ARICA TO SANTIAGO

Trip Start Dec 04, 2005
1
8
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Trip End Dec 03, 2006


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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

NORTHERN CHILE ( 6TH JAN - 16TH JAN )

Well this is slightly different from the frantic pace of Peru. It has a very European feel to it here and we found it quite hard to slow down at first. We felt we should not be casually walking around taking in the sites but booking a visit somewhere or a long distance bus to our next destination.
We arrived in the town of Arica and booked into a hotel and set off to explore. Arica is quite an attractive place with its two main claims to fame being a beach resort and a major battle site during the war of the Pacific. The El Morro De Arica is the headland that dominates the city while 2kms away are the cities beaches.
We set off on a walk along the front and discovered two more significant things, the Yeco bird and the street entertainers. In Peru we had acrobats performing at traffic lights in their everday clothes but in Chile the performer was dressed to perform. The lights went to red the performer would jump into the middle of the road blow a whistle then start to juggle coloured balls. Before the lights changed he would go round collecting donations any of the drivers cared to give him. He would then repeat this process all day long! Beats begging I suppose. We watched him for a short while and managed to take a few snaps. The second thing we discovered was the Yeco bird which looked like it belonged in the jurassic period.The sound of their cry was a deep croaky sound. They live in the palm trees near the port and whose droppings make the trees turn to ghostly silhouettes. Tourists should also beware as they do not care who they splatter. Luckily we did not experience this.
In the city centre we found loads of craft stands where the indeginous Aymara people sell their goods.
Food was different here, but still not many vegetables. However we were pleased to be able to order lots of Palta, avacado to you. Chilean wine is good and as you can imagine cheap. It was hard to get our head round the money at the beginning as 1 pound is approx worth 1000 pesos, we felt rich when we withdrew money from the cashpoint. People were charming here and the car drivers much more pedestrian friendly. We spent 3 nights here generally chilling out and recharging our batteries.

We wanted to get further south and decided to move on to Iquique. We left for the bus station to catch a collectivo to Iquique 4hrs away. We organised this through a tourist guide who spoke good English. We confirmed with him the price was 15,000 pesos which he confirmed with the driver and off we went. When we arrived Neal took out the money to pay and the driver said it was 50,000 not 15,000. We stood for a few minutes arguing the point but as he could not speak English and Neals Spanish is not that good we decided to get assistance from the girl in the tourist office. She explained the situation to the driver who was adamant he was right. He said that if we did not pay he was going to call the police, we said go ahead. At this point the price was reduced to 40,000 but we waited for the police, who of course spoke no English. The police did not really know what to do so at the end of the day we agreed to pay 36,000, but felt we had literally been taken for a ride! Tails between our legs we went off to find a hotel. Hotel was a family run affair and when we did not turn up for breakfast on the first morning we had a phone call to ask if we wanted breakfast in bed. Not bad eh!
Iquique is a beach town undergoing a makeover to try and be claimed as the best beach resort in Chile. As far as we could see they are not making a bad job of it. Around the Plaza Prat the pavements are now boardwalks. They stretch right down the Baquedano to the beach. The city also has a lot of Georgian architecture which dates back to the 19th century mining boom. They have also introduced a tram for the tourists which you can actually walk faster than. Great fun as you sit in a cafe watching the kids waving at you as they go by.
We particularly enjoyed eating at the Boulevard on the Baquedano 790. It was not the cheapest of places but it sold good food and drink.
One night we went for a walk down to one of the bays next to the port when we spotted some seals playing in the water. It was great to see them in their natural habitat.
As it was a 26 hr bus journey to Santiago, mainly desert, we decide to treat ourselves to a flight. We chose to fly with Cruz De Sur which just happened to be the cheapest. The only downside was it was not a direct flight. It landed in Antofagasta to pick up more passengers. We did not know what to expect but we were pleasantly suprised. The meal was one of the best airline food we have tasted and the wine was served in glasses not plastic cups! What a result. We arrived in Santiago refreshed.

SANTIAGO
There are many beautiful sights in this world of ours and one of them is seeing the Andean mountains from the air.
Got the airport bus and metro to the centre which gave us a crash course on the metro system which we used frequently for the next 5 days.
Booked into an Apartment hotel which turned out to be a great choice. We had an area to sit and relax and could cook our own meals.After eating at restaurants and cafes for the last 6 weeks this felt like a real treat. As we were here for 5 nights we were also able to unpack which felt like a luxury.
Over the next few days we visited some of the many sites Santiago had to offer. We visited the Parque Metropolitano which is the largest park in Santiago. The park is situated on the Mountain San Cristobal and to get to the top you have to take a Funicular Railway. From here you get a panoramic view of the city. The skyscrapers back onto the snow capped Andes and its amazing how small and insignificant the skyscrapers actually look.There really is something special about being in a city where you can look up and see the second largest mountain range in the world only a stones throw away.We took a cable car down to the bottom of the park which goes over the Botanical gardens and the two open air swimming pools. This is a really good day out if you are ever in Santiago.
We also visited The Barrio Brasil which is the Bohemian part of town and the Cerro Santa Lucia. The Cerro Santa Lucia is right in the middle of the city and a great place to visit to get some peace and quiet. It was originally a hermitage, then a convent and then a military bastion. It is quiet and serene with fountains and staircases that lead to the summit.
Santiago has a very European feel to it and it is very easy to get around. We enjoyed the food and of course the Chilean wine. We were looking forward to coming back to Chile later on on our trip.

SANTIAGO TO MENDOZA

We left Santiago on the 16th Jan by bus to Mendoza. This trip took us through and over the Andes. The scenery was fantastic. Neal was snap happy taking hundreds of photos, thank goodness we have a digital camera! Journey took approx 7hrs, 1hr of this was spent passing through the border crossing. We arrived in Mendoza at 8pm ready for a new adventure.
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