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Archive for the ‘Chile 2007’ Category

Wednesday 12 December 2007 – Lonquen to Durrington via Santiago and Heathrow pt 2

A peek out of the plane’s window as I woke up revealed another snow covered mountainous landscape, this time the Pyrenees. Later, thick cloud cover obstructed the view of the Alps as we approached Zurich for our brief European stop over.

The temperature at Heathrow on arrival back in the UK was the same value as when we left Santiago: 32. The difference was that here it was degrees Fahrenheit, while in Santiago it had been Centigrade. Angie was there to welcome me home and as she drove me back to Durrington, there was an opportunity to take the last pictures of the trip, a glorious sunset over Wiltshire, timed at 16:06 as we approached the Amesbury exit of the A303.

While it’s good to be back home, I always prefer to have plans for future trips already on the table. So it may come as no surprise to discover that some of these Diary pages were written on holiday in Cologne, Germany where we celebrated Christmas with Angie’s family and in less than a week from completing this page, Angie and I will be in the air on our way to Lima, Peru, but this time on a South American Tourist Highlights package tour, also taking in Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil.  As you can tell, I hate the dark days of (European) winters!

Saturday 3 November 2007 – Durrington to Guanaqueros via Santiago pt2

Andy and John were the first to arrive safely at around 9:30 a.m. in Santiago, soon to be followed by the Air France contingent, despite the threat of strikes in France that had worried them for most of the preceding week. They were met by representatives of LYS Rent a Car, our usual supplier of the 4×4 pick up trucks that we use on these trips. This time they took delivery of 2 Nissan Terranos, with a covered back to the pick up and before too long set of on their journey to Guanaqueros, some 450 km north of the Airport for our first night’s rendez vous. Leo and I also arrived on time at around 11:45, 20 hours and 10 minutes after leaving London, having spent a total of 16 hours and 17 minutes in the air to cover a distance of 13,252 km. As our third car was a late booking, our contact, Andres Gabor, had no other suitable 4×4’s available, but had arranged a deal with Budget Rent A Car, who have a desk at the airport. Our Mitsubishi was as good as the Toyota Hiluxes of previous trips in getting us to any place we needed to go to see cacti.

Having finalized the formalities with the car, Leo guarded our luggage in the car while I went back into the Airport arrival lounge to meet up with Trevor Sellman who arrived an hour after us from Australia, to complete our car party. Glaswegian folk rockers Travis were due to arrive around the same time, so Trevor was quite impressed with the welcoming committee, including a number of attractive young ladies, that I appeared to have organised. We tore ourselves away and joined Leo in the car park.

Our first and only cactus stop on our way to Guanaqueros (S606) was along Ruta 5, the Pan American Highway, as Leo, from behind the steering wheel, driving at the max. permitted 120 km per hour, spotted some cacti in flower on the rocky hillside along the side of the road. These turned out to be Eriosyce (Neoporteria) subgibbosa ssp nigrihorrida growing alongside Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis, the latter in bud or in flower.

At Guanaqueros we met up with the other two car parties. Our intended accommodation, cabañas at Club Bahia, were not available, but the advance party had found similar (in my mind better) cabañas a few hundred meters along at Las Dunas, where we shared 2 chalets between 9 people. This included a total of 4 sets of bunk beds, testing our old bones as to who would / could sleep in the top beds.

We enjoyed our first Chilean meal, in the fish restaurant in the centre of the village where, in 2001, I had celebrated my birthday. As would happen repeatedly on the trip, I could hear echoes of the voices of people with whom I had shared this experience on previous trips and who were remembered in toasts to absent friends.

As we were leaving the El Pequeño restaurant, a voice shouted ‘Hello Ian!’. It was Peque (Magdalena Garcés), one of the Chilean participants of the 2003 Copiapoathon, but now married and not so interested in cacti anymore. It was like walking into your local restaurant or pub, 13,000 km from home and meeting an old friend. It’s a small world! 

Finally, some 48 hours after getting up in Durrington, I put my head down and was asleep within seconds.

Friday 2 November 2007 – Durrington to Guanaqueros via Santiago pt 1

It was about 3:00 on Friday afternoon, 2 November when Angie dropped me off at the Terminal 2 Car Park at London’s Heathrow Airport. Unlike last year, she would stay in the UK as her holiday entitlement for the year was already used / committed.

I was quite early, as our flight was not due to leave until 18:35, but the road systems around London are often heavily congested, particularly on a Friday afternoon and Angie had to be back home in time for her son Adrian to come home from College.

As I pushed my trolley into the departure hall, I bumped into Cliff Thompson, who had arrived even earlier by coach. John Childs and his partner Billy, and Andy Woods from Cardiff had also beaten me to the airport. Soon we were joined by Leo van der Hoeven, Sarda & Ian Woolnough and Mike Harvey. No sooner was the party complete, it started to break up, as we were split over 4 different flights to Santiago, due to the different times of booking the cheapest flights. So, while Andy & John flew with Iberia from London to Madrid to Santiago, Sarda & Ian, Mike and Cliff caught the Air France flight via Paris while Leo and I had the best deal for our longer flight from Swiss Air, via Zurich and Sao Paulo in Brazil. Billy stayed behind and would join John at the end of the Copiapoathon proper for a three week non-cactus holiday. So, potentially a recipe for disaster with so many bodies and their luggage taking so many different routes to the same place. However, it all went very smooth, without any hiccups, except that Mike nearly missed his flight as Security wanted to have a chat about his Swiss Army pen knife that he had forgotten to remove from his hand luggage.

Leo and I had an uneventful flight to Sao Paulo and on to Santiago