Today we landed back in the UK. Thanks to spotty wifi and utterly excusable holiday-induced laziness, I haven’t managed to blog about every place that we visited in Chile, so I will catch up with a few posts this week. Our visit to see flamingos on the great Atacama Salt Flats and the high altitude blue lagoons of Miscanti and Miñique are worth a post each in their own right.
We began travelling back from the Atacama desert on Monday 15th April, at 6.45am. We touched down at Heathrow at about 3pm on Tuesday 16th. Tomorrow, Wednesday 17th, we will make the 6 hour journey back to Penzance. That’s more travelling than I have ever done before, and whilst I loved visiting Chile, I think that a little break from any adventuring afar is in order!
We were collected by minibus from our hotel in San Pedro de Atacama, and driven to Calama airport (an hour and a quarter by road) for an internal flight to Santiago at 9.20am. During the journey we watched the sun rise over the Andes, which is always magical. At Santiago we collected our baggage and found our way to the international departures terminal where we checked in to our flight to São Paulo in Brazil at 2.50pm. However, due to some congestion in Argentinian airspace, we didn’t leave until 3.50pm for the four hour flight.
This wasn’t a problem for us, as we had until 11.55pm to wait for our 11 hour connecting flight to London. The air side of São Paulo airport was pretty dismal, with only very limited and expensive options to eat, so we held out by consuming the various packets of snacks which we had collected from other flights. The other annoyance was that security at São Paulo confiscated my water bottle, despite it being bought airside in Santiago, and my compliance with their request to drink some of it in front of them. Just 20 metres away after this little ordeal (which included x-raying my hand luggage 3 times and a full search of it) was the duty free shop, selling all manner of highly alcoholic beverages. I am not sure what their problem was given it was just water. Experiences like this can put people off travelling by air, which is a shame.
There – that’s off my chest! Tonight we are staying at our London basecamp (read: Tehmina’s parents house) and early in the morning it’s back home to our dear Penzance.
Chile is an amazing country in every way. So beautiful, such diversity, genuinely wonderful people, great architecture (Spanish colonial through to adobe churches, to modern glass and steel museums), all framed by the watchful presence of the Andes. Will I go back? Without a doubt. Will I learn a bit more Spanish next time? Absolutemente! I have Tehmina to thank for her talents in picking up a new language as she goes, and having the confidence to make mistakes and learn from them whilst I cower at the back smiling benevolently.
Right, time for some sleep to re-educate my body as to what time, or indeed what day, it is.