying result.
Firstly, a 30 second time gap between images might work well for a static scene from a hotel window, but for a fast moving plane, it’s just too big – the movement created by stitching the photos into a movie not smooth enough to be watchable. Secondly, we were on the right-side of the aircraft and it was predominantly a morning flight, meaning that there was a lot of light from the sun washing the image out somewhat. Finally, it was very cloudy – time lapse footage of clouds jumping past did not make for a good video. It was a disappointing result – I just hope that I will have another opportunity to try some time-lapse photo captures on another flight.
While we were out at Salitre Plaza, I mounted the GoPro on the hotel window (great view from the 10th floor) and tried another time-lapse capture. Again, I was a bit disappointed with the result – battery ran out again while we were out, generating only 90 minutes of photos (not enough for a decent length video) and the brightness was a bit out – possibly because of the position of the setting sun.
I did upload it to YouTube though:
This time it was one photo every 30 seconds, with the video rendered at 25fps and each image being displayed for 4 frames to lengthen the video a little – at the cost of making the motion a little less smooth.