Something different – a travel diary from 2012
13 October 2012
Finally made it to Santiago, Very tired – no sleep on the plane and I can hardly stay awake for dinner. Have to say that flying into Santiago was pretty awesome seeing the Andes above the blanket of clouds, just like normal mountains on a field of snow. I knew then that they were taller than anything else I have seen, even in Scotland! The clouds and smog didn’t start to clear until this afternoon when I was wandering around the park near my hotel and had walked up the big hill, Saint Lucia, where I was admiring the view down over the city and thinking it was a pity I couldn’t see the mountains. I was admiring some of the cloud patterns when I realised that the clouds I could see high up in the sky were actually the snow covered peaks of the Andes! Have spent the afternoon wandering around near my hotel, some interesting shops and lovely parks but the rest of the city doesn’t do much for me. The ride out from the airport reminded me of Mexico looking at the housing. Some of it looked like it was made out of scrap timber…or else they were stables but everything was very dilapidated and depressing and the high rise got me too – this is an earthquake zone!
Chileans make the best salsa! I normally do not like it much but the real stuff is so good!
The other thing that surprises me is when I walk into my hotel, the porter jumps to his feet and rushes to call the lift for me and to open the door, select the floor etc. As this is a low budget hotel I am rather taken aback and I wonder what happens in the expensive hotels. 🙂 All rather old world but nice just the same
14 October 2012
Had to laugh at myself yesterday. Never having spoken Spanish to anyone before my instant reaction was to reply in German! 🙂 I didn’t actually do it but my brain must have registered it wasn’t English. After being spoilt at lunch yesterday finding a restaurant where the staff had excellent English and a Safe Food Award (very handy sign to look for), I decided to try out the hotel restaurant for dinner where they have no English and one hopes the food is safe. 🙂 The phrase book and my duo lingo lessons got me through. Nice food too – nothing too fancy but good and presented nicely. Hopefully I will have a little more confidence each day.
Fitting in well to the routine here – my hotel doesn’t serve breakfast until 8am and dinner starts at 8pm. I missed breakfast. After getting up at 4am for an hour or so I went back to bed and, after taking a while to go to sleep, it was after 10am before I woke up again. Started off very cold but has finished up a lovely sunny day. I like getting to know Santiago.
Another interesting day. Walked all over Santa Lucia Hill today – it is a bit of a labyrinth. 🙂 Couldn’t help but notice the dogs today. They too seem to have the South American way of life – very laid back. Most were asleep and didn’t appear to have owners but aren’t starving either. They had no aggression what so ever, just peacefully enjoying the sun. Also discovered a young tabby cat in the bushes that came out to greet me when I spoke to her. Poor baby, I would have liked to take her home. There were dogs asleep on the streets today I noticed as well. I guess they are allowed to wander as there are no backyards in the city and it is all apartments.
My favourite waitress told me about the Santa Lucia markets. They are not on on Sunday but in looking I found some other shops selling craft and souvenirs. Ended up buying shoes 🙂 and a CD. Most places here play English music that I hear at home all the time. Last night in the restaurant they were playing some really nice Spanish songs, which I prefer since it is different. The music shop was playing a really great artist a bit like a Spanish Bob Dylan only with a better voice. Had to buy it. I needed to get the owner of the shop next door to translate for me explain which song I heard.
There are lots of markets in Santiago. The arts and crafts market in the city centre was very interesting.
Off to Easter Island tomorrow.
15 October 2012
Day 1 at Easter Island. It has been a long day. Josie Haumaka, my tour guide met me at the airport and presented me with a Lai. Did an afternoon tour of some of the statues and the volcano close by. Tomorrow is a full day going to the other end of the island. Too tired to say much except that the most awesome thing I saw today was the ocean around the Island – from the air it is the most incredible shade of blue and it is from the ground too and when the waves break, the blue appears to leak into the white foam like the colour is running. Heading to bed, no sleep last night and jet lag has got me which is unusual for me. I hope I get a good night of sleep tonight.
17 October 2012
Day 2 on Easter Island where the horses run free, the cattle run free (pretty much), the dogs run free, the cats run free and the chickens run free. Fences hardly exist. There are hundreds of horses – a few years ago there were more horses than people. They are mostly owned and once again the dogs and cats look well fed. I am sure all the dogs in Chile and Easter Island are drugged because they are all so placid, with a couple of exceptions.
Last night at dinner I was visited by, firstly, a very skinny mangy tabby cat so I gave her some of my chicken, which, by the way, was the best piece if chicken I have had in years – it actually tasted like chicken did in the old days! I don’t know if it was home grown or it was the cooking but it was really good, Anyway, when she finally gave up and went away I noticed she looked pregnant, poor little thing. Next was a female dog in the queue of here’s a sucker, looked like she had puppies at home or had recently lost them. The waiter shooed her away but she looked half starved also and very forlorn. She lay a short distance away and watched us. A male dog came along and she surprised me as she gave him what for and snarled at him until he took off.
So, tonight as I was walking home there she was again in same area and she came up to me with those sorrowful eyes and I really wished I had something to give her. I kept walking and happened to go by the general store that sold meat – there were a few dogs sitting outside the door looking very hopeful so you can guess what I did. I probably shouldn’t have but I summoned up my best broken Spanish and bought her a nice juicy pork chop – mostly because the bones they sold were too big and I did want to start a dog fight over the food. I was a little concerned about how much it would cost as restaurant food is not cheap here, but it cost me the huge sum of $2. I called her over to a quietish area away from the other dogs and gave it to her – she was ravenous and wolfed it down almost with the plastic bag as well. I hope it didn’t make her sick and she has a night with a full belly for a change. As you can see, I should not live here.
A nicer story happened earlier today after my tour which was really interesting and informative. I saw the quarry today where they made the statues and some were still in situ partly carved, or in the process of being moved. It was easy to imagine after today what is must have been like in its hey day with all the statues and the villages. I have now seen two volcano craters. I don’t think I have ever actually seen one before.
So after my tour, I went down to the town for some shopping and a wander around and I decided to go and visit the cemetery. That was really interesting. Very colourful with flowers growing everywhere and not a stonemason’s headstone to be seen but lots carved out of the local stone by the locals themselves. There seemed to be a section just for the babies which always makes me sad. Anyway, just before then I heard some footsteps behind me and it was another female dog. She started rummaging in the flower pots on the graves and I roused on her but then I realised she was after water. I left the cemetery and continued on my walk along the coastline to where there are some statues and she continued to follow me. She found a babies disposable nappy and thought it was a ball and was playing with it, tossing it in the air. Finally she lost interest in that (thank goodness) and we continued on our walk. She saw some other people who patted her but she soon left them and came with me again. (Am I turning into the dog lady???) I sat down to look at the surf and the statues and she sat beside me so I decided to give her some of my water which she was really happy about. After a while I went back the way I came and she followed. She stopped to play chasing with another dog for a while – they ran around taking turns at who was chaser and chasee and I thought I’d lose her but no, she realised I had walked on and dumped the playmate and raced to catch up to me. We got to the lovely beach near the town and she raced off to a family that patted her etc and I thought must be hers. Before long though again I heard pitter patter behind me. I went down to a wonderful restaurant for dinner that was on the beachfront and she was gone when I came out.
The restaurant has a veranda where you sit facing the surf where the waves are good enough to surf – there were about 6 guys out, the sun was setting and with dinner done it was so relaxing I could have easily fell asleep. So ends day 2.
18 October 2012
Day 3 and it is siesta time although, as tempting as it is, I dare not have one and risk not being able to sleep tonight. This morning we went to the lava tube caves where the natives used to take shelter, have gardens and use as a water supply. There are bananas, grapes, and taro growing down there at the opening and when you go in to the cave it is very cool and they have fire pits there for warmth in the cold weather. I also saw an unrestored statue site which was good to see as the toppling of the statues is also part of their cultural heritage.
Did a little “research” for work and went in to the bank to change USD to pesos but they will only do that between 8am and 11-30 am and I was too late – that seemed very weird but fortunately I had mastered the ATM so it was all good.
Off to a traditional native dinner tonight and a show so that should be interesting. Flying back to Santiago tomorrow afternoon
Native dinner and show was good. After watching the ceremony around the fire pit I had my face painted Rapa Nui style (the photos didn’t work out) and had to attend a hula style dance class while the men learnt to jump around yelling like Rapa Nui men do – a little akin to the haka. The dinner was very much like a hangi as well. The show was great though. They even have a version of cats cradle with string like we used to play only it accompanies a song
19 October 2012
I am still enthused about the colour of the sea and the sight of the Andes but I can’t pick a favourite thing – it has all been a great adventure. I am getting better with my Spanish comprehension and saying very basic stuff although, once I say something in Spanish, they often continue to converse in it and I haven’t a clue. I also need a bigger dictionary!
Guess who got business class upgrade??? 🙂 I happened to mention the little hassle I had at Santiago airport about my baggage and that they said I had too much. I had to get my guide there to talk to them and they let me through without charge. Tour guide here thought that was weird so she checked this morning before picking me. They confirmed here that I was well within limits so as compensation they upgraded me. 🙂 I guess it helps that this is a small place and the guide knows everyone and also that the check in girl was her cousin (she has 42 first cousins on the island). Currently using free wifi at airport waiting for my flight.
I may be speaking too soon as I have another couple of flights with LAN but I think they might be better than Qantas. In business class they give you doonas not just nicer blankets. I thought the blankets in economy were pretty swish as it was. It was a good flight and we were 30 minutes early. Saw sunset over the Andes from the plane – very beautiful.
I have to say it was a little disconcerting, to say the least, yesterday when, after boarding the plane, they announced they were going to spray the cabin with insecticide! It was a health requirement and would not harm us (sure, sure). I had visions of cans of mortein coming out but no; a lovely smell came through the air con giving me thoughts of other less pleasant things. I now think perhaps it was disinfectant and she translated incorrectly, I have heard that before I think
Braved the congor eel for dinner back in Santiago– yum
22 October 2012
My facebook post from last night seems to have disappeared but maybe I was so exhausted mentally that I forgot to hit enter. 🙂 So, to reiterate, I have finally arrived in San Pedro de Atacama with no thanks to the tour company (Desert Adventure) who left me stranded in Calama without anyone in the airport who could speak more English than I can Spanish and me having to find my own way here and arriving 5 hours later than I was supposed to.
Got them to give me the $80 back for my taxi fare and they gave me free lunch at the restaurant nearby. I am currently a little concerned about the rest of this trip as last night the concierge with little English wanted to know if I wanted a wake up call and boxed lunch. I said no lunch and 7am call. So at 4-55 am there is a guy knocking on my door speaking Spanish. I think he was trying to wake me up for a tour but that would be for the tour on the last day. He went away and I tried to call reception but the phone doesn’t work – so probably was a wake up call. Will they turn up at 8am like they are supposed to? I suspect this is going to be the tour from hell and such a shame as I love San Pedro.
They did turn up at 8am but for the wrong tour – all day and I wasn’t prepared and found out after we had picked up a few more people. Something told me to ask. So I got off and waited for the tour office to open to find out what on earth was going on.
23 October 2012
Time to get dressed, find out what is going on with my tours and get some breakfast. One good thing is I self booked an astrological tour tonight to go star gazing, I think that doing it myself might be the only way in the future and that usually is what I do. Looking forward to the stars. 🙂
All sorted now. The tour company changed my entire itinerary. The driver who didn’t get me from the airport was supposed to give me a copy and the hotel. He supposedly left mine at the hotel for them to give me. Anyway I have another new itinerary now and they are doing a special tour for me this afternoon to the Inca ruins that I had thought I was doing this morning. Filled in the rest of the day wandering the streets and shopping. So all is good again.
What a great night star gazing. We had a Professor of Astronomy and his student plus a translator. The Professor cracked jokes now and then and was lots of fun. He had a big telescope and we looked at stars, planets, galaxies and the moon. Unfortunately the moon was half full so we could not see a lot of stars. On the plus side though we were able to look at the moon and its craters and also take a photo through the telescope – very cool. 🙂 Oh, and the word is that there will be a collision with earth in 2036, bigger than the one that wiped out the planets but we can go live on Mars by then or one of the moons of Saturn so get your bags packed. 🙂 This was after Professorhad a wine or two – we had wine, pisco sour (which I tried), tea and coffee in the middle of the desert by moonlight during the break. So he may have been pulling our leg. On the way home the Professor sat in the front with the Belgium guy who wanted to be in front and he was jokingly being very friendly as it was a bit squeezy with three in the front. So it was lots of fun and at the same time, educational.
24 October 2012
Got to see wild flamingos today in the Atacama salt lakes. 2 of the 3 species were there today. Also saw quite a few vicunas – like little llama kind of animals that can’t be domesticated as they die. We went from desert and salt lakes to what they call the wet lands …still arid to me. It was freezing in the Andes foothills and I am wearing thermals for tomorrow’s trip to the mountains and geysers. Early start and then back to Santiago. Home soon
25 October 2012
If I thought it was cold in the Andes foothills yesterday it was nothing like today up at 4500 metres just after sunrise looking at geysers and eating breakfast!! It was minus 12c. I had thermals on but I thought my fingers would drop off and my toes were even cold. One poor girl wore leggings. She had grabbed a jacket when they told her it would be really cold but didn’t think it would be that bad. She was shivering and said it had gone from being uncomfortable to horrible. The best part of breakfast was the hard boiled eggs that were still hot – don’t know how they did that but holding them was wonderful and so was eating them – haven’t seen an egg since I left. 🙂 The geysers were good but not that interesting to me as I have seen them in Rotorua but we got to see some more vicuna close up, more flamingos and other bird life.
The best part of that was the red fox that came wandering along the road and stopped just near the bus. He stood a few minutes and then sat for us to take photos. Also the flamingos were flying about and that was something to see. I also saw a native kind of rodent a bit like a rabbit with a long tail that blended perfectly with the green bushes.
I know I try to be adventurous but up at the geysers they have a thermal pool we could swim in. Sounded nice but I knew what would happen when you got out of a nice warm pool in nothing but your swimmers at zero degrees. It was quite funny to watch the young ones who were willing to brave it. The guys enjoyed the added spectacle of bikini clad girls trying to get dressed again more or less in public – they have change rooms but no door.
When I arrived in San Pedro the guide that was supposed to meet me at the airport was Manuel (shades of Fawlty Towers comes to mind immediately). When I was checking what time I would be collected in the afternoon for my flight back to Santiago they said Manuel would collect me at 3pm. No surprise 3.15pm came and still no sign of Manuel. Got reception to call and there was a delay and he would be there in 10 minutes. He did eventually turn up and I made my flight but there was no tip from me. I was glad to see though that he still had a job – it is a poor country and I would not like to think he would suffer unduly. I wonder if he had to pay back the $80 – I hope not, I just hope he takes better care next time.
Back in Santiago and I do a bus/walking tour of Santiago with a very nice young man with perfect English. Turns out he lived in Forestville in Sydney for 2 years as did one of my guides in San Pedro!
26 October 2012
Home sweet home. Travelling for 24 hours, no sleep for over 40 now – hanging out for as long as I can before I go to bed. Just realised I forgot to eat lunch. …mind you I had 3 breakfasts today on 3 different flights. I have decided that Qantas is the best airline – they just have it all over the others. The new public pick up area at the Brisbane domestic airport is the pits – takes 20 minutes to walk there and they throw in an obstacle course as well! Some of us on the course were wondering if we got a navigation certificate at the end. 🙂
Was the trip all that I hoped? I think it was, I love looking at different cultures and learning a little about their way of life. I think I will be back again – maybe not Chile but South America and I want to take more Spanish lessons. I will remember it for a long time.