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Monday 10th May - Lima to Santiago de Chile
By Claire
Friday, 14th May 2004 00:09

We had doughnuts for breakfast (4 for 10 soles, how could I resist?!) and tracked down a bank and a satsumary and some last-minute postcards. Just after 11am a taxi picked us up and we made our way to the airport. Vendors were making the most of the traffic lights, jumping into the queues to sell nuts, cigarettes, plastic filing wallets and huge wooden models of sailing ships. At the airport we checked in, paid our departure tax and then wrote postcards and emails until it was time to board the plane. They made me x-ray all my films again, despite me explaining that I had a lot of machines to go through, which I was a bit unhappy about. The effect on film is cumulative, so I'm going to have to get them developed as soon as possible.

We were flying with LanChile and I decided I liked them immediately: we had little handsets that let me play tetris and video poker for three hours. I won a couple of thousand dollars, but unfortunately it was all just pretend. We flew through a pretty sunset and over some mountains, possibly the Andes, and the computer map on the screen was upside down, so that south was up, which upset me.

Chile is an hour ahead and we landed at about 7. By 7.30 we'd collected our bags, made it through immigration and customs (our bags were all x-rayed again), bought bus tickets and were sitting on the bus that would take us straight to the hostel. We arrived at 8 and it took us a while to find the hostel, even asking friendly policemen (with guns), because it had no sign. I liked Santiago immediately, though, it was really autumnal, great plane trees lining the roads, fog-shrouded streetlamps and people wrapped up against the cold. The traffic was calm and orderly, the cars were new and dentless, even the tatty buildings looked more permanent than in most of the places we've been in the last few weeks. It really felt like I imagine Christmas shopping in London or Oxford to feel like, if Christmas shopping were a good thing.

The hostel, when we'd tracked it down, was very surprising. It's a huge Georgian-style mansion with 14-foot ceilings and massive shuttered windows, parquet flooring and marble fireplaces, but it's as if a bunch of (very rich) students live here. The furniture is very nice, smart, but there's very little of it, and it's all comfy leather settees and huge communal dining tables. The kitchen is enormous but there are only three saucepans; the glass-fronted fridge is full of labelled carrier bags. Our room has a single light bulb and two bunk beds, that's it. I got the top one: Mikey promised me that he'd swap if I fell out.

There was a list of nearby ammenities on the wall in the hall, one of which was a supermarket, so we went out to explore. One and a half blocks later we were in the largest food shop since Waitrose in Cheltenham in March, and there were real things here, not just a shop with bottled water and crackers and the occasional bag of crisps. We found cheddar, real, live cheddar cheese, fresh bread, fruit, salad, the whole lot, things I've been dreaming of for so long! Mikey didn't let me buy Frosties for breakfast though, but I'm working on him.

After one of the nicest cheese and cucumber sandwiches in a very long time, we called it a night. And I didn't fall out of the bed, but I was very still, all night, just in case.

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