Days 5 & 6 (29th & 30th Nov.)
The bike was due to arrive on Tuesday 28th November and we could pick it up from the cargo area at Santiago airport anytime on Wednesday the 29th, so we were originally told. However, when we arrived at the offices of Ultramar (the agents dealing with the import of the bike at this end) at 11.00 on the Wednesday morning, they said that the plane hadn’t landed yet (and that it was due to land at 11.30) and for us to return at 4.30pm. This was going to be a long day…….luckily we had a crossword book so we spent many hours doing many crosswords, wandering around the cargo area watching the planes take off, and the hive of activity as people came to collect their imported goods. We tried our first Empanadas (a sort of Chilean Cornish pasty with meat, egg and olives) for lunch and the time actually went by fairly quickly. Finally, when 4.30pm came, we took our papers to Ultramar and paid the money due, and then set off to the customs office to get the necessary Temporary Import Permit, as without one, we would have a severe problem getting a vehicle out of the country. The customs official serving us didn’t appear to know what he was doing and told us the import permit didn’t need to be stamped until we rode the bike away, despite us querying this matter. As we had thought, when we got to the goods holding warehouse we were told that the permit should have been stamped and we couldn’t progress collection of the bike. The very helpful chap dealing with us kindly went back to customs to sort it out for us – the time was now ticking away and we were getting concerned that we may have to return the next day. Eventually, all was confirmed as being in order and that the bike could be released from the crate.
The warehousemen were almost as excited to see the bike as we were and took pictures of themselves with it, and of us with it! Finally, we were ready to leave at about 8.30pm and now we had to get to Valparaiso, a coastal town some 60 miles away, breaking 2 of our own safety rules on the first day….not to ride at night or to look for our accommodation in the dark. However, we really had no choice and after filling up with fuel rode to our destination. Valparaiso is a large town with 250,00 inhabitants, with the houses being set in a series of steep hills around the working port. The roads were very steep and not well signed which made it very difficult to find the apartment we’d booked. Mark did some amazing U-turns on roads with gradients of around 1 in 10, and with a tight turning circle demonstrating his advanced riding skills(!), only to be seen by a few sleepy stray dogs and undesirables wandering around. Thankfully, when we arrived, the concierge was very helpful and directed us to the underground car park and then up to our flat. By now it was 11.30pm, but at least we had made it there ok and could now start properly planning our onward route in the morning.
Waking up the following morning, we made a beeline for the roof terrace which came with our apartment……the views over town and sea were excellent, as was the view behind us where houses of all colours lined the one of the several hills which make up the town. We wandered into the town to have a look around the port and to have lunch, and to use one of the several funicular railways which provide access to the seafront from the surrounding hillsides.