It is barely possible to describe Chile’s wonders.

To visit the Atacama Desert is to tour the surface of Mars. NASA tests its rovers on this red, arid soil. Geoglyphs, ancient mummies, expansive plateau vistas, impressive mountain ranges, and palm oases straight from a romance novel. We were immediately spellbound.

I don’t recall much from La Serena. Good coffee. An old man advised me to take a tighter hold of my camera, lest I lose it to a slash-and-dash.

We strolled Pablo Neruda’s charmingly artsy hillside neighbourhood in Valparaiso. The Viña del Mar seaside reminded me strongly of San Francisco. Santiago was like discovering a graffitied pocket of Europe in the southern hemisphere. Our tour of the Casablanca Valley winegrowing region left us breathless for its overpowering beauty and culinary excellence. Absolutely mesmerizing.

And also, unfortunately, so far from home that we might as well have been in Singapore or Hong Kong. There would be no emergency trips to Canada. No seeing the kids and grandkids, except on rare occasions when 23 hours of travel seemed worth the high price and extended visit. There would certainly be no attracting them, or other family members or friends, to our retirement home – except perhaps as once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

We would be entirely on our own down there. Alone and isolated, in a Spanish-speaking sea of humanity.

Not, reluctantly, a contender.

Next: Ecuador