First taste of Chile not a kidney bean in sight

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We woke up late feeling a little bit all over the place, a combination of jet lag, too much beer and a very late hot night meant we both felt a little bit rubbish. As soon as I found out about the snoring I was horrified and decided it was definitely no drink until the cold and jetlag has gone away. We dragged ourselves up at 10:00 as our original plan was to try and do as much as we could in Santiago and get the speed tour of South America underway. We drank a few waters then headed off to the metro station to get into the centre of town. Our Spanish has come on so well that we couldn't even buy any tickets for the metro, I didn’t even understand the word 'adios’ but then again Chile is supposed to be the most difficult place in South America to understand the local dialect, they speak very fast and with a lot of dialect. None the less I still think it is criminal we are here and not having basic conversational Spanish to go at. We eventually got the tickets for the metro and after a change of trains and a little paranoia about picket pockets we ended up in the city centre and commenced our walking tour. We had a quick walk around Santa Lucia and immediately you realised just how new New Zealand is in terms of buildings. It all seemed to feel very European also we noticed just how much we stood out, especially me with blond hair, freckles and a ginger beard, everyone else simply looks Latin American with not so much ethnic diversity.

We climbed the steps of Cerro Santa Lucia which was beautiful and a refuge from the city sprawl and afforded us great views of the city, Erica at this point still wasn’t feeling too well and we had to stop for regular breaks. I think it must have been either the temperature or the strong cerveza (beer) we were drinking last night. We had looked at a forecast but both with long trousers on in 29 degrees of pure sunshine it was a bit warmer than we expected. The smog although not even in the same league as China was a bit of a pain as the view of the Andes was not as clear as we would have liked but you still got the impression you are in a big city trapped between the mountains and the sea in such a narrow country.

We continued the walking tour through the city and went into one of the famous art galleries, Palacio de Bellas Artes. They appeared to be in the middle of getting ready for an exhibition but it was free so worth a visit anyway. Some of the art work was well.... a bit random to be fair with things appearing from various orifices of human beings. We then headed back through the city and past all the cafes and restaurants plying the very busy lunch time trade. It was noticeably cheaper to eat out than in Australia and New Zealand however the lady didn’t want anything to eat. The Chileans prefer to have big lunches and small dinners so it was great to look at the menus trying to decipher what you would get for 5. We got to the main square and visited what I think is probably the first Catholic cathedral of our trip, I know its stating the obvious but it all just felt very, very Spanish. We were struck by the beauty of the city and in stark contrast to New Zealand the amount of people).  At the main square, Plaza de Armas, outside the cathedral we watched a good punch up between some local 16 year olds who were going absolute hell for leather at each other diving in and out of the fountains and the locals just seemed to watch the commotion watching and laughing, it just felt so surreal really.

The next stop was the law courts and government buildings before going into the celebrated pre- Columbian museum. At 3000 peso each it was a little steep, or it sounded a lot 3k for a museum but on doing the maths we realised it was 4. The museum detailed numerous ancient South American artefacts from the Maya kingdoms of Central America to Southern Chilean and Argentinean. Lots of the exhibits were dated BC and of particular note were the Mummies that actually predate those found in Egypt. They were not as impressive as I imagined as they were essentially dolls made out of sticks into human shapes which the ashes were then buried in, I imagined life size human figures wrapped in bandages but there you go I am a little fantastical.

I followed the Lonely Planet’s advice and went into a cafe next door to try one of the empanada’s again I had no idea what to get but I ordered one of seven or eight on offer and despite being translated as a turnover filled with meat, cheese, olives or something else what I got was essentially a meat pasty with half a boiled egg and some olives in it. When mixed with a green salsa it was beautiful and having eaten out for about 80p South America was starting to grow on me.  We wandered outside and saw our first ‘legs cafe’. These are cafes like any normal cafe however the waitresses wears a skirt that you can almost see her knickers it is that short. Erica wasn’t for getting a brew so we headed off (Erica edit :  But I’m sure you were Andrew). Chile is famous for Leg cafes where the waitresses reveal more than just their legs and in some cases offer more than just coffee.

We then headed off to the palace were General Pinochet was overthrown with lots of Chilean flags some of which were huge. We wandered off again through the financial district and past the stock exchange and a few other sights. I think we have seen more men in suits today than all our time in Australia and New Zealand put together, not sure if that’s a good thing but we are both amazed at how safe the place feels (in other words I’m not as paranoid as I could be). Walk finished we headed back to the metro and got a metro out to the bus station to try and get a bus to Mendoza in Argentina the following day. Getting on the metro we got a warning from a woman saying just how dangerous the bus station and metro stop there can be (Erica edit:  Prompt extreme paranoia I knew it couldn’t last).

When we got to the bus station we found a terminal selling international bus tickets and managed to book a bus for 08:40 the following morning. The scary thing is that a 1cm journey on our map is scheduled to take about 7 or 8 hours. It looks more or less like we will be living on buses for the next few months as we have lots and lots of distances far greater than a cm. At 13k Peso or about 20 for a cm it is also starting to get a bit frightening how much some of these journeys may cost.  We then headed back to the hostel and got back at about 6pm, Erica predictably went straight to sleep while I   booed our hostel for Mendoza, checking the flight / bus options for the rest of the journey etc.

We popped out and got an avocado sandwich with a bit of a burger on top (that is how much avocado they are using here). At about 1 each the total food bill for the day was about 2.90 so that is pretty good. We got back and after a quick chat with the other guys in the hostel and a shower headed off to bed before anyone else in the dorm. It must have been about 20:30 by this stage. It was red hot though and despite being so tired neither of us got to sleep very easily after an initial sleep I was awake until the sun started to rise and therefore got about 3 hours sleep, the Lady did a bit better but not much.
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cheryl chin on'd you get over there - you two jetsetters move fast ;-)!!!!! Lovin it!!!

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