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January 7th 2012
Published: January 7th 2012
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5th January

Santiago in 4 hours behind UK time and beautifully warm. We were bussed to the Hyatt in the newer part of town and I got stuck in my seat and had to be cut out of my seat belt with scissors! Huge room on the 12th floor but not much time to enjoy it with a compulsory city tour an hour after we arrived. Our guide was a big blonde who looked like a mafia’s moll and spoke more German that English. (There are a lot of Germans here) She walked us through the old town into the cathedral and then to a coffee bar with legs! It had skimpily clad waitresses and was a bit like a poor man’s bunny club but with bigger legs. Nothing exciting at first glimpse in Santiago. Chilean economy is fairly buoyant, wine and copper being major exports but the city having suffered an earthquake in 2010 has few old building and is being overtaken by high rise offices. There is a thriving art life here but we didn’t glimpse it and a big problem with immigrants from poorer south American countries.

Dined outside on the balcony by the waterfall was weird in January – there are bougainvillea everywhere and oleander and plumbago on the patches of green but the countryside around the city is parched and the Andes as we flew over them coming in were dusty brown.

6th January

We met up with all the other delegates and partners this morning in the lobby – all 90 of us. Some had been to Easter Island, which sounded amazing. On our coach journey to the coast (Valparaiso) there were some areas of vines but again much barren landscape. The costal city itself was sad to behold. Having seen the beautiful Quito in Ecuador, we were expecting similar Spanish grandeur but this was crumbling and covered in graffiti – not all of which is due to the earthquake. It is supposed to be a very bohemian city but quite dangerous for wealthy looking westerners to walk around it. The coloured houses down the hillsides and from a distance are quite attractive and quirky but the centre of town is, as I said, very down at heel. The Panama Canal put pay to the fortunes of this city as the major port.

Eventually and with some relief, we boarded the SS Veendam. As cruising virgins, it was all a bit overwhelming but its surprising what one can get used to! More of the ship and hopefully a few pics next time.


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