On my last night in Santiago i took the Metro, which is very good - safe, clean and efficient, into a part of town I'd seen a Chinese restaurant in earlier in the day. I was only meant to be going a few stops but for some reason the train went sailing through my stop and the next three leaving me further away from where i wanted to be than when I started. Had no idea why until i came out of the metro to find half the population of Santiago coming towards me. It turned out that there was a big Christmas parade going on and some metro stations had been closed to stop a crush. I then had to spend an hour and a half battling against the crowd walking back to where I wanted to be to find when I finally got there the Chinese was closed. Didn't put me in the best of moods.
I moved on to the port town of Valparaiso on a morning bus and stayed at the Millennium House Hostel which is a bit scruffy round the edges but OK and the lady who ran the place seemed very nice. She obviously
likes a bit of crochet as everything in the place, toilet seat, tables, chair backs etc all have little crochet covers on them.
Most of Valparaiso is built on the side of a hill and i had a short but steep walk up an alley to get to the hostel. walking up the first evening some bloke latched on to me and started rattling on about something, no idea what but it involved me giving him money, I was about to tell him to sling his hook when the lady from the hostel came bursting out the door with a dirty great big truncheon in her hand said something to him which I'm guessing wasn't too polite and he was off like a stabbed cat. So she obviously likes a bit of vigilantism as well as crochet.
Second day in Valparaiso there was a big demo i wandered along with. From what I could gather the government workers are out on strike over a pay deal. It was a fairly good natured affair with some in fancy dress and a band on the back of a lorry. There was a bit of a rally at the end that
I watched for a while before wandering off to do more touristy things.
Spent a few more days in Valpo visiting various things of interest including a Chinese restaurant which was open!!
I have now pushed on a thousand miles north to a small town in the Atacama desert called San Pedro de Atacama. I took the bus from Valpo which took 23 hours to a town called Calama where i stayed the night before doing the last short leg to San Pedro in the morning. The bus was modern and comfy but after 23 hours I'd had about as much as I could take.
San Pedro is is an oasis stuck 2400mts up the Andes in the Atacama desert. Its a nice enough place but the main reason for being here is to take trips out to various sites around the area. San Pedro itself is almost totally given over to the tourist industry which makes it expensive.
Among others things I've taken a trip to the Tatio geysers, the highest in the world, which was great except that you have to leave at 4am to get there for dawn. The area is at about 4300mts
so you really feel the altitude. Most of the time there I had a slight dizzy feeling and the smallest bit of exercise left me of of breath. The geysers are not the great big "old faithful" kind but more a whole area with lots of small ones. Our guide put a bag of eggs into one to boil them up for breakfast.
There are also a couple of thermal springs you can go for a bath in. I didn't bother because although its very hot here in the day at that time and that alltitude it was still bloody freezing.
Took a very nice short walk (still left me knackered) up through a small canyon with a stream running though it to see some 500 to 800 year old cacti. Not sure how they know their that old but the guide seemed sure and he seemed like he knew what he was talking about.
Along the way have seen Vicuna (like a small wild Llama), Flamingoes, Llama, desert rabbits and a whole gang of lizards.
Anyway had a great time here and ill be moving on in the morning for a night in Calama again before
moving on on the 24th to the beach at Iquique where I'll be spending Christmas. Will be there until about the 27th beore moving on to Bolivia for new year.
Anyway to end having a great time will write again in a week or so hope you all have a great Christmas and New year.
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