We arrived safely and reasonably fresh at Santiago Airport, or, to give it its full name: Aeropuerto Internacional Arturo Merino Benitez at Pudahuel, where we were met by the manager and two representatives of LYS Rent a Car. The cars were checked over and any superficial damage to the bodywork was noted (and photographed by Angie with her digital camera). Everything was in order, except that the tyres seemed a little on the soft side. These were inflated, but as we wanted to check the pressure in the spare tyre for the Nissan 21D, it appeared that the back bumper had some damage that prevented access to the spare wheel. ‘Not to worry’, said Andres, the manager, ‘Just follow us to our offices in down town Santiago and we’ll fix it’.
This was my cue to get worried. During Copiapoathon 2001, we made the mistake of spending our last night in Santiago and while I was most impressed with the volume of buses and taxis, I did not want to drive there myself. But needs must, so I followed Andres’ car as though I was glued to its back bumper, while Ian, driving the Nissan, was equally glued to mine. Things got interesting at traffic lights that changed colour mid-convoy, but as I am colour blind, I just drove on. Apparently Ian is also colour blind as he followed closely.
All’s well that ends well, and before too long we were on the Pan-American Highway (aka Ruta 5), heading north.
As we had anticipated being rather jet-lagged and possible delays of flights, we made swiftly for Pichidangui, some 35 km after the Panamerican (Ruta 5) hits the Pacific Coast. As daylight was fading (at about 17:30), I stood again on the rocky coast at the west end of the town. This was the last Stop (S107) of our 2001 trip, so nicely provided some continuity. There is a small church (church of Santa Teresa) that has been built on a rock into the ocean.
This time we clambered over the rocks north of the church (S108) and found Eriosyce subgibbosa and E. chilensis var. albidiflora (Ritter’s Pyrrhocactus chilensis var. albidiflora), Eulychnia castanea and two species of Echinopsis (Trichocereus): E. litoralis and E. chiloensis, all competing for space with a very lush vegetation of grasses, a succulent Oxalis, O. bulbocastanum as well as a range of imported succulents (including Mesembryanthemacea, Agave, Aloe arborescens etc).
I wanted to get to the south side of the church, as, on the flats right along side the road, we had found another Eriosyce, E. curvispina var. mutabilis (syn. Pyrrhocactus / Neochilenia odoriflora, Neoporteria horrida var. odoriflora), in 2001. As I went to get the car, I noticed that the front tyre needed some air. By the time that Angie & I got back after a quick look at the south side, the tyre had visibly gone down more. It was now dusk, so instead of driving back through town to our planned accommodation at Cabañas Del Bosque, we booked in at the Cabañas of Hotel Kon-Tiki, right alongside the coast road.
After the first of many excellent meals (choice of beef, pork or fish, chips or rice and a range of salads to chose from), washed down with some equally excellent red Chilean wine, we retired for the night, all eight of us into a single cabaña. The following morning we learned not to repeat the experience, with lengthy waits for toilet & shower.