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We touched down 5 minutes late – not bad after a 14 hour flight. We had only been able to book our seats from LHR to MAD, so while Angie was allocated a seat with plenty of leg room at the front of economy – where usually there is a row of mums with screaming babies hanging from the opposite wall, where this time there was just a row of adults. I was 15 rows further back, in a window seat (hooray, for the last bit over the Andes) but right over the wing (boo) – so no point in having the camera on my lap. Still spoiled after last years flight with Emirates, the leg room today, with BA / Iberia, was the smallest I can remember. As I tend to sleep anyway it was just a matter of wrapping my legs a few times around my neck and off to sleep!

Santiago immigration had the usual 46 people queueing at the Chilean nationals side and the usual three long haul flights worth on non-Chileans  at the foreigners section. I pointed Angie at the last Chilean passing through, heaved a sigh, pulled a long face at the official in charge of queueing and to my surprise he obliged  by inviting me and those behind me to the now empty area – fastest pass through immigration I have ever experienced! Santiago get 10/10 and a gold star!! Why does Trip Advisor not include airport reviews!?!

Next we were off to the car rental booths, much too small for the number of customers and not adequately staffed. At least when it was our turn, the chap from Alamo spoke & understood English. Our intended Nissan XTrail, manual 2WD that had served us well last year in South Africa was not available so we had booked a ‘Nissan Pathfinder or similar’ instead.There had been some paperwork problems as we needed permits to take the car into Argentina later, necesitating a change to Plan C – first head north and pick up the paper work as we drove past on our way south. We had been allocated a Dodge Durango, automatic 4WD! If it behaves and meets expectations over the next 49 days, I’ll be as pleased as punch! It seems to be a bit thirsty, but at gasoline at c. £1 per litre I can’t complain!

First impressions of Chile: not much had changed. It was 23C in Santiago when we arrived and the forecast was for temperatures to rise by 1 C per day for the rest of the week. As said before, I’m staying 49 days. What is the melting point for a human? I bet it’s less than 72!

We allowed ourselves a quick lunch at the Copec/Pronto at Pichidangui, but as getting the car had taken a bit longer than planned, we resisted the temptation to check out the Eriosyce at Pichidangui. Arrived at Guanaqueros around 16:00 hrs and tried the cabañas at Club Bahia first (this is where we stayed on my first Chile trip in 2001 and several times since). Our German friend, Walter Mueller, recognised us, smiled and said :’I see you have a new car’!

The cabañas had been upgraded in recent years, but still fairly basic, but at a price to match. We managed dinner at El Pequenio, but were too tired for Pisco sours and Cabernet Sauvignon – just a small Crystal. Fell into bed dog tired, having scribbled down some key words from which I now write this missive.

Altos de Talinay

Camanchaca coming over the hills along the PanAm Highway at Altos de Talinay.

Today’s pictures are very limited – one taken as the camanchaca fog came pouring over the hills between the Ocean and the PanAm, aka Ruta 5 and the rest are filed as a ‘no cacti’ as S2833 – the Bahia Club Cabañas.

We’ll be back at Bahia Club in 2013!

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