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Published: April 1st 2016
We were pleased to be able to get to Auckland Airport early as we'd not been able to do an on-line check in for this flight. It was part of our Round The World air ticket and we had mysteriously lost access to that part of the Qantas menu to confirm them. No matter - we were at the airport to allow us plenty of time to check in the 'old-fashioned' way, which suited us just fine. However, despite being some of the first to check in, we were allocated seats which were in completely different parts of the plane and when you have an 11 hour flight ahead of you the prospect of spending that time seated next to a complete stranger was unthinkable! The ever-vigilant Steve spotted it straight away and we stood our ground, holding up the queue until we were given the apparently impossible-at-this-stage two-seats-together-near-a-window we had originally had allocated on our RTW ticket (for she who can't sleep on planes to look out of!). Phew!
Just to cap off our experience of Auckland, the camera battery had died on the way to the airport. I almost had a panic attack! What if the most perfect
photo opportunity presented itself and I had no means of taking a picture? I'd taken literally thousands of photos on this trip, many of them rubbish, but with the occasional little gem, and the thought of being without my battered but effective point-and-click camera was almost too much. I would try to manage with the phone camera instead, if necessary.
Remember how confusing I found all those different time zones in Australia, usually of just an hour or two? Well, this leg of the journey blew my mind. The flight itself was scheduled to take 11 hours. The LAN plane was very busy but we took off, on time, at 1835 on Tuesday 16.2.16. After an uneventful 10.5 hour flight, mainly in the dark, we landed at Santiago Airport at 1305 on Tuesday 16.2.16. Yup, we landed before we'd taken off. Get your head round that one then, because I just couldn't! This was time travel on a completely different scale. To compound the issue, Auckland is 16 hours ahead of Santiago (no, that's not a typo, there really is a SIXTEEN hour time difference) and I didn't know how that interfaced with the 11 hour flight and just
how far backwards in time we'd gone - or was it forwards?! What I did know was that my body clock was totally confused, though I couldn't begin to fathom how long it was that I'd gone without sleep ....
Our flight approach into Santiago had taken us across the Andes mountains. We've been to a couple of other South American countries (Peru, Bolivia - I know, how lucky are we?) where the Andes have been a major feature of the landscape and I have to put them at the very top of my list of mountain ranges, for their awe-inspiring majesty. I just love them so my eyes were glued to the plane window as we were coming in to land. Santiago sits in a bowl surrounded by the mountains, some of them still with snow on their peaks. I tried to eke out one more photo from my dead camera battery, but without success. No matter - I took a couple of snaps on the phone and it's imprinted in my memory cells.
There's something to be said for travelling through the English-speaking parts of the world. You can have a much more relaxed, spontaneous conversation
without having to consider each word carefully, or enunciate clearly, and you don't have to worry about being misunderstood, or not understood at all. You can also interject little 'asides' or engage in super-fast banter without fear of being considered a raving loony. The lack of a language barrier gives you greater access to the people and the culture, and that's a good thing. Australia and New Zealand were both wonderful for us in this respect. In many other countries, English is virtually a second language so, again, that's very helpful for us. Unfortunately for us, Santiago doesn't do a whole lot of English language, unless you're in the tourist trade, and who can blame them? Not me. We recognised the onus was most definitely on us to make ourselves understood in their language, in their country, using whatever means possible (sign language is pretty universal).
So, we adopted every technique we could think of. Steve wrote down the addresses of our hotels to show to the taxi drivers, and this worked well. We could manage the numbers in our limited Spanish if these were expressed in terms of digits (ie one eight four five zero pesos) but eighteen thousand four hundred and fifty pesos (delivered at speed in Spanish) was beyond us! Written down was better and punching the numbers into an old calculator worked just as well. Confusingly, the symbol for the Chilean peso is what we know as the dollar sign ($) and we were occasionally mistaken for Americans or Canadians so we needed to clarify just what currency was being operated at any given time. However, we managed to arrange a taxi and agree a price to our hotel in Santiago city and we checked in to Room 807 at the Park Plaza Hotel who knows how long after leaving New Zealand. I only knew I was completely exhausted and just wanted to crash out in our 'loft' of a room. Guess what? The body clock said otherwise and sleep was a long time coming .....
Santiago was to be our hub for our trip to Chile - we later worked out that we flew in and out of the airport six times. I'll report on the city in one complete blog at the end of our time there.
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