Chilly in Chile

Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
Trip End Sep 06, 2010

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Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello again, fancy seeing you here!

So as you know, we started to embark on our epic overland journey to Santiago from Lima but as we have been used to some long truck days over the last two months we weren't two phased by the 50 hour stint ahead of us. We decided to take one 21 hour bus to Tacna on the Peru border, make our own way across into Chile and then catch another bus from Arica down to Santiago.  We thought that even if this proved to be a bit of an effort it would be a worth while break from the monotony of the ride.  Another couple from our tour were also getting to Santiago for a flight and were taking the 50 hour bus straight through so at least we could bench mark how successful our decision was when we got there.

As it happens the bus was fantastic, I would even use the word 'luxury’.  We had seats that reclined right back to semi-beds, a constant stream of movies playing, hot meals served on board and wi-fi.  Some of their extra benefits were of interest to know as well, the bus is constantly monitored by GPS tracking to look out for drivers speeding, unauthorized stops (i.e being hijacked), drivers being drug and alcohol tested at both ends of the trip and a toilet on board that was specifically only for urination to keep the odors under control!  All in all this added up to a very enjoyable journey, the movies varied between those dubbed into Spanish, those with English speaking and Spanish subtitles and then randomly Quantum of Solace dubbed in German with Spanish subtitles.  So we saw more films than we understood but did a pretty good job at guessing what was going on.  However instead of picking up any Spanish during the dubbed films I think I just improved my lip reading abilities.

For whatever reason I slept incredibly well through the night and so before I knew it the first part of the trip was over and we were at the last town in Peru.  We teamed up with an English guy called Andy we met on the bus, who very luckily for us spoke some Spanish, and got ourselves a shared taxi to go across the border.  There were five of us and a driver crammed into a bashed up Cadillac with our bags and we had to make ourselves as comfortable as possible for the hour long trip.  Luckily our border crossing went without a hitch and we were in and out in no time, we since found out that the couple on the bus that went straight though took two hours to get everyone across and the girl we know was taken aside and had to do a wee in front of the official on the Peruvian side to prove she wasn’t smuggling!  I cannot tell you how glad I am that we didn’t have this happen to us or I would without doubt be in custody for failing to pee on demand or in a 50 meter radius of anyone who might be trying to listen let alone watch

When we got to Arica in Chile we had thought that we might stay overnight to visit one of the observatories in the desert nearby, this is such a dry area that in some places no rain has been recorded in 50 years making it perfect for stargazing.  Unfortunately it was very grey and misty when we arrived and we thought we should give it a miss and just get ourselves down to Santiago.  With Andy’s help we got ourselves on a bus leaving for the second leg of the trip in just an hours time.  As it happens Andy is a Tax Accountant for KPMG, exactly the type of person I was trying to find for my last position I was recruiting for at work before I left.  I should have known at the time that if I’d put an advert on a bus in Peru I might have had more luck! 

The second part of the trip was again pretty painless and the steward took pity on us and our lack of Spanish so kept slipping us extra food portions and handfuls of sweets.  Again I slept really well and expected the journey to be pretty much over when I woke up, the only problem was the time we were supposed to arrive seemed to come and go pretty quickly with nothing being said.  It’s hard to tell if we were delayed or if we just misunderstood the time we were due to arrive when the guy told us in Spanish but we did have an excruciating three more hours to go after we thought we’d be there.  When we finally did arrive it was 9pm at night and we hadn’t booked any accommodation yet as our plans had changed at the last minute.  Andy to the rescue again pointed us towards a place he had stayed at before and we all got a cab to a fantastic old mansion with enough room for all of us and all the facilities we could need.

Santiago itself reminds me more of American cities I have visited, it doesn’t have the same feel as other South American cities and it seems proud of that.  All the major chains are here and the shops are all in buildings not market stalls for a change.  It’s also odd that everything has a price tag rather than haggling the price as you go.  Quite a good stop for us as a half way house before we move on to New Zealand to cushion the culture shock.  Of course we were not nearly as interested in the city once we discovered that we could do a day’s skiing in the nearby mountains, much more our style than sitting at a Starbucks.  Our hostel actually runs a transfer service to the slopes about an hour and a half away and organsises all the lift passes and everything as a package deal so it was very easy to agree to, the only problem was what we were going to wear.  The hostel did rent gear but at rather inflated prices and as we planned to buy ski gear soon in New Zealand we didn’t really want to splash out too much.  In the end we only rented ski pants (mine in trendy dungaree style with sewn on repair patches all over) and wore our rain coats.  I was really hoping for sunny weather!!  Andy also came with us for the day and went for renting the full outfit which was hilarious as he was given purple trousers and a red and blue ski jacket that looked like he was delivering a Dominos pizza, and of course it was all about four sizes too big in any case.  Frank and Jo, the Aussie couple from our tour also came along but had never skied before so didn’t see the benefit of renting gear instead they opted for jeans and jumpers (but changed their minds soon after we arrived!).

The slopes hadn’t had snow in about a week but were still in good condition and we had a great time bombing around the runs with blue skies and beautiful conditions.  The runs themselves were not taxing, although some were marked black they really didn’t get steeper than the average red European run.  This meant we were able to cover all of the ski area in just one day which was a good thing as the day out had burnt such a hole in our wallets that it would have been painful to need to go back for another day and not be able to afford it.  We flopped into the minibus to head back and I crashed out until we reached the hostel again before transferring to bed and doing the same again.

The next few days in Santiago were not nearly as exciting, we have wandered around and entertained ourselves with a particularly pretty park which was full of hummingbirds zooming around the flowers and Steve got some excellent photos while I was on look-out duty for any landing in the near vicinity.   The only problem is everything is so expensive here we’re cooking for ourselves in the hostel and generally keeping costs down but of course that means not seeing that much of Santiago, which according to most people doesn’t mean we are missing out on much.  With two days left to go before our flight we decided to torture ourselves by attending a talk and slideshow about the different trips you can take in Chile, and inevitably all things we would have loved to do if we had more time.  They gave us free alcohol for attending, so it wasn’t all bad, but it certainly means that there is plenty of unfinished business for us in Chile including climbing active volcanos and peering in on the lava, climbing glaciers, seeing the planets in the observatories and penguins!  Instead of being able to do all these amazing things I have been mainly reliving the ones we have been able to do by getting the blog up to date.  I’ll really try to make sure that I don’t fall behind again as I’m sure it’s a daunting task to be faced with such a wall of text at your end however as we’re planning on settling in New Zealand and getting jobs for a while there most likely won’t be so much to be keeping you updated on for a while.  That makes it your turn!  Make sure you keep us updated with what you’re all up to as well, we love to hear from you all especially if you haven’t told me you’ve been reading along already – I know a few secret readers have come out of the woodwork recently so let me know who you are so I can thank you too.

See you in Kiwi land,

Lots of Love,

Amy and Skiing Steve
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