It seemed to be an ominous sign that there was a stack of ‘Your rights with LAN Airlines’ brochures at the check-in counter, but in the end our plane didn’t take off too long after it was meant to, and we made up the time during the flight and landed on time. For a while there though, we did wonder if the plane was ever going to board and take off.
Flying over the Andes was interesting, we had to do full-on landing procedures with seat backs and tables upright, seat belts on, crew all seated. I tried not to think too much about that movie ‘Alive’ or ‘Survive’ or whatever it was called, the one about the team of young sportsmen whose plane crashes in the Andes.
We felt a bit special going through Immigration at Santiago Airport. And not in a good way. Chile charges a reciprocity fee for Australian and Mexican travellers. Only Australians and Mexicans. There are special counters set up and thankfully they accept credit card payments. Mexicans pay USD$23, Australians pay a whopping USD$117 per person, valid for 90 days. As Greg said, we must have seriously pissed the Chileans off, with whatever hoops they have to jump through to travel in Australia. The young woman who attended to us told us that there were 4 Australians on the flight. We chatted with one of them a few times at Rio Airport, and again in Santiago and he thought the same as we did – no way will Rio be ready for the Olympics in early August.
The rest of the Immigration and Customs process was straightforward and quick … not many foreign tourists on our flight, it was mostly Chileans coming back home. All our luggage was x-rayed as we went through Customs. They have Australian levels of scrutiny, which may be a nuisance for us when we’re driving to and from Patagonia and reentering Chile via Argentina – no plant or animal products allowed, so we’ll have to plan our food purchases carefully.
Taxi to the apartment all went smoothly, but the key to the apartment wasn’t at the reception desk as our hostess had promised. We waited a while and I was just about to send an SMS when someone arrived, so it all worked out okay. Nice apartment on the 9th floor of a 25-storey block. 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, pool and gym in building AND a laundromat on the ground floor. Yay! You can see more photos here
We’re staying a few blocks away from San Sebastian university, and there are museums, parks, the zoo and lots of restaurants and bars nearby. Greg has spent some time this morning trying to get a prepaid SIM card and has just come home with one that he’s happy with. Our mental arithmetic skills are being tested – one Argentinian peso is worth about 2/10ths of a cent … ie, there are around 500 pesos to the AUD. I’m sure it will become second nature to just divide everything by 500.
We pick up the campervan tomorrow and the road trip will begin!
A belated Happy Australia Day, everyone. I hope however and whoever you spent it with was enjoyable.