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Subject: Chile


Many of you know we have now finished our voyage and are now home. However I wrote this when we were in Ushuaia so we might as well send it!

Here’s a bit of what happened after our last email (over 6 months ago!!!)

Despite our first impressions of Chile with its super highway we were soon to be reminded that we were in South Am eric a . San Pedro de Atacama, whilst being an attractive town with it’s central plaza (well after the Bolivian dessert most things are attractive!), didn’t have a bank never mind an ATM and the Cambios refused to accept our US dollar notes because they had a 2mm tear that was barely discernable. Frantic ripping of book covers and demolishing our other emergency money hiding places, disclosed a single note that the casa de cambios would condescend to accept. Just as well as it was Stani ' s birthday & she wanted to celebrate! But it definitely was a tourist town; she got charged the equivalent of US$10 for each vodka & (fake) orange juice she consumed.

Camping in the garden of a Swiss guide who lived there, we got to experience the first modern tiled bathroom we’d encountered for months - only spoilt by the fact that the water had been cut off. We began to get the feeling that the water shortages seemed to be following us around. But an even more unfortunate part of our stay was that the day we arrived, things started going missing in our host’s house. Naturally our host could only suspect us - but was a little confused as the 1st things to disappear were sausages! (For those of you who don’t know - Stani has been a vegetarian for 15 years now) We knew nothing of these occurrences until our last day when he confessed his suspicions and the fact that his girlfriend had just informed him that things had gone missing prior to our arrival whenever his neighbour’s wife was around. We still felt bad though as our arrival had provided the thief with what she (?) considered a better opportunity to steal.

We left Chile via Paso Sico - ignoring the newly paved Jama pass. Something we never regretted as the scenery was outstanding and provided us with the opportunity to see the famed "tren de los nubes" (train of the clouds) as it chugged past us. It also gave us the opportunity to observe further the differences between the richer and poorer countries of this continent. The carabineros (Chilean police who guard the frontiers) were delighted to see us - being miles from anywhere & totally isolated. They had a little pot-belied wood stove to warm themselves with but not much else. Things turned a little sour when the subject of our nationalities came up. The Swiss cyclists were invited in for coffee - as was Richard. At the word `Inglaterra´ the smile dropped & was replaced by a gruff

`Well you can’t pass this frontier´ 

`Perhaps tomorrow´ I countered

`Not then either´

I hoped he was joking & instead followed the direction the others had disappeared to - fearing I would even be barred from getting out of the cold. A few minutes later he reappeared and asked me where I was born.

`Czech Republic´

`Why do you have an English passport? ´

`Because I don’t have to pay for a visa with a British passport but with a Czech one I do.¨

Big smiles followed & he informed us how much he liked the Czechs and so on. On enquiring how many Czechs he’d met (I haven’t met many and was surprised that so many should be passing this remote frontier), he paused and considered his reply

`Including you? One.´

On we continued to the Argentinian side - a day away in cycling terms. We were surprised at the frontier - Paso Sico. Yes it was dry but paso? We came down a mountain onto one of those dead straight, dead flat never ending roads. Half way down it, was the frontier. Where was the pass?

Down another mountain - there was the Argentinian customs.  Huge superstructure out of the future, 4 huge gas cylinders & satellite dishes (one’s that dwarf those ugly satellite TV dishes). Inside rows of glass fronted rooms - filled with computer hardware. But the thing that hit us 1st was the central heating - radiators! I think the last time we encountered those was in the USA ! Obviously a very busy frontier to be so technologically advanced. We peeked in the book while he wrote our details down - the only other traffic that week was 2 other cyclists that we knew - 3 days previously!

So we entered the land of mate, tango, obnoxious officials & fantastically warm & generous people.

As I didn ' t write anymore I ' ll leave it at that for the time being!

Ciao for now

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     Stani     &      Richard

Next newsletter: Argentina

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