Well, here we are all safe and sound and ready for the start of our grand trip in sunny Chile. The journey started on Sunday 4th when we left London to miss our connecting flight in Paris to Santiago. We had an unexpected delightful day of rest in Paris at the expense of Air France, as they caused the delay leaving London. We finally left on the evening of the 5th January arriving in Chile at Santiago at mid-day on the Tuesday 6th. We decided to rent a car (at US$44 a day) for the first few days until we sorted out the release of the bikes. Our first evening in Chile was spent in the area of La Providencia in Santiago and to be honest it felt more like the Costa del Sol than Latin America with its proliferation of bars, restaurants & nightclubs. Still we got to the nearby Kuehne & Nagel office (our shipping agents) where we quickly sorted out what needed to be done to release the bikes, which hopefully were waiting in storage in Valparaiso. In our initial impressions of Chile, we were immediately struck by how open & friendly the people are. Everywhere on our first day – from the car rental office, the hotel receptionist and then meeting all of the staff including the lovely Catalina at K&N office – we were met by smiling friendly people who really went that little extra to help. Catalina arranged a customs broker for us in Valparaiso to do all of the necessary paperwork for the bikes and we set off early next morning for a 9:30 appointment with Jorge Meza at his office.
It took us from 9:30am to 4pm to secure release of the bikes from customs, taking the necessary paperwork from Jorge’s office to the Aduana (customs house) to obtain the release papers for the bikes, with side trips to the port authority & back to the office. Ingrid – a lovely young girl from Jorge’s office – stayed with us all day including the trip out to SAAM, the depot where the bikes were actually held in bonded storage. Ingrid was full of smiles & laughter, with a lovely way with people that easily smoothed over any queries or comments on the paperwork. At SAAM we were surrounded by a gaggle of young warehouse personnel, male & female, who were all interested in what was coming out of the crates. They carefully crow-barred the wooden crates apart, this effort being led by the jokester Pedro and by 7pm, both bikes were finally out, had their batteries reconnected and a gallon of petrol added. We were chuffed to bits when both started first time after being at sea for 2 months! Everyone we met today was very professional and helpful towards releasing the bikes. There was not the slightest whiff of bribery or corruption, but a lot of interest in our forthcoming trip.
Once the bikes were released we rode to Viña Del Mar, a rather upmarket seaside resort where we have spent the last few days sorting out our kit & the bikes in the lazy sun. The weather has been cool & grey in the mornings at the coast but hot & sunny in the afternoons with temperatures in the low 20˚C’s, which is fine and not too hot. Viña has the feel of a Mediterranean resort with prices to match, but it has been a lovely place to break us into our trip. Our main drawback to date has been our lack of Spanish – we just didn’t have enough time to learn anywhere near enough to get by. Still we are managing OK in English, French (which we used all day with Ingrid) and a little German (with our hotel receptionist) and we are slowly picking some Spanish up the hard way – through necessity!