Just before we left Melbourne, Lyn looked up to see when we first did anything about organising this trip to South America. Surprisingly, it is almost 2 years to the date that the first couple made a firm enquiry about joining us. At the time we set up the group booking, we had sent only 3 or 4 people to South America in 23 years. Within 6 weeks of first advertising, we had 23 people make firm enquiries with a couple having to pull out due to sickness.
We had made a booking for a bus to transfer us from Woori Yallock to the Park Royal Hotel at Tullamarine. It’s always good to keep surprises in store for our group members and the jaws certainly did drop when an enormous black limo pulled up to transport us. The driver was the grey-beard type of individual suiting his task to the ‘T’. 11 of us were able to be comfortable for the 75 minutes transfer with many outsiders taking a second look at this long vehicle with a trailer on the back.
After a delicious meal and a pre-embarkation sleep, 17 of us left Melbourne at 6:30 (with lots of business men and women) for Sydney to be joined by an additional 2 where we transferred to our LAN Airlines Boeing 787 for Auckland and Santiago. 2 passengers met us in Auckland. The flight was quiet during the 11 hour apart from a couple of meals and many computer games to keep us amused.
As a New Zealander, I was feeling really good as we moved from the immigration point to collect our baggage because I didn’t have to pay the $US117 immigration fee into Chile. Countries have a reciprocal agreement with regards to immigration visa fees and New Zealand has a ‘no fee’ policy with Chile.
A check-in clerk in Melbourne had booked one of the bags through to Lima, why? we don’t know but it did cause a period of anxious waiting for one of our ‘new to travelling’ members. Patiently, everyone waited for the baggage to be found on a trolley bound for Lima in two days time. It was just a 20 minute transfer to our accommodation at the Grand Hyatt in the interesting city of Santiago. This is a VERY comfortable hotel – our room is enormous and looks out over a great pool with the Andes Mountain range in the close background. Snow still covers the mountains but, for some unknown ‘climate change reason’ there is just 5-10 cm rather than the normal 3-4 metres at this time of the year.
Some took an afternoon nap; some a nap by the pool; while others ventured out for a look see at the shopping precent before our evening meal a couple of blocks away in a seafood restaurant.
Tomorrow is a city tour of Santiago.