The Last Continent

Posted on January 15, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Ola! How have you all been this last week? I hope you enjoyed your inter-continental flight, filled with books and literary thought. Welcome to South America!

Our flight across the Pacific was operated by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LAN_Airlines">LAN</a> – Chile's flag carrier. We like LAN; they give plenty of legroom in economy (like the good ol' days when my sister and I used to be able to curl up at our parent's feet), great food, comfortable seats and a big screen entertainment system. I actually spent most of the flight listening to music that I hadn't heard in a good while. Bliss. It's a shame I haven't got more call to travel to South America on a regular basis.

We touched down in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago_de_chile">Santiago</a> 12 hours later which was 4 hours before we took off. Yeah – let me run that by you again. Because we crossed the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Date_Line">International Date Line</a>, we landed at 10h00 on the day we took off – but our take off time from Auckland was 14h00. We gained a day, and some hours – but as always on these long haul flights, we were wrecked anyway.
 
 
At the airport we were met by a friend of mine, Heinz Peter. I've known Heinz for about 5 years, having first spoken to him on an internal IBM message board. I've kept in touch with him on and off since then, but we'd never had an opportunity to meet in real life.

And it turns out that Heinz is one of the most welcoming men you could choose to meet. He put us up in his room in his apartment (he slept on a futon in the living room), took us around the city, suggested things we might want to do in the country and ensured that we got off alright on our further travels. A true gentleman.

As for Santiago 'tis an odd city. Although it's the capital of one of the most stable and prospoerous countries in South America, there seems to be remarkably little of note to see there. The city sits between two mountain ranges, and thus in theory has a beautiful backdrop of mountins. In the winter this isn´t usually true – persistant smog can sit over the valley for days, reducing visibility to a few miles.
 
 
However, in the summer, winds from inland blow the smog away, and you can get views to the mountains on all sides. This picture is taken from Mount San Cristobal, one of two hills in the city. Here there´s a large statue of the Virgin Mary, and half way down the hill is the national zoo. You can also travel down what is becoming our most popular form of transport – a funicular railway.
 
 
We traveled down the railway to the bottom of the hill. From there we wandered to one of Pablo Neruda’s houses. It´s a nice area, with some excellent graffitti.
 
On our second day, we visited the Plaza des Armas in the center of town, and walked around the excellent museum of pre-Colombian Art. Along with pottery from Chile's native inhabitant groups, there was a fascinating exhibition on Incan influence in the region.
 
One of the first things we noticed about the city was the presence of street names, restaurants and other ephemera referencing "O'Higgins". Yep, one Bernardo O’Higgins liberated the country from the Spanish , and it gave me great pleasure to see such an obviously Irish name being plastered all over a Spanish speaking country.
Having visited these two areas of the city, Heinz figured that we had pretty much covered what there is to see in Santiago as a tourist "it's a city for living, not for visiting so much". This left the question of what to do with the rest of our first week in Chile (we will come back to it for another week after Peru, but because of the need to get to the Inca Trail in Peru before it closes (for the month of February)).

This time around, we chose to go north to La Serena, and then to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valparaíso">Valparaiso</a>. We'll cover these in another post, but we should just leave you with an impression of the vastness of the country. Although Chile is nowhere near the largest country in South America, it's incredibly long – 4,630 kms. It's not wide, but the length means that getting anywhere takes for ever. The cheapest and most effcient way to travel is by bus, and there's a great local company called Tur Bus that we used throughout our travels in the North. The most comfortable buses I've ever travelled on.
 
Alrighty, until next time!
 
James

Posted via email from dreadpiratesarcas

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