Despite the bank party still going strong at 3am we had another refreshing night’s sleep ( I always wear ear plugs thanks to a certain person’s snoring) and as expected are greeted by yet another glorious breakfast at Hotel Il Giardino, including doughnuts and baklava. I don’t often feel deprived for not being able to eat gluten, but by god I’m feeling it now. Mr ‘what’s wrong with eating a whole packet of biscuits in one sitting?!’ is in his element. We’ll miss this place but it’s time to move on, and we’ve already decided that we’ll come back next time we visit Chile as it’s so close to Santiago, and yet feels like a country retreat.

We’ve checked out by 9am as today is the day for our first supermarket shopping experience in Chile, and we’re a little bit scared! Anticipating a heaving mass of shoppers in Rancagua’s Lider we’re amazed to find that it beats shopping in Sainsbury’s, that they sell gluten free bread, that other shoppers are polite, and that the choice of foods available is second to none. I hate shopping, but this is on a par with the IGA’s in Quebec – grocery shopping heaven. We buy far too much, including meat which we’re not even sure is meat, and head off for what will thus far be my longest drive ever, both here and in the UK.

Heading for Refugio Tricahue, we miss the turning for the gravel road (because Dervla decides that one side of the river is as good as the other, bridge or no bridge), and for probably the one and only time in my life I have to ask someone to show me the way to Armarillo. By this time my upper back is killing me so we’ll have to remember to take more breaks in future. I’m temporarily rendered speechless by a tiny gravel road which hugs the river cliff but it’s probably a good thing that I’m too tired to think about what could go wrong. We just want to get there. So I put all thoughts of driving over the cliff aside and eventually we reach the refuge. I forget that Dimitri is a Facebook friend and find it quite disarming that he knows who I am before I’ve even spoken, but then there aren’t many short, welsh woman driving around Chile at any one time. Dimitri hails originally from Belgium and has built this place from scratch by himself in less than ten years. He’s one of those people who makes you realise just what’s possible if you really put your mind to it. We’re staying in the Star room where we literally have a glass roof over the bed and a view of the solar system, and our own door onto the decking area and swimming pool. After making a cuppa in the small shared kitchen we settle down on the deck to talk to some of the other residents – a young French/British couple who’ve spent 7 weeks in Chile and are camping in the refuge grounds. Fortunately the fact that they are sitting there talking calmly stops me having a major freak out when a tarantula walks across the deck. I immediately pull my legs onto the seat of the chair, turn a lovely shade of grey, and start mumbling, but they assure me that it’s all going to be ok, that they’ve not had any walk into their tent (oh dear god, they’re brave souls) and that these ones can’t kill you. So there you have it. I’ve cried when I’ve seen house spiders in the UK, and here I’ve just dealt (sort of) with my first encounter with a big hairy thing. I’m a big girl now!

Rich cooked a chicken stir-fry for dinner once we could get into the kitchen and we spent the rest of the evening reading in our room under the stars. I’m being a big baby careful and keeping the door and window closed in case Incy Wincy tries to say hello again. Not having a mobile phone signal or access to the internet is so refreshing as it means that we can really engage with our surroundings and with each other, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy keeping a journal. Writing is good for the soul, some people say, and this is one activity I must keep up back home.

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