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Total Eclipse: Driving from SCL to COW

Total Eclipse: Driving from SCL to COW

Old Jan 12, 19, 5:38 pm
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Total Eclipse: Driving from SCL to COW

For the July 2 total eclipse, flights to/from COW are outrageously expensive. I'd like to fly to SCL and then drive to somewhere near COW to watch the eclipse. Has anyone done this drive? Is it a scenic/easy drive? How do you pay the tolls? It seems like some of the roads are tolled; do the rental cars have electronic tolling devices on them?
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Old Jan 13, 19, 10:17 am
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1) Are you sure you aren't looking for LSC (La Serena)?

I would seriously consider plans to be there for the eclipse. If you are near the coast (LSC or anywhere in that narrow coastal band) you are there during the start of winter, with a great chance of seeing overcast. The peak viewing area is the Valle de Elqui. It is beautiful out there, and very close to LSC - inland just a bit, and has some of the clearest skies in the world. That said, the drive in/out of the Valle will be so full of tacos (yes, that's whey call traffic) for the event, I cannot imagine wanting to take the drive for anything but a longer stay. There isn't a lot of lodging in the Valle de Elqui, and what there is has probably been booked for 6 months or more already. But if you search, try looking up Vicuña, Pisco Elqui, or Cochiguaz for potential places. Cochiguaz is past the end of the paved road, and lodging is pretty rudimentary.

I've not driven SCL/LSC - just have flown a few times. Your rental @ SCL will have a "tag" good for Santiago highways (and you'll be charged a daily fixed fee whether you use it or not), but I do not believe they cover the inter-city highways as of this point, or if there's yet a separate tag system. The drive should be pleasant and easy - I've driven in various stretches of Chile and have found the main highways to generally be in very good condition. I'd expect this drive to remind you of parts of central California.
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Old Jan 13, 19, 10:25 am
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
1) Are you sure you aren't looking for LSC (La Serena)?

I would seriously consider plans to be there for the eclipse. If you are near the coast (LSC or anywhere in that narrow coastal band) you are there during the start of winter, with a great chance of seeing overcast. The peak viewing area is the Valle de Elqui. It is beautiful out there, and very close to LSC - inland just a bit, and has some of the clearest skies in the world. That said, the drive in/out of the Valle will be so full of tacos (yes, that's whey call traffic) for the event, I cannot imagine wanting to take the drive for anything but a longer stay. There isn't a lot of lodging in the Valle de Elqui, and what there is has probably been booked for 6 months or more already. But if you search, try looking up Vicuña, Pisco Elqui, or Cochiguaz for potential places. Cochiguaz is past the end of the paved road, and lodging is pretty rudimentary.

I've not driven SCL/LSC - just have flown a few times. Your rental @ SCL will have a "tag" good for Santiago highways (and you'll be charged a daily fixed fee whether you use it or not), but I do not believe they cover the inter-city highways as of this point, or if there's yet a separate tag system. The drive should be pleasant and easy - I've driven in various stretches of Chile and have found the main highways to generally be in very good condition. I'd expect this drive to remind you of parts of central California.
Well considering that SCL and COW are only what, 14 km apart, and both are in the totality path, I don't think it really matters. Okay fine, technically I won't be driving to either COW or LSC, as I'm not interested in watching totality from the grounds of an airport. But both of those airports are pretty close to my destination.

As far as weather, it looks like this area in July is about equivalent to between San Diego and and Ensenada in January. Probably the worst time of the year to watch an eclipse from there as things go, but overall the odds are still in your favor. If it's looking clear along the coast, I'd probably just stay there and watch it; if the forecast is for clouds/fog, then I'll head up into the mountains.
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Old Jan 13, 19, 11:22 am
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Originally Posted by STS-134 View Post
Well considering that SCL and COW are only what, 14 km apart, and both are in the totality path, I don't think it really matters.
My point was that if you are looking for flights, you might focus on the large(ish) commercial airport, LSC for pricing. I'm sure it is horrible, but COW isn't the place to be looking for flights.

Another thing to consider when you mention "head up to the mountains," note that the Valle de Elqui is just that, a valley. The eclipse is late in the day on a short winter day, and the further you go out in the valley (east of Vicuña) the valley narrows dramatically, in that you could have the eclipse completely obstructed by a mountain. You won't really have a vehicle designed for any mountain driving on substandard roads, to the extent you'd be able to access anything.
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Old Jan 13, 19, 11:36 am
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
My point was that if you are looking for flights, you might focus on the large(ish) commercial airport, LSC for pricing. I'm sure it is horrible, but COW isn't the place to be looking for flights.

Another thing to consider when you mention "head up to the mountains," note that the Valle de Elqui is just that, a valley. The eclipse is late in the day on a short winter day, and the further you go out in the valley (east of Vicuña) the valley narrows dramatically, in that you could have the eclipse completely obstructed by a mountain. You won't really have a vehicle designed for any mountain driving on substandard roads, to the extent you'd be able to access anything.
So my understanding (and this is just from reading, as I've never been there) is that if there's overcast, it's most likely to be confined to the coast, and Vicuña for example is far more likely to be clear. What I don't understand though is that if this area is like Baja between San Diego and Ensenada, and there are winter storms, why would Vicuña be clearer? The mountains between the coast and Vicuña (which is in the valley of course) aren't taller than around 1000-1500m, which I would think isn't tall enough to wring out the moisture from orographic clouds and clear the air. Further east, isn't it possible to go so far into the mountains that you're east of the peak, or above the level at which orographic precipitation occurs? Kind of like driving from Sacramento (windward side) to Reno (leeward side) of the Sierra Nevada range. Even when Tahoe/Truckee is snowed in, it's often clear in Reno.
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Old Jan 13, 19, 11:49 am
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The coastal climate is much like central California. So you can have marine layer by the coast due to the very cold ocean waters. If there's a real storm, that's a different story. The valley has 300+ clear days a year. The coastal plain does not.

I would not risk this trip for "fear" of just being stuck in the worst mess of traffic in your life, having no place to stay, and finding that fuel is in short supply. I considered it. I have a friend (who grew up in La Serena) who already has his plans set with a place to stay. I was in Oregon for the most recent eclipse and had perfect viewing conditions, and don't want to push my luck again quite so soon.
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Old Jan 13, 19, 11:56 am
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
The coastal climate is much like central California. So you can have marine layer by the coast due to the very cold ocean waters. If there's a real storm, that's a different story. The valley has 300+ clear days a year. The coastal plain does not.

I would not risk this trip for "fear" of just being stuck in the worst mess of traffic in your life, having no place to stay, and finding that fuel is in short supply. I considered it. I have a friend (who grew up in La Serena) who already has his plans set with a place to stay. I was in Oregon for the most recent eclipse and had perfect viewing conditions, and don't want to push my luck again quite so soon.
I already have a place to stay. Fuel, I'll keep that in mind, and fill up before arrival in Coquimbo/La Serena.

I was in Idaho Falls for the last one and, well, I learned a lesson about scheduling flights after an eclipse from that experience. I booked a flight out of BZN the same day (the eclipse was in the morning of course, and my plan was to drive back to BZN and get out around 5 pm that afternoon). Well, Montana DOT had the GENIUS idea of doing CONSTRUCTION on I-15 and closing down one lane of the road on the same day as the eclipse. So not only did I miss my flight, but I couldn't get another one for 2 days, and I literally got stuck in Bozeman. My friend who went with me, barely made it back to SLC in time, and ended up walking onto the plane just as they were closing the door. If we had gone north into the farm fields like I was planning to do if there were clouds (there are more east/west roads up there to dodge clouds), I would probably have made my flight and he would have missed his.

This time, I will allow ample time to get out. I'm not flying out of SCL until 7/4, and I'm planning to just stay another night in Coquimbo/La Serena and let the traffic die down before heading back. And then, I still have a full day to get back to SCL, and ANOTHER night there just in case traffic is still bad, AND the flight on 7/4 doesn't leave until the evening.
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Old Jan 13, 19, 1:24 pm
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Actually, is COW a real airport? Here is what is literally at the exact coordinates from gcmap: https://www.google.com/maps/place/29...d-71.333?hl=en

I don't even see a runway!

Oh, second question. Do you recommend renting a manual transmission car? I can drive them, but would you recommend it in that terrain? Traffic can be really annoying with a manual, but if the highway is smooth flowing, then it shouldn't be an issue.
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