We breakfasted early and then repacked our bags before retiring to the hotel lobby at check-out time to wait for Ricardo and Marcos to arrive with the bus. Although our flight back to BA was scheduled to leave a little earlier than everyone else’s Santiago (and then Auckland and then HOME!) flight we all travelled to the airport together. Actually, not all of us – Geoff and Lyn planned to spend another week in Brazil before heading home to country Victoria so we all said our farewells to them in the hotel lobby before boarding the bus.

At the airport Ricardo facilitated our check-in and then asked us all to wait in a group to receive further instructions. When Meredith joined us she told us that Ricardo had told her she should write a book. On what? I asked. On seeing Meredith’s very compact wheelie-bag he was amazed that she could still look so elegant as she was about to fly home after five weeks touring South America. He told her she could write a book – ‘How to travel light and still look elegant’. I have to agree with Ricardo. Meredith had the smallest bag of any of us in the group and yet she was able to keep producing fresh and stylish garments from its Tardis-like interior right up until the end of the trip!

After getting everyone checked in Ricardo joined us and pointed us in the direction for International Departures and explained the restaurant options before and after the immigration checkpoint for grabbing a more substantial or a light lunch before our flights mid-afternoon. Yin and Gabriel and Chow and Kim decided to eat before passing through immigration because there would be more to choose from, so we farewelled four more members of the group before the rest of us headed on towards the International Departures lounge.

Gail, Gloria, Meredith and Lidia breezed through immigration and security without any difficulties. Unfortunately Carol and I were not so lucky! Carol’s hand luggage was thoroughly inspected and a tube of moisturiser that had passed through every other checkpoint in South America was confiscated before she was allowed to proceed. Then they started on my bag which includes a compartment for the camera which is attached with Velcro to the interior of the bag. They actually dismantled my bag by peeling the camera compartment away from the interior of the bag to make sure I didn’t have anything secreted there. That was a first – nowhere else in the world has airport security felt the need to examine my bag so closely!! They didn’t confiscate anything – just handed back my disassembled bag for me to deal with and waved me through.

There were a couple of caf├ęs in the International Departures hall so we counted out how many Brazilian Reals we still had and managed to buy a reasonable lunch AND divest ourselves of nearly all of our reals! And then we waited … and waited … and waited until our departure time finally rolled around. By the time the boarding call for our flight was made Yin, Gabriel, Chow and Kim had re-joined us! We said our farewells to them a second time and then thanked everyone for being such great travelling companions and wished them well on their homeward bound journey as we headed to our gate to commence the first leg of our final week in South America.

We had a smooth flight back to BA where we were met by a Bunnick Rep who escorted us out of the airport to a car that whisked us into the city and delivered us to the Americas Towers Hotel. Oh, yay – not one of the best hotels we have stayed in on this trip and we got to stay there again!! Actually the rooms were OK, it’s just their breakfast buffet that lets them down.

It was dark and drizzly by the time we had checked in and taken our bags to our room. We had thought that we might venture out this evening, but decided that a quick trip to the supermarket and a meal at another one of the local restaurants recommended by Gina would do us.

Steps 7,469 (5.55km)

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