In Santiago

Trip Start Jan 19, 2008
1
13
30
Trip End May 01, 2008


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Monday, February 11, 2008

On our final day in Pucon we hired bikes. There was a 40km round trip recommended to us which involved 20km generally uphill offroad to see some waterfalls and then 20km generally downhill on tarmac back into Pucon. The journey up was hard work, especially not really knowing if we were going the right was for a lot of the time. Plus the bikes werent in the best condition and Kat's chain kept slipping off. Eventually though we reached our destination and the waterfalls and lagoon really were quite pleasant. We rewarded our hard effort (a good 2 1/2 hours to get there) with the left over dinner that we didn't eat at the thermal pools. The curried chicken had by this time started to melt its way through the tortilla wraps and we got some pretty disgusted looks from the other tourists as we tried, and failed, to eat them in a civilised fashion...

On the way back, just 5km into our 20km trundle downhill Kat had a blow out - as luck would have it at the bottom of the only real ascent of the trip. Matt had stormed off ahead using the downhill speed to avoid having too much work getting back up the hill. Poor old Kat had to trundle her bike all the way back up whilst Matt hung around confused as to where his wife had got too. Unfortunately, the supplied puncture repair kit was a little low on the rubber cement glue stuff (not really au fait with the technical term) so in the end we had to call the agency we'd booked with and they sent out a man to collect us an bikes. Whilst we waited a girl cycled by and, after a brief chat, decided she'd quite like a lift back too!

Returning back to the chalet for a shower we found that, after some heroic work by Janet's (the owner's) husband, the toilet was once again working - she definitely seemed less friendly towards us as we said our final goodbyes...!

After a spot of dinner at the cheap burger place that Matt had been nagging Kat to let him go to for the past 3 days we jumped on board our bus to Santiago. As the pictures show, the buses are much more luxurious than in the UK. We were served a drink before bedtime and were woken an hour before arrival with breakfast (just some juice and biscuits) and treated to a set of Michael Jackson songs on the DVD player (very random). Anyway, the night was very comfortable and you really were able to get a decent nights sleep - but it was pretty pricey so next time we're going to try semi-cama, which apparently is the same, except you don't recline back quite as far...

Arriving in Santiago we didn't have anywhere to stay arranged, and this time the bus terminal was huge and busy, and no one came to offer us a place to stay - so we ended up heading to the Barrio Londres-Paris area and staying in a Lonely Planet recommendation, "Residencial Londres" which was pretty decent. The owner kindly lent us a version of the Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook, which is possibly aimed at the young, single and horny traveller... Santiago is a city surrounded by hills, with the Andes rising to the East. The city itself actually consumes a few smaller hills within it's boundaries, but is otherwise totally flat. The city has been a bit of a disappointment in that it doesn't seem to have anything particularly special to offer the tourist - unlike Buenos Aires with it's Tangos for example. We´ve spent a pleasant enough 2 days here now and done a few bits and pieces though.

On the first day we hiked up a smallish hill, Cerro Saint Luica, in the city centre with views over the city, but the smog and general lack of anything to see meant this wasn't too impessive! On the way down though we had some fun dodging the complex arrangement and timings of the garden sprinklers. The safety had been left off these bad boys. We felt like contestants from Takeshi's Castle.

Lunch beckoned, and Matt wolfed down his first Completo. This is a staple of the Chillean diet and is basically a hotdog in a roll, with fried onions, mayo, guacomole and tomato salsa. By the way, did we mention that Chilleans love Guacomole and have it with just about everything they can think of?

As we wandered through the central pedestrianised streets we bumped into Lucy and Elizabeth (from the bus into Pucon). What a small place South America is. They had found a nice hostel to stay in, so whilst Kat had an afternoon siesta (in order to save up enough energy for a long main sleep) Matt went off in search of this hostel located somewhere in the Barrio Bellavista area of the city.

The evening was spent in Barrio Brasil, a bohemian enclave a couple of kms west of the centre - pleasant enough, but nothing in particular to commend it.

On Sunday we got up early to head over to the Plaza Constitution, at one end of which is the presidential palace, the site of the 1973 coup that saw Pinochet take power. Bullet holes can still be seen in the neighbouring buildings (either than or theyre just in a very poor state of repair). We went there specifically to enjoy the changing of the guards, but apparently they get the day off on Sunday (or have to do a double shift - either way, there was no changing going on), so we left and went off to catch some breakfast in Plaza de Armes before embarking on our plan of visting the main museums in the city, all of which are free on Sundays. Kat decided to try something new and ordered the Toast con Plata. Boy were we surprised when they brought it out - had we mentioned that Chilleans like Guacamole. Yup - even on toast... Still, we learnt a new word, and not one that Kat would forget in a hurry!

Proceeding onto the museums we started with a jaunt through the Museum of Prehistory (or called something like that). It had a really good collection of stuff from all over the Americas, from the various tribes/races from pre-collonial times. Also as a separate exhibit was an exhibition of artifacts depicting various sexual acts and an interesting (although as it turned out from reading a small blurb on the way out, pretty much entirely made up) narrative about how they related to the ceremonies and beliefs as leaders passed from this life to the next and to being reborn. Quite how the following relate to that we are not sure, but it certainly was an interesting, and sometimes head scratching way to pass some time:

Anal sex
Sex with animals
Sex with dead woman
Sex with two women, one dead one alive.
Fellatio
Fellatio performed by an animal on a man
Fellatio perormed by a woman on an animal
And much much more.

Photography was prohibited.

After that a few minutes spent in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (very similar to the stuff in Tate Modern) was light relief.

Kat again took her afternoon siesta and Matt packed his swim stuff to head up to Cerro San Cristobal, which is an 800m hill just a couple of kms north of the very centre of the city. On top is a big statue of the Virgin Mary but it also houses a zoo and a couple of swimming pools.
Matt found his way to the top using the funicular easy enough, but after 45 minutes of searching in and around the hills for the swimming pool he came to the conclusion that the "fun map" at the entrance to the funicular wasn't really to any sort of scale, unless logarithmic perhaps. Anyway, unwashed he caught the cable car back down to another part of the city, Spanglished his way into finding the nearest metro, and was back in time for dinner...

The following morning we returned to Plaza Constitution and enjoyed the long and musical changing of the guards. The Chillean version alternates from the serious to the absurd.
At one point the guards, walking in pairs, had to turn one pair at a time and smile cheesily to their opposite. It looked a little bit like it could have been lifted from a Python sketch for a very camp army ceremony.

After that we collected our bags from the hotel and caught the bus to Valparaiso, on the Atlantic coast only 100km from Santiago. Apparently, along with it's posher cousin, Vina del Mar, 10kms further up the coast, it's a prime weekend destination for Santiagons. The town is built on a series of hills, with various funiculars linking them and is supposed to be quite scenic.
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