Well, the Chile 2013 adventure is nearly over and just to rub it in I’m staying at another big business hotel 1 km from Santiago Airport, using a 30% discount voucher from the 2013 Copec Map book. But don’t get too excited – it was already cheaper on the internet and the discount could only be claimed from the desk price – another ‘fake deal’ that I will expose on various review sites when I get back.
The temperature outside as I went to collect the main luggage from the car – one of the rare occasions that the bag has left the car. I believe that I can still travel lighter. Next Spring I might test that. Just a matter of leaving home what ever I brought along this time and didn’t use.
I worked out that I would just about make it back with the money and fuel that I had, but then the doubts set in – how much were the tolls? It was very tight! So as I preach to reduce stress by exchanging uncertainty for certainty, I decided to drive north on R5 from Pichidangui to use the cash point at the Copec / Pronto. I had seen one near the banjos when Angie and I first stopped there in October. So it came as a bit of a shock when it turned out that in the mean time it had been replaced by a Christmas display and a gaming machine. I carried on to the next retorno at (another) Totorolillo, this one was my first cactus stop along R5 during the Chile 2001 trip and was a popular early stop again in 2003. By 2004 signs of change were clear and by 2006 there was a guarded gate across the track stopping us from inspecting the cactus friends that we had photographed along this stretch. Since then we have driven past in disgust – another site lost to cactus tourism due to human development.
Today my intention was only to turn round and head south, but I did notice that the gate and guard had gone – may be moved farther back to the small harbour, or may be the gate was just needed when there was so much building going on so that materials needed to be protected. Perhaps a quick look on a future occasion? I wonder how the small seedlings photographed in 2003 and 2004 in a crack in a rock have reached maturity yet.
For now I was keen to check out the availability of money at the west side of R5 and fortunately it was. Angie had already spotted some potential souvenirs for me to buy at the Airport – more Chilean cups etc. so I took out enough and added an extra 5.000 pesos of fuel to the car – I gather that fuel went up today to about £1 per litre.
When I got to the tunnel at El Melon, impulse made me take the scenic route over the hill; after all I had enough fuel now. It turned out to be a very scenic drive, excellent road surface zig-zagging up the hill and down the other side, a mere 10 minutes or so and saving 7.600 pesos on toll. Might do it again in nice sunny weather, with time on my side.
I arrived at the hotel two minutes after the 14:00 hrs earliest check in time and will stay until a few minutes before the noon kick out time tomorrow to get maximum value for money. Once at the airport I’m meeting Florencia to help me break the time for the flight at 21:00 hrs or there about.
I expect the next episode of the Diaries to be written from home in Amesbury announcing safe arrival sometime on Saturday. It was another fun trip and I’ll probably visit Chile again in future – 2015 seems the earliest date available although South Africa is also pencilled in for that year. Aahhrrgghh – choices!