Agnese is writing:
The apartment where we spent last night finally had everything we wanted to feel good – as Andra said last night – we don’t need that much – only everything! There was wifi, good kitchen with washing liquid, matches, pots, pans, hot water all the time. The bath was, however, so ridiculously small (1m long) that I specifically tried it out for that reason.
Half of the apartments we rented out were meant for 7 people with a hope that the sofa will be big enough for the 8th. This worked in most cases, but for a backup we had taken one sleeping bag and one tourist mat with us. In this case the sofa would have been big enough as well, but it didn’t look stable enough, so me and Dora slept in an otherwise single bed which was big enough for both of us.
In the morning we tried to contact the car rental and tell about the check engine light again (the previous days the online chat was interrupted by no phone coverage on the highway). They said it will be looked at when we return our cars. OK with us as then we don’t need to spend time visiting any repair shop. We also checked the parking places and costs in Santiago center as that’s where we were going to spend some time when we arrive there in the afternoon. Some souvenirs, postcards and other purchases were still pending, and the last place to stay was not that inviting to go directly there. Here I must say that we only saw postcards in 2 places of our trip – Santiago center and La Serena market. Even La Serena post office only had ones with generic flowers while we were looking for sights of Chile.
On our way we notice an advertisement for empanadas and start craving for them. I search internet and realise after a while that the place we have passed, Huentelauquen, apparently has the best empanadas of all the Northern Chile – everyone is talking about them. But well, we don’t like to turn around, so find good reviews for a place next to the ocean in Los Molles village. When we arrive there (after a bit of driving to and fro since my map is only showing one street in the maze), it turns out that most empanadas kiosks are closed for winter season, but a couple are open as there are still a couple of surfers here. The pies are not cheap here – around 2000-3000CLP for one (1000CLP is about 1.3EUR), but there is big enough choice (crab-cheese, shrimp-cheese, napolitana, meat-cheese, champignon-cheese, olives-cheese, ham-cheese and many more) and they are tasty again. We eat one each and feel satisfied.
We continue our road to Santiago when I remember to look up what a Cherimoya fruit is (the appearance looked familiar) and am not surprised learning that this is a very close species to the tasty Srikaya fruits that we tried in Sulawesi. So I start looking for signs on the roadside booths and soon spot one saying Cherimoya. They are not fully ripe yet, so even better for transporting. Let’s hope that they are as tasty as srikayas!
After some time and several road toll booths and later beeps by our automatic toll-tag device we reach Santiago. We park the cars both for 5000CLP for 2 hours in a small private car park and are off to the town centre. There are lots of kiosks and people selling things, unfortunate for us those are not souvenirs, but snacks as well as hats, gloves, pants, jackets, stockings and other kind of general clothing. We even ask some policemen were we could buy souvenirs, but they seem to not know. Finally we find a small shop on the far side of central market and there are a couple inside the market already packing up for the day. The prices are quite good – in the airport they are more than twice higher.
At 6:30 it’s already dark and we meet at the cars to go to wash them. They are so dirty that we cannot give them back and hope that the rental guys will be able to check for any new scratches. In such a case it is said that any charges will be taken from the credit cards afterwards when such are found. We do not want to risk them finding something that was not there and prefer to have the car checked and confirmed fine already at the moment of returning them. Turns out the high pressure wash-yourself device in ‘Copec’ petrol station is simple enough to operate, but not so great at removing Atacama desert dust, so we help with some paper towels and toilet paper till the cars look if not totally clean then at least good enough for checks.
We fill up the cars using Anders’ last banknotes as this automated petrol pump for some reason is only taking the local bank cards, and then leave for the rental place to see if there is anything we can already sort out today. Tomorrow our flight leaves at 10:30, but the rental in city center only opens at 8:00, and we want to spend there as little time as possible. In the rental we find out that the staff are at work at 7:30 already and if we ask them nice enough, they should be able to check the cars before 8:00. So the plan is to take everyone and all the luggage to the airport at 6am, then for the drivers and Agnese to come back to the rental, return cars and then use Uber to get back to the airport.
We arrive at our ‘Casona’ and are almost the only guests there. Pack and weight our suitcases, exchange boots for bottles as those are not allowed in hand baggage, have some quick supper of microwaved pasta/rice &cheese and then go to sleep.