High flyin' through the Andes.
San Pedro de Atacama Travel Blog› entry 8 of 13 › view all entries
September 18th, 2007 – by: cmgervais
I had a slight crosswind, and my take off felt a little sluggish to me. We climbed slowly and steadily to 10,500 feet. My previous high had been 9,500 in the Cirrus, so this was exciting! The airplane had no problem with this altitude. And it was fine at 12,500 ... and 13,500... and then 14,300! I was ultra alert, on the lookout for signs of altitude sickness, since the cabin is not pressurized. Flying that high, and fighting turbulence was somewhat grueling, but all was well. I was flying through the Andes mountains! Incredible experience.
It was a 2.5 hour flight (felt like 5), and when we arrived at San Pedro de Atacama airport, the wind sock was broken. We did some turns to determine the wind direction (I was flying almost completely under Mario's direction at this point), and then I did the traffic pattern...at 9,500 feet! Unbelievable, especially for a midwestern flyer used to 700 foot elevations! The airport is at 8,000 feet, and I did the landing without assistance. It seemed a little sloppy and flat to me, but both Mario and Leo exclaimed and complimented me on a difficult landing well done. I'll take that!
At this point I was completely exhausted and literally could have napped right there on the tarmac. Happily our taxi arrived very quickly, so we secured the airplane and headed off to the hotel.
San Pedro is rough and rustic, with lots of adobe, and dirt streets. It's a little Queenstown-adventurish, with lots of tour/adventure outfitters, and hoardes of people in grubby clothes walking around like they are ready to climb a cliff or jump off a bridge at a moment's notice. I think we will really like it here.
Our hotel, La Casa de Don Thomas, is pretty plain, and nothing special really. The bed sure looked good to me: I wanted to go immediately to sleep. But it was only 3pm, and we hadn't had lunch - travesty! So off we went. Mario knew of a good spot, Adobo Cafe, which also happened to be in Fodor's. We sat in the courtyard and enjoyed the beautiful weather in our tank tops. There was actually more than one vegetarian option, and I opted for the goat cheese quesadilla and a Mexican salad, which was very good.
At some point during the meal, perhaps it was on his lengthy oration on EGT (exhaust gas temp) and mixture leaning, I realized I HAD to have a break from Leo. He is soooo nice, but oy! He doesn't shut up, ever. So after dinner, girls went one way, guys went another, and Lisa I did a little sight seeing and ended up at a cafe/bar in the Plazas des Armas. While we sat with our chilly beverages, Lisa's cell phone rang ... it was her dad calling by mistake! So I called my mom and dad and told them about flying through the Andes. They were duly impressed.
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