After a mammoth 10 hour flight from Auckland, I landed in Chiles capital Santiago approximately 5 hours before I left New Zealand - pesky international time-line. The plane journey was livened up (not!) by a selection of 6 of the worst films around at the moment, Barry Norman definitely was not involved in the film selection for LAN airlines. I ended up playing chess and 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' instead. Anyway I digress, after landing and arriving at our hostel I went to sleep for 4 hours to catch up on the time differences and spent the rest of the night in the hostel. Following day I was on the streets for a bit of a walk around and see what Santiago had to offer. One of the first things you notice is that there are tons of stray dogs about all over the place. They all seemed tame enough but some of them didn't look in too good a state - the guy who ran our hostel did a free dinner that night and took donations that went towards the stray dogs which was a good thing. I also noticed quite a lot of shoe shiners and I think these must be back in fashion now. I imagined that the people getting their shoes shined were also gaining information off the guys just like in Police Squad. I was tempted to get a shoe-shine and get some tourist info at the same time.
The other common theme on the streets is the Completo, which appears to be the national dish of Chile. This is a hot dog with everything on it including, tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, palta (mashed avocado), sauerkraut, chili sauce, onions and whatever else they have to offer, and these are served everywhere, from hot dog vendors on the streets to fancyish restaurants. There's also a version called the Italiano which is ketchup, mayonnaise and palta done to produce the red, white and green of the Italian flag. As far as drinks are concerned the main beer brand is Cristal (Were all those rappers and R&B artists really rapping/singing about impressing their girls with ale from Chile??) and they also drink over here a drink called Fanschopp which is Fanta combined with draught beer to produce a refreshing drink. I tried it and thought it was a waste of good beer flavour, although I was told later that some locals have this if they don't want a strong beer.
I also noticed that Santiago, and I'm guessing most of South America, is a city of very very passionate people with lots of couples clinched in deep passionate snogging sessions in all sorts of public places. I'd like to join them at some stage but I may need to brush up on my Spanish chat-up lines which at the moment consists of
Me - Ola!, como se llama? (Hello, What is your name?)
Girl - Ola, me llamo Maria, como se llama? (My name is Maria, what is yours?)
Me - No hable Espanol (Sorry, I dont speak Spanish)
Improving my Spanish is top of my agenda, but for the time being my invented language of Italfrancospanglish seems to be getting me by.
Anyway what I got up to in Santiago... as usual the main sights got a visit, the Cerro San Cristobal which is a big park with a huge hill at its centre and from the bottom you can go up the funicular railway for great views of Santiago. With the ticket for the railway we also got entry into the zoo which was a good zoo but the animals all looked a bit fed up to me, particularly the Kangaroos, Emus and Penguins who blatantly wanted to be back home in a more natural climate. I also visited the Cerro Santa Lucia, which is another park with a castle style structure in the middle that again can be walked up for great views of the city.
While here we also went to a footy game with an Australian couple we'd met at the hostel. We went to see Colo Colo, Chiles most famous team, play against Audax Italiano and we were told the game might have a bit of an edge to it. Disappointingly the crowd was quite small compared to the size of the stadium, but the 'Garra Blanco' made enough noise to provide a good atmosphere. Colo Colo lost 3-2 and we managed to jinx yet another team, but we saw some fighting in the home end of the crowd at half time which livened things up a bit.
The following day we took a day trip to the east coast and the port town of Valparaiso. Lovely little town with nice architecture, although the locals did seem a bit intolerant of tourist looking types at first. The highlight of the place was an incline that took you 40 or so metres up a hill to a great view of the port. We heard later from other people that the nightlife here is really good so maybe we should have done an over-nighter here. On my last night in Santiago we went out for some food and a few beers and I had the most fantastic meal of a huge plate of chips, topped with fried onions, topped with diced steak and slices of chorizo topped with two fried eggs - very healthy and nutritious but I was a beaten man and couldn't finish the whole plate.
The following day having successfully negotiated the subway system (which is amazing incidentally, never had to wait more than a minute for the next metro) and then bought bus ticket number 2 in Spanish, we were then of on an overnight bus down south to colder climes.