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  • Writer's pictureMartijn

Practice trip to the South of Chile and Argentina

I didn't explicitly mention it in my previous post but using our own airplane, our dear LV-GQF (or rather Lima-Victor-Golf-Quebec-Foxtrot, pictured here in front of the Villarica volcano) is not allowed due to lock-down, not even for the instruction that I really need. Indeed, I learned how to fly on a Piper Archer and our plane is a Cirrus SR22 which I need to get certified for. Likewise, Alex is not allowed to move our old airplane which he is in the process of selling to the airport where the new owner wants to keep it, although it is in the same province and only 29km away:(

Luckily, we made a BEAUTIFUL trip in January to the South of Chile and Argentina with LV-GQF. And for the first time, on all our flight plans and other documents, I was officially part of the crew as the co-pilot. I really enjoyed the job which consisted partly of helping with navigation and operating the aircraft and partly of taking a LOT of pictures and videos during the flights of which I share a few in today's colorful and somewhat nostalgic post.

We started out on January 23rd from Buenos Aires to Villarica in Chile where there was an air show. Alex was much impressed by the fact that he was to fly a plane across the Andes for the first time, and I was amazed by the smoking volcano which we could almost touch. Two other super memorable moments in Villarica were a presentation by a pilot from the South of Chile about mountain flying, including rotors and other scary meteorological phenomena to stay away from, and the two awards our group of pilots from Argentina won on the gala evening: one for the pilot with the oldest license (Gunther in 1959) and one for the female pilot with the most recent license: yours truly. It's easy to see on the picture how proud we both were.

From Villarica we traveled to the South of Chile flying in beautiful valleys and fjords until the extremely windy Torres del Payne national park where we walked a lot (not always very steadily) and spent 1 night "glamping" in eco-friendly dome-shaped tents that were built on the model of original native habitats. Composting toilets, free yoga classes and no electricity or internet in our domes, of course. Our fellow glampers were less native: almost all were from the US and Europe, and no one knew at the time that this was going to be their last trip in a loooong time...

We then continued South to Ushuaia, Argentina. I had been there 18 years before and this time again, I couldn't help getting fully immersed in the end-of-the-world symbolism: the end of the world lighthouse, the end of the world prison and train and even the end of the world cat in Carmen's arms. Incredible experience. In Buenos Aires I often feel I am at the end of the world but in Ushuaia it's double end of the world!

On our way back to Buenos Aires (about 2500km), we stopped in the little known Monte Leon National park, middle-of-nowhere home to a large penguin colony. We landed in Puerto Santa Cruz, clearly a "kirchnerist" town where 80% of the population is employed by the government in some way or another. Beautiful landscapes again on our way there. We arrived there on February 1st and were the 3rd plane that landed in the municipal airport since January 1st. We stayed in the municipal hotel and were almost the only guests, despite a guest book full of entries made with the same pen and handwriting. Was this one of the famous "Cristina Kirchner hotels" that allegedly launder money? In any case, it is safe to say that there are more penguins that inhabitants in Puerto Santa Cruz and we were very lucky because the babies had been been born a few weeks before. They were already almost as big as their parents but still had gray baby feathers. So cute!

On our way back to Buenos Aires, we had to avoid a few thunderstorms which added to my emerging pilot experience and I am happy to say that this practice-trip was a great success, we are ready for more, hopefully asap.

Complete itinerary of the trip below, captured on the flight tracker aka emergency equipment. Turning it on and off for each flight was also my job:)

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