Next was Mendoza, and a bit of a comfort shock. Accustomed to travelling in the low season we had grown used to turning up to a new place before sorting that nights accommodation. However, in Mendoza we found EVEYTHING full. After driving 15km out of town in search of some cabins that didn't exist, we eventually found a campsite that had space (many didn't). Our hire tent was tiny with a few holes, a broken zip and no ground sheet or roll mats. Consequently we laid out all our clothes to sleep on and prayed for no rain. Obviously this hope was followed by the loud crack of thunder and multiple flashes of lightning. But somehow, no rain. Indeed, our luck with the weather held out during our last week and we had an awesome day cycling round local vineyards sampling the vino tinto.
From here it was a relatively short trip to Santiago, Chile, across the Andes. There was a spot of bother at the border when a keen nosed sniffer dog unearthed an apple from the depths of Matt's bag that he had foolishly not declared on his entry form. After a brief telling off, being made to rewrite the declaration, and assuring them that we were not fruit terrorists in a terribly British accent, we were eventually allowed in. I wonder now if it was worth the effort.
Our two days in Santiago were two days too many. After 12 hours exploring the utterly dead and overpriced city we decided to leave. This involved a day trip to Valparaiso, an old port on the coast commonly regarded as Chiles culture capital. On the whole we didn't see that much culture here, but we did join in a student protest at the congress building only to be shot at with water cannons and followed by large men in full body armour wielding trucheons. The local press had turned out to watch precedings and since we were directly opposite one film crew when the water canons were unleashed, I have a strong suspicion that we may have made the Chilean news that day. Anyway, after avoiding arrest here, and avoiding another bag robbery in Santiago centre by comically amateur thieves (pretending to look at a menu that was clearly upside down whilst trying to swipe my bag which they couldn't reach even though I was watching them) we finally could leave for NZ.