Santiago and cable car

Trip Start Jan 28, 2008
Trip End Feb 08, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, February 11, 2008

The impression of Santiago has now quadrupled in wonder. We start the day walking out of hotel after breakfast and within minutes come across the city wide canal/river, historically famous Rio Mapocho; and also Sculpture Park, home of many incredible modernistic sculptures balancing and competing with statues and statuettes in other part of the city.
After one kilometer or a little more we had strolled through a neighborhood of homes that were lush, flush - with flora and bouquets of spices and herbs, benches newly painted and positioned on the sidewalks of every block; and, discreet and artistically designed receptacles for unwanted stuff or disposables. We stop often to admire the gardens, look at  homes. We are transfixed by the design, sculpturing and architecture such that time stood still. At one point, Ingrid has to move an obstacle out of our way in order to continue our progress to the Funicular (coming). I try and cannot budge the thing, but she anchors it onto her shoulder and with one mighty German heave (well, she hardly breaks a sweat), she uplifts it and moves it away.
Neighbors come out shouting all sorts of stuff in Spanish, and we only assume that they are thanking us for getting rid of the old piece of junk that weighed the neighborhood down a bit with its antiquity! We are now waving back at them politely, but seriously we are going to have learn about some of these gestures of this tribe - they seem very strange indeed to our tribal ways. At last we arrive at the base of either the cable car (small pod that climbs the mountain hung by a thread) or the Funicular (a sort of tramcar that goes up/down a steep hill on tracks). The ticket lady speaks only one language and it is not one of the many we speak. Well, if you call three - many!
In this language of which we did not speak, she poses a question. (It does not matter the language, body-talk always tell one, when they are the punctuation point at the end of an interrogative - right?  We find out later that she was asking us we wanted one way up or return?  She probably also told us about the funicular option but body language only goes so far. So we pays the price and gets the adventure of making sure that we get our money's worth. (Not difficult on this foray!)  We take the cable car thinking we will take the funicular down. The mountain is an enormous hill topped by a statue of Mary The Blessed Virgin, blessing all those at the base of Her feet, (I think one capitalizes her as they do Him??), the peoples of Santiago.
From the pod, we can see a winding road with many switch backs attesting to its steepness that joins botanical gardens, childrenīs playgrounds, and one of the most outdoor pool settings we have ever seen. The pool which we will see later on the voyage down is almost Olympic in size if not larger. It is a setting surrounded by palm trees, overlooked by a jungle of foliage and separated by a huge rock as if thrown from an erupting mountain. The deep water for swimmers is on one side and the shallow for waders on the other. We saw it close up on the way down and also saw it from above on the way up. It was this view and that of Santiago that convinced us to forgo our return trip ticket and walk down.
The vegetation includes cacti, flowering trees and bushes. All are laden with seed pods and many are exhausted of their blooms from weeks prior. The whole hill-mountain represents a life-cycle of seasons and altitude, life and death, day and night, struggle and relief.  Cyclists, joggers, mopeds and motorcycles vie with a few autos to reach the top, perhaps one kilometer high from top to bottom and 8-10 kīs of road, paths and switchbacks. The heat is in the high 30s with perhaps 40 Celsius off the concrete-asphalt. Now at the top it is awe-inspiring in many ways: the height, the view of all the valleys, vegetation, lack of vegetation, heat waves, cool breezes, hills, Andes Mountains (everything is framed by something of beauty, natural or contrast). The statuette of the Virgin Mary must stand over 12 meters high with a series of steps that are layered into her slopes.
This forms a pyramid-type base/foundation of this pure white spiritual icon mesmerizing all who came to Her feet. Hidden speakers play soft liturgical music that seems to bounce back from the valleys as if coming from the throats of birds rather than music made by humans. It is also a sanctuary, a chapel and has row seating at its base for services, weddings and other ecclesiastical functions. The serenity caused by the deep blue sky, the contrasting white angelic figurine and the relaxing mood-harmonies, synthesize everyone from exhausted joggers, bikers, walkers; young and old into one enchanted group without anyone truly realizing it. We all leave at our own pace and on whatever time, not truly aware of what had taken hold of us.
The trip up was a head-shaker of wonder and left permanent grins on our faces. The trip down by cable car was forsaken; instead, the easy-to-accept comforts of a mechanized lift is substituted by a mid-day walk laden with enough water to compensate for the heat. We seek shade where we can, observe the snow-capped Andes in the foreground and breath in the smells of the woods more so, much more so than we did on the lift up. It is here one realizes starkly that no matter what mankind has done to nature we have not been disinherited from it.  Shakespeare said something about finding tongues in trees and stories in rivers, legends in rocks (or maybe I have taken too much liberty;
I know it was from As You Like It, anyway - so I do remember some of my school stuff. Shakespeare and Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats are all here smiling... We often look up to see the 'pods' of the cable car passing overhead. With two weak ankles, one bum knee and my MS I am very happy that Ingrid allows me to jump on her back and get a piggy back all the way down. She is not happy though when I dig my heels in and tell her to go faster ! (Yeah, yeah - and if readers believe the first part, let alone the second - then they don't understand good old British humour of the worst kind)... Several view points and sites surprise us even though we thought we had observed from the air most of what we were about to walk through and by.
First of course was the rest area with refreshments, (espresso and ice-cream in particular) and washrooms (plus stocking up on more water). Then we come across the botanical gardens (three of them), including the naturally kept nurseries with trails throughout for the walker to explore. After this came the several view points of Santiago and the Alps and THEN... something we had not seen or expected: a Japanese botanical garden established as a tribute to relations between Chile and Japan. The other tribute we had not noticed on the way up was the Easter Island carvings in tribute to the spiritual relationship with those islands and St. Cristobal Hill. I present some of these photos herein.

As we think of the day and our feet painfully recall the walk down the hill that became a mountain, our bodies seek more than a light slumber.
My head is as a door is to a hinge. I turn over on my side and my weary eyes follow my head; they all find a place somewhere else instead - of being now in the present, or today in the past; whatever now comes will secure my memories intact.  I don't hear the door latch. Sleep in the early afternoon is an elixir, a restorer, bought only with the currency of our balmy air-conditioned boutique room, which welcomes us into its hug- ging and loving embrace. Later, we will find food, and drink.
We will also locate the fastest internet cafe so far in our travels and we were able to again hang our jaws agape with the wonder of the foods, and presentation.
The crushed ice, lemon, fresh mint, and sugar drink of this city is to never export. It deserves to remain here as a local treat. The next day is to be our first tour (out of town).  Now it is but to look at the contented smiles on each others faces and let the warmth trickle slowly down to our tired feet and rejuvenate them. The smiles represent so much warmth and caring, that the feet fall silent of complaint and rest with us for the remaining hours of the afternoon.
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