Published: June 27th 2012May 18th 2012
We arrived in Santiago, Chile to begin the final leg of our trip – Only 9 weeks left! Shocker. The bigger shocker was the longest day we have ever had to endure! The 17th
May 2012 turned into a 40hour day for us. With the time difference between New Zealand, the early start, the LONG wait in Auckland airport and no sleep by the time we arrived in South America it was still only the start of the day and we were off to sleep!
Our first day was basically a write off and we only planned to stay in Chile for a couple of days to move on to Argentina mainly because Chile is expensive and there were far more things on our bucket list to see in other countries. We did manage to rise from bed to grab the free dinner and chat to some people staying the hostel then it was back to bed!
Santiago is a strange city. At first we weren’t too sure about it. We were very cautious about security and it was hard to get into the mind-set of travel in a different country again especially after a whole month in New Zealand!
I think after our few days though we had relaxed a bit and I started to like the place. We took the funicular (a cable train) up the San Cristobal Mountain. At the top we were met with a little artisan market playing salsa music with views overlooking the city. Well, views might be a bit too strong of a word. Santiago is smog central. It is a city surrounded by the overpowering Andes Mountains but you are lucky if you can see the outline of these at all. To say I was disappointed at this would be an understatement. What could be a spectacular site is ruined by the inhabitants and industry here.
What did make up for the lack of view was the statue the watches over the city of the Virgin Mary. Whitewashed, arms open and looking out over the cloudy city. Inside is a little area to say a prayer or two. The steps just below are just a peaceful place to sit and take a moment to yourself while people watching the tourists or grabbing the attention of a stray dog or watch the locals do some crazy running up and down the steps!
Nestled below here is a quaint and beautiful little stone church but also an open air altar where I imagine there it is nice to go to mass (even if the views are a little hidden!).
The rest of our exploration of the city was just by wandering around, taking in the bustle of the city. The one thing that struck us immediately was the number of people who smoke. All along the pavements were locals smoking in little groups. Think Irish smoking areas multiplied. We grabbed lunch at a little kebab place but it was clear that our lack of Spanish was going to be a real challenge. All the menus were only in Spanish and we were so bad the waitress even wrote out a few phrases for us!! This could be a bit difficult considering the next nine weeks ahead are mainly Spanish speaking countries – oops, should have learned it!
Our final night in Santiago we decided to join in the BBQ and night out arranged by the hostel. This meant free flowing wine, beer, food and fun with people from all over the world. We ended up in a lively group of people,
swapping travel stories, sharing experiences and advice. Somehow it was 1am and we were all heading to the nightclub. Fernando who was one of the staff was beginning to hit on some of the girls and at the same time an Austrian guy who was also into one of the girls was putting up a good challenge to his advances. The walk to the nightclub was filled with laughter and messing. It really was downhill from there with John and I on vodkas, rum and the like, throw in a bit of dancing, you get the picture. The next thing we knew it was 4am and with John having some iota of sense we strolled back towards the hostel, we had a bus at 9.30am…..
Alarms were set, all were slept through. Nothing was packed, taxi was delayed, we have no Spanish to ask for help at the terminal, we still have bloodshot eyes, Ciara has a panic at 9.25am that we are in the wrong bus terminal, we manage to find a bus, John picks up biscuits and fizzy drinks and we are off!!!Luck is the word.
After all the commotion of actually trying to get the
bus, the journey itself was so worthwhile. Today we were crossing the Andes from Santiago to a place called Mendoza in Argentina. The road really was breath-taking – it wound up and around snow topped mountains, tunnels slid under and through rocky caves, the views were gorgeous. The buses here are like first class on a plane. Large seats, that recline to sleep, you get served food and drinks. Ireland is behind! The 8 hour journey was actually a pleasure, even being hungover! (They don’t have any stupid announcements about luggage doors opening too, BONUS).
There are more photos below