Published: October 11th 2007October 11th 2007
After saying a sad good-bye to pretty Buenos Aires we arrived to Santiago de Chile yesterday. We have managed to avoid the cheeky taxi drivers trying to overcharge us for a ride and book ourselves tickets on the TransVIP bus, which is a mini bus share airport transfer thing. It was quite a good laugh to sit in a bus with 6 Chileans and a bus driver trying to explain where we are going (the number 546 caused us a little difficulty), but we worked it out and got to Paula´s place ok.
Paula is a friend of a friend from my Australia exchange year who offered to host us for as long as we wanted to stay. She took us out with a friend of hers, Christian, who spoke little English, so we had to get our best Spanish out to exchange some words with him. The area they live in is called Providencia and is a quite upmarket area with lots of high rise apartment buildings and shops and restaurants. I guess it´s no surprise that I discovered my first South American Starbucks from the car! (no, we didn´t get to go in). We went to an amazing (surprisingly non-smoking) restaurant and had some local dishes (I had a crab pie and Lee had a 'lomo de vintade' which was a HUGE spicy steak with spicy mash potatoes) washed down by Pisto Sour (their local white brandy made out of grapes) and a bottled of Chilean red.
Although we stick out like a sore thumb, surprisingly Chileans don´t stare at us too much and have been extremely helpful when we try to communicate with them. It seems that English is really not widely spoken, but a lot of people understand a few words anyway.
Today we managed to purchase coach tickets to Villarrica, Patagonia (leaving tonight on a 10 hr coach trip), which made us proud, although our carefully put together Spanish crumbled as soon as the travel agent asked us something. :) It is amazing how you can work things out when you really have to. (Well, in Buenos Aires we did manage to ask for two single people rather than two single tube tickets to our local friends´great amusement...)
We then set off to discover the town. They say Santiago is not a particularly pretty city, although has a beautiful location with the Andes in the background. Due to the pollution the Andes can hardly been seen, unless rain clears the air. Economy is advanced here, which is obvious by the amount of American brands present, but also the city looks clean and well maintained. There is absolutely no sense of danger or threat when walking around.
The scary experience of the day was taking the Teleferico (cable car) up San Christobal hill. These cars are tiny (max 4 people) and they are up pretty high. The views are amazing, but gee we were sh###ing ourselves. There is a huge statue up on top (Imaculade Conception) and more stunning views of the city and the Andes (behind the smog of course). We walked down the hill and walked around Bellavista, the bohemian quarter of the city, where Pablo Neruda once lived.
Tonight we are taking the fist class coach down to Patagonia to finally get out of cities and explore a bit of wilderness. Stay tuned for the next round of adventures.
Edina & Lee
x x x