|As soon as the high altitude flight was done it was time to pack up and
leave, a sweaty job in 40 degrees. Flying was over and now we
had a few days holiday before our flights home. Everybody but us were
going back to Buenos Aires to do some filming for FIAT, we were going to
have a second attempt to get into Chile, this time by bus.
I returned to Aeroclub Mendoza to retrieve my microlight crate and pack
up, so having loaded my van once that day, I had to unload it, dismantle
the trike, fix it on the palette and then load it all again. By the time
I got back to the hotel I was knackered.
In the meantime Nicky had been to the bus station to buy tickets. This
being high season, if we wanted to go next day we had to divide
ourselves across two buses, not ideal, but there as no other option.
Nicky, Hugo and Marco, the expedition doctor, who wanted to fly home
from Santiago as soon as possible took the early one and then the girls
and I the second several hours later. While they waited for us Nicky
was going to hire a car so we could get to the beach near Quintero to
stay with our friend Henrietta who had moved to Chile six or seven years
Both buses were late, there was a three hour delay at the border because
of the volume of traffic (it really makes you appreciate the ease with
which you can cross borders in Europe these days) so by the time I got
to Santiago it was already 10pm. Because of the holidays Nicky had
found no cars for hire at all so we took another bus to Quintero. We
got there at 2am.
Chile is considerably more developed than Argentina but I was told
several times that it all depends on who you know. For example, we
still wanted to hire a car. Max, one of Henrietta's sons said he had a
school friend who's dad hired cars. We went there but no, all sold out,
15 day wait. We went off to find Max's friend, returned, and suddenly
they were all smiles, no problem at all, what size would you like? You
can even leave it at Santiago airport if you want.
This was perfect for us as my family were all off home from Santiago.
We had a very pleasant couple of days on the beach and then I left them
at the airport and returned the car.
I then took a bus back to Mendoza. More by luck than judgment I chose
an Argentinian minibus rather than one of the bigger ones. When we
arrived at the Argentinian border post there was a much bigger queue
than when we'd entered Chile, four hours wait at least was my estimate.
The minibus driver had other ideas though, we were only 5 passengers
and he somehow managed to nip past all the buses, sneak between the
queues of passengers having all their luggage inspected, and got us out
within 30 minutes. Quite an achievement.
Back in Mendoza Beto invited me to a Parilla with some microlighting
friends at Jorge Caoa's house. Jorge showed me an amazing photo of him
flying a hang glider back in 1976, the year he became Argentine hang
The next two days I had the long drive back to Buenos Aires in my van.
It was an unusually grey day in Mendoza and a few miles out of town it
started raining. It rained on and off all the 1100 Km back to Buenos
Here, it's been pissing down for days, most unusual the locals say.
We've finished packing all our kit and it's all now at the FIAT
Argentina place waiting to be shipped back home, I'm off tomorrow.
So; what did I think of Argentina? I think it's a great place. Almost
everyone I met was more than helpful, (or perhaps they just didn't
understand my terrible Spanish) it's a beautiful place and I'd
love to see more of it.
The opportunity may come sooner than I might normally expect; It seems
the Furzea Area (air force) and FIAT are highly satisfied by the
publicity surrounding this expedition, it's been all over the newspapers
and TV here, and Angelo is suggesting to them right now the idea of "the
7 summits", doing the same thing over the highest mountain in every
continent. We've done the two highest already, the most difficult
logistically is certainly Mt Vinson in Antarctica, and of course the
nearest point to Antarctica is Argentina.....