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[ Caboose ]Introduction >> South America >> Santiago ]

South America
Southern Chile
Chilean Lake District and Argentina
The Desert
South American Album
South American Information
North America
Turkey 2003
Mount Cameroon 2005
Technical notes

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Friday 7 April 2000

We arrived in Santiago at about 0800 after an uncomfortable trip. Neither of us got much sleep due to the heat (no air conditioning) and the man at the front who sounded like he was drowning on his own phlegm all night.

We got the lovely clean metro into the city centre and checked into the City Hotel. We had decided to treat ourselves to a stay in a proper hotel and this one was very pleasant and USD42 per night for a twin room with bath and breakfast. It looked as if it had been quite posh at one time but has since been overtaken by the international chains. The design was very 30's and there seemed to be more staff than guests.

After a breakfast at MacDonald's we tried to find the Amex office, which had moved out to a new financial and business district called Providencia. While there we checked prices to fly to San Francisco, it didn't look like it was going to be cheap at all. On the other hand flying to Miami was much more reasonable.

Had lunch at an Irish pub, the food was good but the Kilkenny was far too cold and cost USD5.40 per pint, much more than local beer.

In the afternoon we found a cinema and watched 'Belleza Americana' (American Beauty), an excellent film. Finally met Lee in the Plaza de Armas at 1800, there had been some confusion between 'natural' and 'national' history museums.

Lee introduced us to the coffee bars of Santiago, where you buy a ticket and are then served coffee by a young woman in an incredibly short, tight skirt and high heels. Of course there are men at the back to make the coffee; the women are purely decorative.

We walked round to Bellavista, a sort of young student area of the city and met an American couple we had met on the bus from San Martin de los Andes and again on the bus to Santiago. They recommended a restaurant just up the road.

After a few beers at a pavement bar and watching the lovely Chilenas go past we returned to this unmarked "anti-restaurant". We eventually worked out that the "anti" must be something to do with the service because, although they seemed to be trying hard, the staff managed to get our orders hopelessly wrong and the food wasn't great anyway.

Lee said he was going to be in the States at the same time as us so we discussed meeting up and splitting the car hire three ways. Unfortunately he's also under 25 so it won't be any cheaper.

Saturday 8 April 2000

The hotel breakfast was the usual South American affair, bread and jam, but this time with filter coffee. The setting was also very nice; the faded grandeur of what looked like it had once been a small ballroom.

We met Lee again and took the metro to Plaza Baquedano. It's a great system and only costs USD0.50 anywhere in town. We were trying to find the colectivo stop to get to the Concha y Toro vineyard but weren't having much success until a taxi pulls up and the driver asks where we're going.

I made the terrible choice of sitting in the front seat and so spent the journey in constant fear of imminent death as we squeezed between buses and ran red lights.

The trip out through the suburbs to the village of Pirque was interesting and then we were dropped off at the gates of the vineyard. The American couple were already there and it seemed we should have phoned ahead to book.

In the end there were spaces so we joined the group anyway. The tour was quite well organised, starting with a very flashy video then taking in the vineyard, the cellars and a tasting. I managed to resist buying any wine though.

To avoid repeating the colectivo experience we caught a bus to the end of metro line five and then by metro to the centre. Dugly and I had a quick look around an exhibition about early Dutch exploration of Chile at the national library and then retired to the hotel for a siesta.

Tea was at a Chilean-style fast food restaurant. I had a Lomito, pork in a burger bun.

We met Lee and went back to the cinema to watch 'Three Kings', a film that caught us out by bearing very little resemblance to the trailers. It was one of the best American films I'd seen for a while.

Bought a book in a fantastically expensive English bookshop ('Like Water for Chocolate', translated from Spanish) then headed back to Bellavista for a few drinks.

It's a very busy area of pubs and clubs; lots of lovely girls kept passing by as we sat out on the street with our litres of beer.

A woman behind me kept tapping me on the shoulder and telling me how much her friend liked me and eventually announced that her friend wanted to suck me!

The friend, a young teacher called Claudia, then came over to apologise for the bother and stayed on to talk. It soon became obvious that Dugly was a man on a mission, so Lee and I kept out of the way.

Dugly decided to move on to a club. They wanted USD6 off us to get in, so Lee and I decided we'd rather have a quiet beer and ogle so we left him to it. In the end I had second thoughts about abandoning him so we paid up and went in.

We got a free drink for our entry fee; Lee managed to persuade them to give us a really vile cocktail (Caiparinha) featuring a mint-flavoured cherry on a stick. We then danced for a bit with some of Claudia's friends before I realised I was drinking much too fast and it was time to go.

The club was fairly dodgy anyway lots of people seemed to be hanging around in the toilets and Dugly and Claudia had crept off somewhere. Lee and I walked back into town.

Dugly turned up at about 0500 alone.

Sunday 9 April 2000

This was planned as a day of museums but I was horribly hung over (the cocktail had Pisco in it) and Dugly was sleeping all morning. Instead I got up, managed a bit of breakfast and then soaked in the bath for a while.

Some time around midday Dugly got up and related the sad tale of the night before. It seems Claudia had abandoned him in some very dodgy bit of town and he had only made it back due to the assistance of a crowd of Goths.

I only just managed to eat lunch at Burger King, taking a long time over it. We walked to Cerro Santa Lucia, a very nice park on a hill with several follies and fountains. From the top there was a good view out over Santiago, we could almost see the Andes through the haze and smog.

Next we got the metro to the railway station, most of which has sadly been converted into a shopping mall and made our way to the Parque Quinto Normal which contains the natural history museum.

The museum was interesting but not brilliant, the park was lovely and full of families out enjoying the sunshine.

Back in town we found an Internet café and looked for information on car hire and Bolivian ATMs. As a side effect I also discovered that Wells Fargo bank have an ATM at McMurdo base, Antarctica!

Dugly found some disturbing news on the CNN site about rioting and a state of emergency in Bolivia, we decided to contact the British embassy.

We had tea at a Chinese restaurant, one of many in town. It was an excellent meal and only cost USD9.40 for two people. We followed the meal with coffee in one of the coffee bars.

Monday 10 April 2000

Back to the travel agent first thing to book our Lima-Miami flight. The very helpful woman at the travel agency spoke excellent English. She reassured us about Bolivia, saying these things happen in South America quite often.

The British embassy was a very high security operation housed within the British American Tobacco building. After surrendering our passports we were allowed into the consular office where a shouted conversation through bombproof glass established that they didn't even know anything was happening in Bolivia.

Dugly went down to another office, where they had Internet access but didn't communicate with the consular section much, and printed out the CNN information. He then passed this on to the consular section but they said that as the FCO hadn't updated their travel advice nothing too serious could be happening. We assumed tear gas, rubber bullets and curfews are regarded as normal.

I phoned the Irish department of foreign affairs, who said they only had the same information as us but were getting more information from people in Bolivia and I should call again before going there.

We returned to the hotel, checked out and got the metro to the bus station. A full salon cama (first class) ticket to Calama only cost us USD36 each, including big comfy chairs and meals.

Lunch was a bit minimalist, four sandwiches the size of 2p pieces but tea was much nicer, salad and cold pork. Despite having air conditioning they didn't seem to want to use it so again we were quite warm.

I reclined my seat fully, pulled down the leg rest, grabbed a pillow and slept quite comfortably. I was only woken by a few things, the compulsory light and buzzer indicating the driver was going over 100 km/h and the bus getting stuck somewhere.

This was a very surreal experience as I kept drifting in and out of sleep as people got on and off, the wheels spun and the engine revved. I don't know exactly when, where or for how long this happened.

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