Well, here we are once again, base camp Santiago de Chile. That makes it five visits between December 2017 and January 2019.
We arrived from gloomy London (sorry Guy) on BA’s longest haul flight at 14 hours non-stop. This particular flight was a MUCH better experience than flying over to London in November, when we seriously questioned the quality of service and value for money provided, despite both flights being on a brand-new Dreamliner in Premium Economy. London to Santiago however still was nowhere near the standard provided by Qantas but a vast improvement and a really nice flight across the Atlantic. You know when you’ve hit the land mass of South America when you encounter turbulence crossing the coast during the night – the rattling bumps and urgent seatbelt check waking you up – but then as you soar above the Amazon, high over Manaus (I was checking progress on the flight map), you feel the sense of adventure rising, heightened even further when sunrise cracks on the distant curve-of-the-earth horizon and Lake Titicaca looms into view surrounded by misty mountains and towering volcanoes miraculously mirrored in the lake far below. Amazing view at what was probably 10 miles high! Then it was head down across Bolivia and into the dry-as-a-bone Atacama and finally across the dizzying high snow-capped peaks of the Andes and into the mid-summer heat of Santiago.
What we didn’t anticipate, perhaps naively, was our time of arrival – that’s 9am Sunday 6thJanuary. Possibly the busiest time of this year so far, the day before everyone returns to work. It was hell! An hour in a queue for immigration, another hour to retrieve bags and wrestle customs and all this in an airport that clearly can’t cope! They’re building a new airport next to the old one but that’s some years off completion, so if you’re contemplating coming to Santiago, be warned, the airport is old, tired and a disorganised mess!
Our home away from home whilst at ‘base camp’ is the Aubrey Hotel in Bella Vista Providencia, a wonderful 19thmansion-turned-hotel situated at the foot of San Cristobal. It’s billed as Santiago’s first truly boutique luxury hotel, and after trying a few other hotels claiming the same boutique status, we’ve come to love our time here, especially lazing by the gorgeous pool with a pisco sour in hand. Hard to beat, made even more lovely with the upgrade to the fabulous San Cristobal Suite, our home away from home!
First up in the morning (6am) we head back to the airport for our flight down to Puerto Montt, for our Patagonia adventure to begin. Reports to follow….