Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Travelling in Chile

Our travels to Chile began with a re-routed flight. Instead of Joburg - Paris - Sao Paulo - Santiago we flew Jhb - Amsterdam (with the day here)  - Buenos Aires (quick 1hr transit) - Santiago. It was a great change to not only have the day in Amsterdam - my first visit - but also to arrive in Santiago at 9h30 instead of 01h00.

We had an excellent day in Amsterdam. What a fabulous city! We missed out on the Van Gogh museum (long, long queues) but did do a canal boat ride and lots of walking. We didn't see any tulips except some in a planter outside an office.

We were back at the airport in the evening for the 14hr flight to Buenos Aires.

On the flight from Joburg to Amsterdam I slept from before take off to 4h30 to go! I think the total flight was around 11hrs. On the next leg I made it through one movie and dinner and then slept all the way until 1h30 to go! Celliers normally doesn't  sleep but he too snoozed on both flights (albeit not quite as much as me).

We made our first six nights of accommodation bookings through AirBnB before leAvington home. We made our way to our first place taking a bus and the metro from Santiago airport into the city. We unknowingly picked a great location and were warmly welcomed by Alejandra to her apartment.

She doesnt live there - it is specifically for AirBnB. She works as a psychologist three days a week and runs this apartment, which she only setup a few months ago. It is absolutely charming. Small but neat and tidy and well equipped. It has two rooms and we were fortunate to have it all to ourselves.

After a cup of tea and a chat with her, we set off to explore the city. Wow! We love it. Old and interesting architecture and just so much to see. A highlight was walking to the top of Cerro San Cristobal in the massive park in the city. From there we really got a perspective of just how huge the city is. We thought that we'd  walked lots but with the perspective of how huge the city is... we'd covered just a tiny piece.

From our viewpoint, cloud cover obscured most of the surrounding mountains, but we did see some snow-covered peaks. It looks like the mountains loom huge over the city - but they are over 100km away. Big, big mountains.

We ate at a great spot in the student part of town and slept like the dead.

This morning (Tuesday) we headed back to the airport to collect our hire car. Fortunately Celliers is a whiz at driving on the 'wrong' side of the road - the right. From the airport we got directly on to the Route 68 towards Valparaiso.

Not far from the airport we shot through a long tunnel and arrived on the other side of the mountains in farmland - Chilean wine country. The hills and electric green grass and vineyards are great to look at; there's  not much in terms of towns. We did stop at a small town marked on the map, 'Casablanca'. We hit the supermarket and got some bread and cheese, which we ate on a park bench. Not much else to be said of this little town...

Our Footprint guide book doesn't have too much nice to say about Valparaiso. It is long past its heyday although there are interesting sights to enjoy and the contrast  between mansions and the slums on the dozens of cerros (hills) that line the coast.

We're staying in Vina del Mar, which seems very much like a Durban-type area. This is where people come for their seaside holidays.  Here, and the towns North up the coast. After driving through Valparaiso we drove North past Vina del Mar and through a bunch of these 'resort' towns. Massive apartment blocks vie for space and look out at the sea. Totally crazy! After a couple of these we turned around to head back to Vina del Mar to the place where we are staying.

Our hostess is Elsa. She can understand some English but doesn't speak it. I'm enjoying the opportunity to try my Spanish and I'm actually doing ok. Words I haven't  used in so long are making an appearance and my recent practice speaking and learning Afrikaans has definitely helped my confidence. Elsa is great with me and we're  understanding each other perfectly. She speaks slowly and uses more simple words that I can follow.

I did ask Elsa to teach us how to pronounce Valparaiso. The 'v' has a 'b' sound, as with all v-words in Spanish. It then sounds much like 'bal-para-eeso'. 

Tomorrow morning (Wednesday) we will catch a bus to Valparaiso for a free city walking tour. I've done similar in Buenos Aires. The tour is free - but you then tip the guide for their service. We're  looking forward to it. Just our quick drive through a part of Valparaiso told us it was a place we were not comfortable exploring on our own. The tour may be in a better part of the city??? We'll see tomorrow.

We have Wednesday night here too and then a big drive (about 500km) on Thursday to start heading South and our Thursday night accommodation.

* First blog post on the Blogger app - on my phone. It won't let me post photos inline... 

Photos show: tulips in Amsterdam; view of the snow-capped Andes Mountains approaching Santiago; view of a part of Santiago from Cerro San Cristobal (there are snow-covered peaks in the clouds); selfie above the city; park plus statue in Casablance en route to Valparaiso; a beachfront apartment-covered town just North of Vina del Mar.

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