We arrived to the Auckland airport thoroughly relieved that we made it in time. The whole short bus fiasco made us both more than a bit nervous, because our flight from Auckland to Santiago was the flight that we were warned about when we bought our ticket in September. Apparently, it fills up months in advance so we REALLY needed to make sure to get on the flight. When we got to the check in counter we made our usual attempt at getting an exit row or bulk head seats, but of course these were full (we really were there at the last minute). Adam also asked about the on-board entertainment since it was our first flight on LAN air (which is a South American airline). We had been flying Quantas from China and in Australia and New Zealand. Quantas spoils its customers with the most amazing entertainment system. On our flight from Shanghai to Sydney we seriously were not ready to get off the plane, because we had not watched all of the movies, television, and travel documentaries that we wanted to see. They also never close the bar and offer food on request at anytime. We were told at the LAN desk that we were to board an older plane and that the only entertainment available would be a movie on the partition screen. Bummer! LAN just doesn’t match up to Quantas, and even the flight attendants acted as they were doing you a favor to give you something as simple as water (which they did not offer enough of). They did come around through the night offering tiny cups of Coke. I awoke at one point with one of them in my face, the attendant asked if I wanted it and I replied with a very sleepy and grouchy “NO”! Why would I want a Coke in the middle of the night, when I was quite obviously trying to sleep.
When we arrived in Santiago we high tailed it through customs, immigration, got our luggage (we have done this many times now!), and then flagged down a cab. We headed straight to the Happy House Hostel where Adam’s grandparents (Pat & Alicia) stayed just two weeks before. It was a pretty nice place located not too far from the city, and had great common areas and a really nice kitchen. The whole place, including the rooms had beautiful high ceilings and since it was a really old building, really creaky floors. They warned us on arrival that the next night there was to be a party and that it might get pretty noisy. We were also offered a welcome drink upon arrival that we could get at the restaurant downstairs. Since we were pretty tired we chilled in the room for awhile, and then went to have dinner and redeem our “free” drinks. When we walked into the restaurant the waiter who came to greet asked us right away where we were from. When we told him, he brought out the Sam Adam’s and the Sierra Nevada beer that he had. He had hundreds of beers from all over the world and he was rearranging them to fit on the shelves better. he talked to us about them for a few minutes very passionately and told us that they were his love. Since we will be home soon and will be able to find Sam Adam’s and Sierra Nevada very easily Adam couldn’t resist but to order one of the guy’s favorite local beers. The restaurant also served very good sandwiches and lasagna, but when we ordered our welcome drink the passion came back with this guy. He recommended that we try the pisco sour. Wow! This was really special, as the sour part was all fresh ingredients. Pisco we were told is distilled grape juice, a type of brandy that is only made in Chile and Peru. After this seven pm night cap we retreated back to the Happy House for a thirteen hour sleep.
The next day we woke, and were feeling not too bad. We decided to go out for a walk around the city and to get some groceries. Santiago has a European feel to it and it was nice to stroll through. There were many street performers out with large crowds gathered to watch. Once we tired of wandering we walked back to rest up before the party was to begin (a little bit if peace and quiet). The purpose of the party was to celebrate two employees b-days, and to say farewell to two employees that were leaving. One of the b-day’s was for Vera, a young German woman who Pat and Alicia met while at the Happy House. They were impressed with her and thought that the three of us should meet.
Here is Shawn and Vera at the party.
South American countries, we have learned, are full of night owls, so the party didn’t really get started until midnight or so. We had a chance that night to talk with many travelers, but also to interact a bit with local people. Shawn was a little dumbfounded as to how to interact with the Chilean men, they are extremely touchy feely, and kept bringing her glass after glass of wine to “try”. It is a common custom for men to kiss women on the cheek when greeting them, but it seemed that some of the men took advantage of this, just a bit.
This party went on late into the night, so we didn’t go to bed until five in the morning. This really messed our “getting over jet lag” issue up. The next night we didn’t fall asleep again until five in the morning. This made trying to see sights and being excited to see them, rather difficult. It also rained for a couple of the days while we were there, so it gave us even more of an excuse to lay low in the room.
One day when we mustered up our energy and enthusiasm, we headed out on the subway (which is really quite good) to where one of the funiculars is. A funicular is a train that climbs at about a forty five degree angle up a hill. About half way up we stopped at the national zoo. It wasn’t really a great zoo, but we did get to see some interesting South American animals and also some white tigers. Once we were finished with the zoo we headed on up to the park that is on the top of the hill. The main attraction is the enormous statue of Mary at the top. A reminder that we were now in a very Catholic part of the world.
Shawn on the funicular.
On the way back from our outing, we came across a couple of guys with a video camera, stopping pedestrians on the street. They stopped Shawn and asked if they could teach her a new dance. She decided to be a good sport and she did it. Maybe she will be famous in South America now.
We also heard while we were in Chile that we should see the port city of Valipariso and Vino del Mar. Even though we were only sleeping through the night every other night or so, we braved a sleepy bus ride out to the coast. When arriving there we were a bit confused some of the roads were blocked off due to a student protest. We also had heard that there were certain areas that were safe and others not, so we went ahead and booked a tour right there in the bus station. It really was a bit overpriced for what it was, but we were tired and just didn’t want to deal with anything that day. Since the tour had already started a local driver high tailed us on over to where the tour group was in a really cool park that had trees from all over the world. After leaving the park we headed to Vino del Mar to have lunch. We ended up at a seafood restaurant on the coast. It was really good! The ordering was a bit of a problem though Adam had heard to try Chilean sea bass, so he tried to order it. Well, apparently, they were out of it because Shawn got her seafood chowder and Adam didn’t get anything. Poor Adam, he was starving! He finally flagged down the waiter again and had no luck communicating to him that he wanted some food. The waiter finally found our guide and the guide translated that they were out of sea bass, so FINALLY Adam ordered another fish, and this time it came really quickly and he was able to enjoy his meal.
After the meal we went for a short little stroll on the beach before heading to see the sites of Valipariso.
Valipariso is really a city with a lot of character. It is currently a fairly poor city, but in the past was a major port city. When the Panama canal was built, Valipariso suffered. You can see the extravagance of the European architecture of its heyday. It is also visually interesting because of all of the colorful houses that are built on hills all over the city. Unfortunately, the tour bus did not stop at many of the places where we could have gotten some great photos of how interesting it was. The tour ended with a ride up a funicular to an over look of the port. It had started to rain a little, but because of this there was a full rainbow at dusk making for some really great photographic moments.
We spent most of our time in Santiago either sleepless or wanting to sleep at an inappropriate time. We were also doing a lot of “getting our bearings about us”, being in this new continent. Someday we might like to return to Chile, in the winter to ski or in the summer to trek in the amazing Andes mountains that we flew over. More on the Andes later when we get those photos onto flickr.
After about a week and a half, we have mostly recovered from our flight across the south Pacific. We have fallen in love with Buenos Aires and have rented an apartment here (which we just extended for four more days). A little space of our own is just what we needed.