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Trip Start May 18, 2005
72Trip End May 18, 2006
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The night before we left we managed to discover a low cost Chilean airline on the internet. We couldn't book online because we had no Chilean Credit Cards so we rang them. After about 20 minutes tryig to explain what we wanted the girl on the line finally copped on and booked us our tickets - for €20 each!! We asked her again and again to confirm it and she told us that we could collect our tickets in the airport in Calama, about 100 miles north west of San Pedro. What else could we do but believe her? The flight wasn't until about 5.30 in the afternoon so we had plenty of time to make it, but just to be safe we decided to go there early to get the tickets and if it didn't work out we would always be able to make a bus.
So we got to Calama on the bus, negotiated an extortionate price from the taxi driver to take us to the airport and noticed when we got there that the airpot was pretty much deserted. There was no one there excpet for us and a guy snoozing behind the desk. Odd. So we eventually found out that the firts flight to anywhere from here left at 5.30 i.e. our flight but there was no one here from the airline to give us our tickets as they arrive with the plane we are to leave on. So we decided we would wait for someone to show up before we threw in the towel and got the bus. The showed up at 4pm (we were there at 10am - bit of a wait) only to tell us that they had no record of our reservation. And they nearly laughed in our faces when we told them that we were quoted €2o each for the flight. We were dutifully informed that the price was actually €80 each minimum, and thats only if you book way in advance, so we must have mis-understood the lady on the phone.
Needless to say we were seriously pissed off. Not only were we not flying, but because we had waited so long we might need to stay an extra night in Calama because we may not even get a bus. So out came the annoyed and helpless customer act, and after some persuading (mostly by Aishling I must say) they gave us the flights for minimum price!!
So even though it cost us more than a bus in the end we still got a whole extra day in Santiago as well as some airplane food (which I inexplicably love) and a journey that was a whole lot less than 24 hours.
We decided to stay in a different area of Santiago this time and chose Bella Vista, a vibrant and busy student and arts area with lots of restaurants and galleries and beautiful people everywhere. The hostel was fun, although abnormally full of waster backpackers with no money and all the time in the world to spend lazing about the hostel for days on end until they decide to laze about in another hostel in another town. It seems all they have is bus fare and enough money for a dorm bed for a few nights. This they call 'seeing the world' ( seriously though, they are very annoying and irritating and spend every waking moment of thier lives annoying me specifically. I can't explain it).
The food in this area was top notch, and there were tonnes of bars everywhere full of students boozing. All in all a good fun place to be. There were less stray dogs aroun than there were in the ast area we stayed, but it was just as smoggy. We went for a wander around the area the evening after we arrived in town and stumbled across a fairly big hill called Cerro San Cristobal. We knew nothing about it and it was mentioned only in passing in our guide book. It turns out it was home to the national botanic gardens, the zoo, a 60 foot statue of our lady at the peak and a funicular (kind of hill-side tram) and cable car. The zoo was closed so we took the funicular to the top and discovered a beautiful open air chapel as well as the statue which we know nothing about until we saw it for the first time. There were monks singing hymns and creating a seriously spiritual atmosphere. Now, I'm not a religious person, but I can genuinely tell you that I felt something that I never felt before at this place. It was very, very....wierd. Can't really explain it. Up next to the the statue (which was designed by the guy who designed the Statue of Liberty, apparently) is a little area where you can light a candle and say a little prayer. We had no candles so this little old man who was cleaning and touching up the paint around the statue gave us a pack out of his own pocket and smiled at us. We took the pack, thanked him and lit a candle for my gran, who died last year. And here's where it gets even spookier. The candle was lit and burning away and suddenly it went out. I reached out to re-light it and low and behold it just lit up again itself!! It has been extinguished for at least 10 seconds. And whats more, the old man who gave us the candles was nowhere to be seen...
We spent some time wandering around the Sunday markets and bought some second hand books, came across a gay pride parade, had a few menu del dias and went to see the national museum, which was mostly in Spanish but still good. A nice city.