The final days of the tour are done. All 26 members of the tour party are back on New Zealand soil, all present and accounted for. Aside from some bumps, bruises, one dose of the flu and a lot of weary men, all are in good shape.
Day 16 was spent traveling back to Santiago Airport. For the first time on the trip it rained persistently meaning the sightseeing opportunities were at a minimum. Nonetheless, we checked out of the hotel and headed through Vina del Mar and Valparaiso on our way to Santiago. A quick stop at an undercover market for the last few trinkets before the bus ride out. The trip made all the more exciting when we came across a truck that had jack-knifed inside the tunnel we were going through. Our bus driver Renee (who is world famous in Chile apparently) sprung into action. After arms were thrust about in dramatic gestures, and many Chilean men had pushed and shoved the truck, other vehicles were used to drag it back around the right way and we could continue on. Renee was the hero!
The weather in Santiago was also a bit gloomy, so we headed for a super-sized shopping mall where the group could hang out until it was time to go to the airport. The place was manic. Thousands of people swarming everywhere around the massive food court, shops, and boutiques. Some of the boys even met up with friends they had made on tour. After a quick dinner together, we headed for the airport homeward bound. We said goodbye to Fran (our guide from Vina del Mar) and Renee (whose bus driving heroics and charismatic personality will never be forgotten).
Day 17 – Never existed and after many hours of travel, the group arrived back to parents, friends and family on Day 18! Everyone was excited to see us and us to see them.
The final notes…………. It has been a pleasure to have been on this tour with a great group of boys. There have been many, many memorable moments that will be etched in our minds for a long time. Our friendly billets, our welcoming hosts, the loco bus drivers, our fabulous tour guide Victoria and Carolina, the power and purity of Iguacu Falls, the crazy football fans at San Lorenzo and the passion for football across the countries we visited – the list is endless. The learning experience both on and off the field has been a huge success.
Through it all I have laughed, grumped (occasionally), been encouraged and impressed by a group of young men who have done themselves, their families and their school proud. The numerous comments I have received from our host families and schools, the guides, and random strangers, have all commended the boys highly. Oh yeah – we played some pretty good football too!!
Thank you to everyone who has supported and made this tour possible. To our tour sponsors, Jade at Educating Adventures, Victoria, Carolina, Mr Andrew Moore and Mr Kevin Harris, parents, friends, family and the College – THANK YOU!
Hasta luego amigos