The fickle nature of the earthquake damage was best demonstrated to me by the Museo de Bellas Artes
. One side of the building was open with only minor damage and small areas roped off where there was a danger of falling debris but the other (the entrance for the Museum of Contremprary Art) was in a much worse state with rubble strewn over the entrance steps and the beautiful architecture significantly damaged. Hopefully it will be possible in time to restore that building and the many others that were affected in the city. Obviously in many areas further south than Santiago restoration isn't an option and it will take years to rebuild. From what I saw in my time in Chile there is a fierce determination to do so and to help those affected by the quake as quickly as possible. In the meantime it's going to be essential for the economy that the number of visitors remains high. I definitely noticed that there seemed to be fewer foreigners about, especially on some of the buses.
In between visits to the British Embassy to chase up my passport and fill in a form I'd already sent to Washington I went back up the Cerro San Cristobal. However, I decided to take the funicular to the top and walk down the steep side this time. Definitely well worth just over £1 to be lazy in the heat! There was a nice barbeque on the roof terrace of the hostel one night, which was fun and I also walked to areas of the city that I didn't see during my previous visits such as Barrio Brasil which was lovely and colourful
. I also walked miles looking for a Dunkin Donuts shop I was sure I'd spotted in the city centre - fortunately I met a girl at the hostel who had seen it too and she escorted me there (thanks Kerry!!).
I also visited the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art which was very interesting and showed some of the Chinchorro mummies and artifacts that I'd seen in Arica in context with all of the other indigenous cultures that existed in the Andes regions. Unfortunately my camera decided not to work that day so I didn't get any pictures. One item I would really have liked a picture of was a huge piece of yarn that had various different knotted sections and is believed to have been a census count of the community - I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be the one that had to produce it!
Eventually the passport made it's appearance and I was on a bus out of Santiago within an hour and a half of collecting it - no time to even stop for some Dunkin Donuts! Next stop Arica, only 30 hours away.......(yes, I've been there before - for 8 weeks!) but this time it's only an overnight stop (honest!) on my way to La Paz, Bolivia.
The last part of the 24 hour journey to Santiago let me see some of the earthquake damage suffered at the end of February as people tried to cross the motorway without the use of the numerous overhead bridges that had collapsed. Despite warning signs for traffic about pedestrians on the road it was a pretty perilous adventure for some as much of the traffic continued full pelt. Once I got the the centre of the city it was clear that for most people there life had returned to normal and many of the areas that I visited had no visible damage. One thing that was very obvious, however, was the proliferation of Chilean flags flying from buildings and windows. Many had encouraging messages printed or written on them and one of the biggest flew on one of my favourite buildings from my first visit to Santiago - the Movistar building that's shaped like a phone!