San Antonio, Valparaiso and Santiago

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January 9th 2020
Published: January 10th 2020
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Our cruise came to a rather abrupt end when we couldn't moor at Puerto Montt because of an approaching weather system. Storms are not called storms any more but weather systems. The captain made the decision to run for home before the storm otherwise we may have become stranded there and not been able to make it to San Antonio, the port for Santiago, in time for us all to make our onward flights.

Our last two days were very relaxing playing cards and Rummicub, reading, doing puzzles, swimming (me) and probably eating and drinking too much. We did go to the gym twice. The sea was as calm as a mill pond. We have been so lucky with the weather.

Arriving in San Antonio at 2pm a day early every was keen to get off the ship and explore. There wasn't much there but we walked along the promenade with Barb, John, Pauline and Eric. Susie and Bernard were with their French friends. We've had lots of fun with them all. Barb is still trying to beat Ian at Rummicub. She is fiercely competitive and calls John, John darling all the time. so much so that people think their surname is Darling. So we all him John Darling. Susie is depressed at returning to their village in France, an hour south of Paris as it is going to be cold and grey.

Along the promenade the fish market, rather smelly as fish markets tend to be, was a pelican lording it over a large flock of seagulls. Waiting in the wings was a vulture with its turkey-like red head. Rolling around in the sea amongst the fishing boats and taking siestas on the rocks were about a dozen sea lions. They even came up to within a metre or two of the beach. We needn't have driven 70kms on a metal road for hours to view them on the Valdez Peninsula.

It was hilarious trying to decide where to have a drink and a bite to eat. Two establishments were side by side, the less salubrious one had a young man, about 20 with braces on his teeth trying desperately to persuade us to come to his. He said the one next door was good but his was better. Ian tossed a coin to decide and he won.

He was so polite and eager to please he went out of his way get everything we wanted, advised on the local beers and seafood dishes that we ended up eating much more than we intended.

On the way back Barb persuaded us all, against our better judgement, to sit for caricatures. I'll post the results. It'll give you a laugh.

We are now sitting in the hotel at Santiago Airport preparing ourselves for out long travel day tomorrow, back to Buenos Aires, then Frankfurt, Bangkok, Udon Thani and an hour's drive to Phon Phisai on the banks of the Mekong River, opposite Vientiane in Laos. All in one go. So you might not hear from me for a while.

Today, before coming to Santiago, we had a tour of Valparaiso, the country's third largest city with 2.2 million people and the seat of the parliament. It is also the main port. Cruise ships used to call there but too many strikes occurred which is why they now call at San Antonio.

Steep hills, very old funiculars, murals, graffiti, colourful houses, once beautiful classical buildings are features we will remember. And the huge waves crashing over the seafront at Vina del Mar the waterfront town slightly to the north. These were a symptom of the storm to come and everyone had been warned to stay out of the water. Vina del Mar is a bit like the Gold Coast.

Graffiti everywhere tells that all is not well. Our guide said that people are protesting that, although Chile is one of the richest nations in South America not enough money is being spent on health, education and pensions. The country's wealth comes from copper mines in the north and people want a more even distribution of this.

A couple next to us having lunch in a small cafe approached us when they heard we were from NZ and said how they admired and envied us our Prime Minister. "Can we borrow her?" said the young man from Greece.

On the hour long drive inland to Santiago it was evident this part of the country is in a drought. Last year they received only 150 mls of rain. We drove on a bridge which would normally be over quite a wide river - there was not a drop of water in it. In the valleys is a large wine producing area, the vines using artesian water. Acacia trees dotted the hills.

Santiago is in a valley between the coastal range, an upthrust of the tectonic plate, and the Andes which are volcanic. It's amazing the things you learn.

See you all in Thailand.

Additional photos below
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The casino at Vina del MarThe casino at Vina del Mar
The casino at Vina del Mar

Note the white VW Beetles

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