Chilly in Chile
Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
79Trip End Sep 06, 2010
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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’
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
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
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
See you in Kiwi land,
Lots of Love,
Amy and Skiing Steve