As our flight to Santiago was coming in for a landing the flight attendant told us about the items we were not allowed to bring into Chile: edible products of animal origin, flowers, fruits and vegetables, no dried fruit, trail mix or nuts, honey, home baked goods, unpackaged candies, etc. If you’re caught ‘smuggling’, the fine is $240 US and you’ll have to languish at the airport until a magistrate arrives to process the infraction. Yikes. Well, that was a shock. As usual, we travel with healthy snacks, granola bars, salted almonds, etc. in ziptop bags. They all went into the barf bag. Being a good recycler, I folded up the plastic bags and tucked them into my rolling backpack. No biggie.
Wrong-o. As Hub and I watched the luggage coughed out on the belt, a cute little pooch wearing a fluorescent vest wandered around. I thought, Ah, drug-sniffing dog. Wrong again. I’m not paying attention, because I’m trying to figure out here my big Samsonite is and if I have any contraband tucked in with my socks and t-shirt. Poochie sits down beside my roll-on. A young woman in a matching vest asks me if I have any of the long list of items. I say, No, but I emptied them out on the aircraft. She smiles as she hands me an official form with a bright pink tag attached and directs me to the secondary inspection x-ray, where a group of bored looking officials are leaning against their machines. One guy points to the conveyor belt. He grins as I heave my bags over. Let’s just say that after 12 hours in transit, I was docile. I mean, I was a tourist in Chile and my Spanish was Grade 12 rusty, so who was I to argue? She searched my hand luggage and unearthed the plastic bags, took a sniff then zipped everything up and sent me on my way. Luckily, she didn’t search my shoulder bag, where I had a small bag of preserved ginger and a half-eaten granola bar that I’d forgotten. Visions of being fingerprinted then languishing in a South American prison cell flashed through my mind. We hot-footed it out of the Customs Hall to our waiting taxi driver.
The Andes were bathed in the sulfurous haze that blankets Santiago for most of the year. Traffic was light, the driver didn’t speak any English and we arrived at our hotel in about 30 minutes. What a welcome relief.
Our room wasn’t ready, but we hung out in the gloriously bright breakfast room and had our first taste of homemade raspberry juice. Check in was a breeze – the front desk staff all spoke English, which made our life a lot easier. Unpack, shower, then off to explore.