Bumpy flights are no fun. Nor is having a glass of red wine spilled over you mid-flight. But all this fades into insignificance as you start to descend from a 14 hour flight down over the Andes and spot your Chilean destination, Santiago in the distance.
Santiago is such a beautiful place and our love for it must have shown on our faces as once on the ground we positively hopped, skipped, and jumped off the plane towards immigration and customs. A smartly dressed official caught our eye as we cantered down the slope to. arrivals area. He beckoned us over. "Where are you from?" he asked in perfect English. Answering with all the joy of a Brexit Remoaner "Er... sorry... The UK. Is that ok?" He beamed back at us. "Of course!" and waved us through bypassing the usual queues. And then waved at us again. What's he doing that for? Oh, he's waving goodbye. Anglophiles? Gotta love them.
Our transfer agents Paulina and Maximo met us on the other side of the gate and we were soon in a limo heading into town. Although for us the joy of seeing Santiago was going to have to wait. For we had decided first to spend a few days out of the city to begin our South American adventure. In a hilly place on the coast known locally as "Little San Fracisico". It is a Chiliean port town with steep funiculars, colourful clifftop homes, and seven universities. The place with more graffiti than a rundown New Town underpass. A magical place. A place we had fallen in love with on our last trip to Chile. The beautiful UNESC World Heritage site that is Valparaíso.
We had taken a chance and were due to be staying in a hotel we hadn't been to before, the Casa Higueras - perched on a hill overlooking the historic old town. Luckily it turned out to be everything we had hoped it would be - an old historic house on five levels, beautifully converted rooms, a private balcony, and views to die for.
Once checked it, we fought off our jet lag by talking a little walk around the local area, thinking we could just reminisce about places we had visited before. But we soon discovered that there was a big event going on in town. A noisy one at that. An urban downhill cycle event. Complete with outside broadcast TV cameras, huge crowds, and a thumping DJ set.
The steep streets of the city made for a perfect downhill course for such an event and we joined the crowds and oohed and aahed as the riders raced down from the hills. Once at maximum speed the riders launched themselves at the makeshift ramps, and jumped down the narrow streets with that bonkers mix of bravery and idiocy that young daredevils so excel at.
It was a suitably entertaining end to what had been a very long day of travelling.
A day of spills, hills, and crazy breakneck thrills.