Christmas is a brief holiday here with not just the shops back in operation on the 26th. Which meant we could go out on Wednesday and get our second new windscreen in Santiago city centre. We drove straight to the offices where we were going to buy the windscreen and then straight back to Ravi & Ely’s. No hanging around or detours with our precious cargo. We still managed to put a tiny crack in one corner where it was pressed against a bolt in the bulkhead! Still, not as bad as the crack in the last one and Paul decided to go ahead and fit it anyway, with a bit of superglue to stop the crack developing any further. He checked on the internet to find the best way to install the windscreen, and was heartened by stories from other Land Rover owners who had to make several attempts with new windscreens before successfully getting one installed. On Thursday (27th), it was time to have a go. This time, instead of fitting the rubber to the window surround and then prising the glass into the rubber, he fitted the rubber to the glass and then from inside the car effectively pulled the windscreen in. Obviously this was the correct way to do it!! It went in real sweet. At last I could give Landy his Christmas decorations, and they adorned his new window that very night.
With that job done we spent Friday spring cleaning Landy inside, washing out a couple of kilos of desert sand in the process, and Saturday getting in some essential shopping in the nearby Lider store.
With Christmas finally over we said our goodbyes to Ravi and Ely Sunday morning and headed out towards Valparaiso. It was a pretty short run – about three hours including a break stop at a Copec garage along the way. Valparaisois famous, according to the guidebook, for its annual New Year celebrations which include a massive firework display. Ravi had told us that next year Valparaiso are hoping to make it into the Guinness Book of Records with the largest firework display ever, and this year they are having a practice run, so it should be pretty spectacular.
Valparaisois also a World Heritage Site. Set on the very edge of the coast most of this port city is built on the steep hills that would otherwise come down to meet the sea. Funicular railways are set throughout the city to enable people to climb the steep hills. Just the main road that runs along the coast itself is at sea level.
As we approached the city we could see the densely populated hills rising up from sea level in front of us, dropping down onto the main road that runs around the coast, almost on top of the port operations. Old historic buildings are mingled in with newer constructions. We drove the length of the city, enjoying the sights of the architecture and the boats out to sea. Reaching the more exclusive area of Vino del Mar we turned around and followed the coast road south again, parking in a fairly empty car park overlooking the sea just a little outside of the city centre. Sooner or later we would need to find somewhere we can park / camp for the night, but right now there didn’t seem to be many options available. After tonight no more traffic will be allowed into the city environs so if we want to be here for the New Year’s Eve fireworks we need to stay close by.
In the meantime it was time for a coffee and muffin so we headed back into town and a Petrobas garage we had spotted earlier. As we approached sea level again we pulled up at a red traffic light. We then both heard a rush of air. Paul linked this with a slight movement from the back of the car a few seconds earlier and poked his head out of the window. A man was getting into the passenger seat of a small silver car behind us. Meanwhile our rear tyre on the right hand side had suddenly gone completely flat with the gush of air. The lights turned green, Paul pulled forward into a bus parking bay just past the lights. The small silver car turned sharply right up the hill beside the lights. Parked in the bus bay Paul changed the wheel for the spare on the back door. A quick glance at the tyre showed a possible cause as a screw which was stuck in the tread. However closer inspection showed two knife cuts on the inside wall of the tyre. The man Paul had seen jumping back in the silver car had obviously used some kind of knife to stab two puncture holes in the inside wall of the tyre. We can only speculate as to why. Probably so they could follow us until the tyre went flat with a view to ‘helping’ and robbing us at the same time. The perpetrator wouldn’t have expected the loud rush of air as the tyre went immediately flat as not many cars carry their tyres with 50 psi pressure, nor for the driver to hear the sound and stick his head out of the ‘wrong’ side of the car.
With the tyre changed we continued our journey back to the garage for the coffee and muffin, this time saddened by the actions of one bad person. A sad reminder that not everyone is as nice as the vast majority of people we have met, an incident that had left us feeling a little ‘shaken’.
With the gloss gone off the city and not even the prospect of a spectacular firework show able to set a spark to our enthusiasm, we decided to head on south and see where we would end up for our New Year celebrations. For tonight though, we reached the small coastal town of Las Cruces. Here our faith in humanity was restored a little by Jorge, who approached us and told us he’d once lived in Birmingham while at university in the UK and told us if we needed help to go to his house, where we could also have a shower if we wanted. As for somewhere to sleep, we found our way to the beach and went to sleep to the sound of the nearby crashing waves. One of our favourites. Before we had a chance to put our tent up a young man came up to us and asked us to help him – he was stuck in sand and needed someone able to tow/winch him out. Happy to oblige, and he was soon on his way.