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200211-Chile-010009_1
Left Croydon this morning. Watching the sun set over the Pacific in the evening!

Packing etc. done we finally called a cab from EC station to take us to LHR – the journey had started! Got there far too early in effort to secure decent seats on the plane. Eventually check-in opened and the first coupons were used. The rest was the usual airport story – a bit of shopping (bags & fags), parked ourselves in the Iberia lounge courtesy of BAEC (does have its uses now and then), and boarded our flight with some delay. Normal seats – figured the good seats would be just for the long haul. In Madrid it was a quick transit to the next gate (long walk to A6), but had enough time to get at least 2 smokes in. Crap seats but at least we had 2 to ourselves instead of 3 with an extra person in our row.

Flight was in the dark for the trans-Atlantic part and we both dozed through it, punctuated by the odd bit of food & drink. Finally we’re somewhere over South America. What a beautiful dawn! Looking out to “port” I can see the clouds below us, stretching away as far as the eye can see. A spectrum of colours, from an intense red (vermillion?) going through oranges & yellows to greens and the most spectacular turquoise, purples, etc. Its only a thin layer, seen from the plane, above that the sky is still dark, and above that the sky is still lit up with so many stars. Ness is asleep, didn’t want to wake her – now wish I had. The screen says we’re somewhere over Brazil. As it gets lighter we start to get glimpses through the cloud – yes, there’s definitely land below but it’s looking rather grey in this light. Later the cloud disappears altogether and the views are of mixed territory: green flat country, looking desolate, hardly any trees, mostly grass, and some roads (tracks) running straight for very long distances. Then the country becomes more organised, cultivated plots in neat squares, circles, a patchwork of agriculture. As we get close to the Andes, according to the screen, we can make out a mountain ridge. We get excited at flying over the Andes but the sight fails to impress – was expecting spectacular snow-capped peaks but this was just a brown ridge. Is that it? The country-side that follows is more of the same – farmed fields. Where is the Pacific? Then… see we were too soon – here are the real Andes. Black mountains covered in dusted snow. They’re high! Wild country, and it goes on and on. Most passengers are now awake and those in the middle rows are craning necks to get a glimpse.

Plane starts descent to Santiago while we’re still over the Andes. The airport is small, modern, clean – anonymous – but devoid of people. Saw a sign for the “ARS” bar – appealed to the little boy in me. First bit of Spanish dusted off when I try to pay for coffee & snacks. I was in a queue of people whose flight to Punta Arenas was delayed and therefore entitled to a free “jamon y queso” sandwich on presentation of their boarding card. Japanese guy behind me helped me out! Tempted to buy an Inti Illimani or Ilapu CD but it sounds like folkloristic traditional rubbish (Hypocrite! You’re typing this up while playing the Inti Illimani CD you bought at Santiago airport on the way back!!) Considered the Groove Armada CD instead but managed to leave WHSmith without buying anything.

Plane starts descent to Santiago while we’re still over the Andes. The airport is small, modern, clean – anonymous – but devoid of people. Saw a sign for the “ARS” bar – appealed to the little boy in me. First bit of Spanish dusted off when I try to pay for coffee & snacks. I was in a queue of people whose flight to Punta Arenas was delayed and therefore entitled to a free “jamon y queso” sandwich on presentation of their boarding card. Japanese guy behind me helped me out! Tempted to buy an Inti Illimani or Ilapu CD but it sounds like folkloristic traditional rubbish (Hypocrite! You’re typing this up while playing the Inti Illimani CD you bought at Santiago airpport on the way back!!) Considered the Groove Armada CD instead but managed to leave WHSmith without buying anything.

200211-Chile-010005_1
I used to have one of those...

Plane starts descent to Santiago while we’re still over the Andes. The airport is small, modern, clean – anonymous – but devoid of people. Saw a sign for the “ARS” bar – appealed to the little boy in me. First bit of Spanish dusted off when I try to pay for coffee & snacks. I was in a queue of people whose flight to Punta Arenas was delayed and therefore entitled to a free “jamon y queso” sandwich on presentation of their boarding card. Japanese guy behind me helped me out! Tempted to buy an Inti Illimani or Ilapu CD but it sounds like folkloristic traditional rubbish (Hypocrite! You’re typing this up while playing the Inti Illimani CD you bought at Santiago airpport on the way back!!) Considered the Groove Armada CD instead but managed to leave WHSmith without buying anything.

Right at the back for the flight to Arica, via Iquique. Got lucky with seats on the “starboard” side – one long panorama of the Andes! I fell asleep as Ness peered through the window. The cultivated green of the Santiago area was nowhere to be seen when I woke up. Just brown and grey, looking dusty. Very little, if anything, in the way of “civilisation”. Guy sat behind us could snore for England! Brief stop at Iquique, then a short hop to Arica – our destination is in sight!

The airport is small, similar to El Calafate, and the Hertz desk is… unmanned and apparently closed. Here we go. After a few minutes two Hertz women arrive. We have [a] truck! Brand-new 4x4 pick-up – toy!! Will have to play with this – Ness might not be too keen I wonder… Must remember it takes diesel – shouldn’t be too hard with that noise!

We manage to get to the hotel by the back-route, rather than the sea-side. Finally, finally… we are really here! Shower, change, and head for the terrace to have our welcome PS as the sun sets over the Pacific. Eventually we both work up the energy to start the diairies, fuelled by a few more PS’s! When I went up to order the third round, the barmaid’s reply was an astonished “más?!” And that’s day 0+1!

PS. First beer in Chile at Santiago airport: can of “Crystal” with a yellow bruiser on it! Took a picture. Tried to tell the waiter that “es mi coche!”

PPS. Dinner in hotel restaurant, simple but effective. Mushrooms out of a tin with my steak – maybe they were simply mushroom-shapes (without mushroom flavour added!)

PPPS. Flowers at reception are fake, like most in the hotel and even have fake dew-drops!