After several minutes of quietly discussing how come a nun could afford to fly business class on an Air France flight (we’d treated ourselves to premium economy, it being our honeymoon n’all – but entertained ourselves by spying on the business class occupants through the curtain) we were offered a glass of champagne. Now I love champagne, but can only drink half a glass otherwise I start doing Crazy Frog impersonations in the garden (I have witnesses), and since we discovered that cheese and onion crisps are the perfect accompaniment, we feel short changed when a glass comes without Walkers. Fortunately one of the air stewards took a shine to us and shared stories about his trips to Chile, and which foods we absolutely must try.
Several in-flight films later, including an attempt to watch Hunger Games over someone else’s shoulder as it looked a hell of a lot more interesting than The Batchelorette Party, we landed at Santiago airport, talked about Anthony Hopkins and Shirley Bassey with the nice men at the Alamo car hire desk, this being the extent of all they knew about Wales, and with sleep in our eyes walked over to the car collection point. I don’t think they’ve ever had a customer suddenly start pleading for a smaller car when presented with a large 4×4. Despite the panic in my voice even Rich joined them in shrugging their shoulders as if to say ‘what’s she on? Why wouldn’t you want a tank of a car on your first attempt at driving in a foreign country? Who cares if this is South America, and you’ve only had your driving licence a year?!’ Expecting to be allowed a few minutes to compose myself and learn how to drive an automatic I eventually got in the car, but when they started shooshing me out of the gate my lower lip actually started to tremble. To cut quite a long 90 minute car journey short, as we were rushed out of the car park and Rich was tired too we managed to drive all the way from the airport to Hotel Il Giardino, Rancagua, with the car in manual mode, but without doing what you’re supposed to do when it’s in manual mode. At one stage I had yelled above the din “is it supposed to be making that noise?” but R was as sleep deprived and and with him being deaf n’all, simply thought that I was being a girl. The following morning we discovered that we’d need to replace the oil, but fortunately that the car would live another day, if driven in automatic mode. I’m a fast learner! As for the toll both experience. Well we’ll not forget that you’re supposed to hold onto the ticket and use it at the exit points in future. When you’ve had a Chilean juggernaut lorry driver trying to squash you it tends to make you think quickly. Screaming ‘ayudar, ayudar! (help, help!) out of the window at other drivers also helps too, and eventually they come over and do the ticket thing for you. Stupid british tourists. Dervla tried to persuade me to do a u-turn across 6 lanes of motorway traffic to get to the hotel exit road, but it was far too early in the trip to be taking part in such shenanigans, so after a polite “fook off Dervla” from me, we took a service road and eventually Dervla re-calibrated.
Hotel Il Giardino, near Machali – nearest city Rancagua, really was an oasis. Despite catering predominantly to business customers and weekend weddings the rooms and gardens are palatial, and the food to die for. On arrival a lunch of ham and chips really hit the spot, despite being classed as a mere beer snack, and the pil pil fish for dinner that night was so good I’m going to be asking for the recipe. We had the chef to ourselves, the dining room was lovely and cosy, and the food not expensive. Rich savoured his first beer in Chile – a Kautmann, and I partook of a local red called Syrah. Look at me sounding like a wine aficionado!
Despite the driving mishaps, as I expected today’s trip did wonders for my confidence. I only got beeped at that toll, I was overtaking in no time on Ruta 5 (Panamerican highway), and my knowledge of Spanish improved by leaps and bounds. I just know that Chile is going to get under our skin, in a very good way.