Towards the harbour

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(>Pictures at the bottom!)

…..the last days in Chile

The flag of Argentina became smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror as we headed west from “Paso Cristo Redentor” over the gravel road towards the tarred strip further down. Yes, our days were numbered in the southern part of South America and the date for the car drop-off in the port of “San Antonio” was sent to us via WhatsApp a few hours ago.

We were already familiar with the entry formalities and the whole procedure at customs, but nevertheless we approached the border posts with a certain tension. We quickly had the feeling that the official was handling a European vehicle for the first time, as she kept asking us whether the car really came from Europe and had to ask her colleagues a lot of questions. After the paperwork was done, the border officials wanted us to completely clean out our car and put all the bags and boxes through some X-ray machine, which would probably have taken several hours. The drug dog was finally our salvation: After he had sniffed around everywhere with his nose and 2 bags were x-rayed from the roof, we were given the all-clear. We were suddenly freed from further controls. I wonder if it was because of the entry and exit stamp of Bolivia. We don’t know, but we were glad that the dog did a lot of the work for us and that we didn’t have to clean out the whole jeep.

With some relief, we drove down the long valley towards “Los Andes”, where we got the necessary material for the conversion of the vehicle interior in a crafts shop. Our car has to be prepared for sea transport so that it will be free from view – as far as possible – and appear empty to prying eyes.

After cleaning the outside of the jeep, we settled down at a campsite where we were surrounded by Chilean campers. The quiet nights in the mountains were now over; every single group tried to drown out the other group with their jukebox. The barbecues were also smoking away from early in the morning until late at night, and there was always something on the grill. Despite this almost chaotic music confusion and the smoking fires, the atmosphere was absolutely peaceful and so we used the time to do the handicraft work on the jeep and prepare it accordingly.

As our painting work on the wooden panels we need as a cover in our living quarters was dry faster than planned, we set off towards the Pacific. Maybe we will still find a secluded spot where we can treat ourselves to a short swim in the sea. Since we had already cleaned our jeep neatly for the boat trip, we left the countless gravel roads on the left and used the well-built road to “Concón”.

The increasing traffic at the seaside and holiday resort “Concón” was soon an indication that it was the weekend and everything was heading towards the sea. The towns along the sea were bustling with life and everyone who wanted to take a dip or just sunbathe was on this coastal road. There was no chance of finding a cosy spot for the night. In “Viña del Mar”, a long time ago it was a poor fishing village, but today it is a noble holiday resort of the rich people from the inland. We definitely had to give up our idea of a quiet place.

Instead, we crossed “Valparaiso” the same day and were a little surprised to see how a once thriving city is slowly heading towards its demise. The collapse of the phosphate trade, two strong earthquakes and a tsunami were too much for the city. The surrounding settlements on the many hills gave us just as neglected an impression as the already thwarted city centre. On the other hand, the roads were so steep that even our jeep had to pant skywards through the narrow street canyons.

In “Laguna Verde” we found a wonderful campsite on a small lake lined with many trees. As the temperatures were a bit more pleasant than inland, we decided to stay longer on this spot. This gave us the opportunity to wash our bed linen and other clothes, as we will probably hardly have a chance to do so in the next few weeks. I (Tom) also took the opportunity to check our Jeep closely, grease various joints and check the various oil levels. When fitting the front tyres, I was shocked to discover that the wheel nuts were no longer up to scratch as the threads were damaged and needed to be replaced.

So the following day in Valparaiso we looked for an appropriate specialist shop that had ½” nuts for my wheels in stock and I could buy them at a reasonable price. After a long search and with the help of a tyre dealer, I finally found myself in the right specialist shop where these nuts were in stock. With completely replenished wheel nuts, we drove towards Santiago, where we rejoined the group west of there.

At this “orange finca” west of Santiago we were able to finish all the work for the upcoming boat trip. All the material that was lying somewhere and -like in the car had to be stowed away accordingly and covered by the plate, in the hope that this view-free interior would spare us from certain surprises. Excess material, for which we couldn’t find any more space by any stretch of the imagination, we were allowed to leave in the garage of other campers.

For us, as well as for other participants, another overnight stay in our own camper was no longer possible. So we spent the last night before handing over the vehicle in a hotel in the immediate vicinity of “San Antonio” and thus did not have to jump out of bed at inopportune times in order to be at the harbour on time. The handover itself was a lengthy affair for us, but by South American standards everything probably went very quickly. But we had to be very patient while waiting and were already worried that it would take well into the evening. All’s well that ends well; suddenly there was a lot of dynamism in the delivery of the vehicles and we were able to reach the hotel in “Santiago” shortly before rush hour.

The last day in Chile, which was actually planned as a buffer day, was available for a sightseeing tour of “Valparaiso”. I could no longer motivate Chantal for this city visit and so only a few of our group travelled to the Pacific once more and intensively dealt with the core area of the once great city, which was actually classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO before the earthquake. Our knowledgeable guide showed us very beautiful nooks and crannies of this city, told us a lot of interesting facts about the history and the great dreams of the city that might not come true anymore.

Back in “Santiago”, we had to stow the remaining things for our onward journey in our travel bags before hiding under the covers. The flight to “Quito/Ecuador” via “Panama” will be long and exhausting. We will also travel to our destinations by plane and luxury bus and spend the nights in some hotel while our motorhome rocks across the sea.

We are curious to see how we will like this other life – a life with a little more luxury.

Chantal & Tom/2023-03-18

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