Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Santiago Chile -- the bonus day

I have safely arrived in Atlanta (as have Beverly and Elspeth). Here is yesterday's post, written on the plane:

Today should have been an uneventful (almost boring) start of a long trek home. It turned out to be anything but.

We left Castro in our shuttle van with about 45 minutes of extra time built into the schedule for those of us with the early (1:50 pm) flight to Santiago. Things were going swimmingly until our driver, Carlos, abruptly pulled over to the side of the road. It turned out that the fuel line on this diesel engine had separated because the clip that holds it had failed. Carlos, tried to work on it, Bill, the engineer in the group, tried to help, and Jeff, our bilingual photographer got out to translate, while Mike and I got out to kibbitz.
Carlos at work with Jeff advising 

Despairing of success, Carlos called for a backup van – with an estimated arrival time of one hour. After we had given up, he walked several hundred yards to a home, obtained some fencing wire, and did a Rube Goldberg repair that held the line well enough that we got started again. Gambling on success, it was decided to have the backup van wait for us at the far side of the ferry crossing.

Driving as if in a rally, Carlos got us to the ferry in good time and we crossed to the mainland. With little time to spare, Carlos continued speeding to the airport, and the backup van followed in case it should be needed. We made it to the airport in plenty of time for those of us booked on the early flight to Santiago.

Now it is 3pm in Santiago and my flight to Atlanta does not leave until 10. An airport tout latches on to me, suggesting a city tour. When I decline, he graciously shows me where to check my bags, since I can’t check in for the international flight until after 7pn. Then, to make a long story short, I decide to take the tour of Santiago.

My new best friend connects me with Eduardo, “an English speaking guide” who will show me around the city and get me back to the airport in time for my flight. We agreed on a price of $80. WE HAD A WONDERFUL TIME. Eduardo’s English was about as good as my Spanish, and we just kept switching languages as necessary. He took me to all of the highlights of the city, and seemed to have a magical touch with the local constabulary. He parked wherever he wanted, despite the no parking signs, gave a nod to the nearest policeman, and walked with me to the principal attractions of Santiago – the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Plaza de Armas, the Castillo Hidalgo and several other sites.

I am so glad that I decided to do this instead of simply sitting in the airport. I didn’t really appreciate how much of the flavor of a city one could get in such a short time.

I am writing this on the plane and will post it as soon as I have internet access – probably in Atlanta.

Guy with the carabinieri
The Chilean flag behind me

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