Monday, July 28, 2008

Buenos Aires

Neil got on the bus from Rio Galleagos to Buenos Aires feeling undaunted. How many times had even been on a 36 hour bus trip before, and how many would he ever be again? It included to nights, so he could spend a lot of it asleep, and indeed he did. The only drawback was the presence of hoardes of screaming children, seeming localised around his seat at the rear of the bus´s top deck - it's like a bloody creche back here, he thought. Fortunately, although the bus was full when it left, he had a double seat to himself for most of the journey. The time was passed reading, watching films (which usually had Spannish subtitles and a barely audible English soundtrack) and listening to his iPod, though after 10 months he was becomming overly familiar with his selection of 600 songs. He was mainly eating biscuits and fruit, as this was the cheapo bus and food was not provided. The monotony was only broken by manifold wee stops at inumerable identi-kit bus stations. The scenery was unremarkable.

When he arrived in Buenos Aires he was in reasonably good fettle, and managed to take care of some business - buying his ticket out and cashing some Travellers Cheques at the American Express office, as this was the only place in South America offering a vaguely reasonable rate. He took tehe subway into the centre of town and opted for the Clan hostel, and had to hang around for while to make sure they had a bed for him, which fortunately they did. In his dorm were two nice English chaps, by the names of Mike and Rick, with whom he spent much of the next few days. He had planned a day trip to Uruguay the following day, but the combination of unfriendly boat schedules, cost and rain (which was now falling incessantly outside) put him off. He nipped out to walk around town in the afternoon, stopping first for his first non-biscuit meal of the last few days. Setting out again after that he only made it to the pink palace 5 minutes away before he gave up due to the pouring rain. Instead he sat in a cafe and had a few cups of tea and went internetting. Back at the hostel he was pleased do discover Rick and Mike had over-ordered on the pizza, and had a beer before heading off with them and two English girls (Rachael and Sam) to see a drumming show in an big warehouse like structure. This he found enjoyable, especially for only 10 pesos. Then it was back to the hostel bar for a few hours where he made the aquaintence of four Irish girls. As is the usual schedule in Buenos Aires, about 2am he headed off to a club near the hostel with them. He only wished he could remember more afterwards, but seemed to have suffered from a bit of a beer labotomy. Next day he was up and off and out and went for a very nice set lunch at a nearby restaurant. This include a free sherry before, half bottle of wine with, and limoncello after, so he remained lit-up for most of the day. He actually had a great time wandering the city, taking photos and philosophising. However, sober reflections later in the day convinced him his conclusions were best kept to himself.

He perambulations took all the way to recoletta and the famous cemetry, full of ornate tombs and crypts, adorned with statues. This certainly was an interesting place to walk around.The most famous resident here was Evita, and while in elsewhere he mostly wandered alone (appart for some encounters with very friendly cats), here the crowds gathered. After the cemetry is was the museum of fine arts, and that was very enjoyable too. Back to the hostel he headed, taking a different route throught the city. Many miles were covered that day.

That evening he went out for dinner with Mike and Rick. Then it was back to the bar in the hostel - the plan was to go to a Drum and Bass night later, but being Buenos Aires things wouldn't kick off till around two. Neil had known he was in a good hostel when he heard Interpol being played in the reception, and indeed it was played again in the bar that night. Later on they did go to the Drum and Bass night, along with Rachael, Emma and an Argentinian called Mariano. Neil even managed to have a mostly good time there, despite no previous experience of Drum and Bass. His hips didn't lie the next day when they told him he's done perhaps two much dancing and walking.

There wasn't much time to sleep before he had to check out the next day - his bus was leaving at 10pm. It wasn't much time for Rachael and Sam, who missed their planned morning departure. Neil went a-walking through the city again, first to San Telmo, where he had another nice lunch, and then down to Boca. Many warnings had been given about Boca, but it didn't seem so bad to Neil, he didn't go flashing his iPod about though. He passed the Boca Juniors stadium, and made it down to the main tourist part of Boca. Here was another art museum and some colourful streets crowded with vendors. He walked back to town, did a little internet and then hung out at the hostel a little before it was time to head to the bus station on the metro, for another 20 hours on the bus. This time however it was to be the far more luxurious full cama bus, with meals provided.

Neil reflected that Buenos Aires was a really great city, but there was not a huge amount of sights. The main thing to do was just to walk around and enjoy the restaurants and going out. Perhaps if we was to return to South America he would come back here, and go to Uruguay, and also to Iguazu and Paraguay, which he also had to excise from his itinerary as it would have been to much rushing around, expense, and time on buses!

Somewhere grand.

Statue in Recoletta Cemetary

Street in Boca.

Friday, July 25, 2008

El Calafate

Spending all the time on buses that I have recently, I remembered many of the things that I meant to put in previous posts but forgot, maybe if I get up to date with posts and photos I'll go back and put some in (and fix some of the shoddy spelling and grammar, can I remind you I don't have time to read them over usually!) but then again, no one will probably go back and read it, so that'd be fairly pointless. Well the point is that my trip is far more exciting than just the white-knuckle ride of adventure, smorgasbord of intrigue, plehora of fascinating discoveries and parade of freakish characters present here. I often am writing in a rush a few weeks after the event, and hell, there's even some stuff I decide not to share as well!

Anyway, today's subject is El Calafate, back on the mainland in Argentina, where one goes to access the Park Nacional los Glaciers, specifically the Perito Moreno glacier. Bussing up there was a bit of an epic 17 hour affair, setting of around 5am from Ushuaia. On the bus I met two English guys (one of whom I'd spoked to very briefly getting off the bus into Ushuaia), I ended up spending my time there with them (Rod and Kieran). This 17 hour bus journey was quite annoying as it involed a lot of faff - 4 border post as we had to cross into Chile and back, 2 bus changes with waits and a ferry. It was late at night when we got to El Calafate (El Cafe Latte?) and there were hostel touts at the bus station so we got a free taxi ride to a hostel. Now if I was going to go and tout up customers for a hostel, I'd check there was room for them. For us there was not, even though Rod had a supposed online reservation (This also happened to a guy who'd reserved online in Puerto Natales, but the hostel was shut for winter... think I forgot that last time). They did however get us another free taxi to a different hostel, also seeming run by the El cafelatte rasta hostel mafia, yes we heard a lot of Bob Marley in this town, even some UB40 (okay so maybe that was during a wait in Rio Galleagos, but this whole part of the country has a reggae obsession going on... incidentally, in strange Argentinian Spannish, Galleagos is pronounced like ¨Hashegos¨). Anyway we got checked in and planned to do the glaciers the next morning, a 9am bus.

Well the glacier was pretty spectacular, we first stopped at a view point, then took a boat ride closer to the face, and then went on some wooden gangways down the hillside opposite to get a closer view. The glacier is damn big, 5km wide and you can see it stretching back 20km, but it goes further. It's also very blue, and at the centre advances 2 metres a day, so there are regularly bits breaking off. You could hear the glacier creaking from the boat and the gangway, or at least you could when the young excitible French girls that were legion on our bus shut up. On the return from our boat trip there was a large iceberg parked at the jetty where our boat was meant to go. So in a display worthy of the chucklebrothers (to me, to you) two of the crew attempted to lasso the iceberg and drag it away. Unfortunately the first attempt resulted in catapulting a big chunk of ice inco the front window of the boat, behing which we were all crouched, watching expectantly. Eventually it did seem to move a little and we were able to disembark. Cue desperate attemps to remember the name of the second Chuckle Brother, Barry and who? (It's Paul, Kieran remembered that evening). Didn't quite get to see the huge piece of ice calving off in front of us that we hoped for, but there was a reasonable sized one, that I missed due to my slow camera, but that Kieren got, so I must remember to nick that photo. All that said, the glacier was pretty damn amazing, and capped off seeing some amazing sights in patagonia, making me very glad I'd decided to go south from Santiago, which I may not have done at all.

That evening I went out for dinner with Rod (Kieren cooked his own, but we both had two days on busses eating biscuits to look forward to, so we fancied something decent). However, turned out the only restaurant open in town this season was exceedingly expensive. Well we went anyway, an I had the most expensive (and perhaps the nicest!) meal of the trip so far! Turned out Mauricio from the Navimag was there as well with some people, it's a small world, or rather a small circuit.

Our buses didn't leave till half twelve the next day so having seen people ice skating on the lake we made plans to give that a go in the morning. Kieren managed to miss his 5am bus to Chile, so was still around. We walked into to town (some shopping was needed too) and were followed by the two huge hostel dogs, and continued to pick a huge posse of barking, stinky, and occaisionally shagging dogs that followed us around for hours, diligently waiting outside shops. Well we never found the ice skating, if it existed at all, but we did explore a lot of the scenic, and non-scenic parts of El Cafelatte with our canine friends. Rod was on the same bus as me back to Rio Galleagos, there we had 3 or 4 hours to wait before he went off to Cordoba and I got on the 36 hour bus to Buenos Aires!


It's not warm there you know, that's the glacier in the background.

The glacier and mountains from the boat.

The chuckle brothers attemps to lasso an iceberg.

That'll be a big bit of ice then.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Ver mapa más grande

It was a long bus trip from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, leaving early in the morning in the dar, and arriving late at night. There was a lot of faffing on the trip, including a ferry trip over to Tierra del Fuego, and waits at both sides of the border between Chile and Argentina. In fact the Argentinian side was the slowest border crossing I've done yet, they even gave everyone's bag a cursory search. Unfortunately on these roads in the south it gets very muddy and you actually can't see out of the windows of the bus after while.

When I got Ushuaia I was glad there were touts from the hostel at the bus station, as I'd lost the relevant part of my guidebook, and in southern chile most hostels had been shut for the winter too. The hostel was up on a rather icy hill, and would have had a good view, but I was never there in the light. I got up earlyish to go and get my bus ticket for the next day, and it was still dark until nearly 10am and everything was shut. In the morning I went for a walk up the hill behing the town. It was very icy and I nearly turned back as there were steps at one point which were just solid ice. It was a pleasant walk through the forest, but there wasn't really any view over the town. In the afternoon I went to a couple of museums, the larger of which was really good and had tonnes of stuff, about the region and antarctica, and it was in an old prison so it also had prison stuff (including a picture of Inverary Jail!). There was some interesting things, I learned that the Beagle had come here (the town is on the Beagle channel) and taken 4 natives back to Britain. They were named York Minster, Boat Memory, Fuegia Basket and Jemmy Button. One died of smallpox in the UK, but the other three returned a few years later on the Beagle, this time Darwin was aboard, and he had some fairly uncomplementary things to say about the natives. I also found another interesting random Scotsman that nobady's heard off: William Spiers Bruce. And did you know the explorer Nordenskjold had a penguin-skin carpet in his house?

I did some shopping in the town too, getting some postcards and a T-shirt with penguins on (sadly the penguins were up north for the winter). I aslo went to the post office to get the special southernmost city in the world stamp, practically the only reason to go there. Met a nice Mexican girl in the hostel that evening, had an early night as it was time for another epic bus journey the next day. Ushuaia was quite a nice place, it was far richer than the towns in Chilean Patagonia, with lots of expensive shops for rich tourists and skiers.


Walk through the woods behind Ushuaia.

Ushuaia from behind.

In the prison museum.

Special bonus photo! Great isn't it?

Puerto Natales - Punta Arenas

The Navimag finished in Puerto Natales, which was pleasant enough but was a bit closed down for winter. It took a long time to find a hostel, but eventually I went to the Erratic Rock hostel, run by a weird american guy, and with a nice cat callen Canello. A few of the guys from the Navimag were there too and we met up with some of the others for dinner in the evening, but we struggled to find a bar that was open before 9pm.

The next day I went on a day trip to the Torres del Paine National Park. This was really amazing. The weather just about held all day. The tour set off early and there was some great views of the mountains at sunrise. The first stop was at the Milodon cave. Then we headed towards the park and had some great views of the Torres del Paine and the Hornes del Paine. There was also a trip to a waterfall and a two hour walk along a beach on a lake to where icebergs float down from the glacier. Again this trip was really great, but the photos will give you a fat better idea than anything I can write here. We also so a few animals, including Guanacos (llama like creatures), rheas, condors and a fox. No pumas though, sadly.

The guys that were in my hostel had a bit more time, money and energy and headed off for 4 days hiking in the park, so I was the only one in the hostel that night. I met up with two Australian guys from the boat for dinner, and I travelled on to Punta Arenas with them the next day. The only reason I went to Punto Arenas was that I wanted to go to Ushuaia in the Tierro del Fuego, but the bus was full, so we thought we might be able to get a connection at Punta Arenas which was a bigger town. Turned out we couldn't make that connection so had to spend a night there. I had a lot of trouble finding a hostel that was open there so ended up paying a little bit more for a hotel room. The 2 Aussies I was travelling with didn't have time to go to Ushuaia because of the extra day, so I headed off the following day by myself on a 13 hour bus to the end of the world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Navimag Ferry

The Navimag goes from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales and takes around 3 days. My impemding trip was delayed by 2 days because of the weather, but when I got there I was pleased to be upgraded from a 16 person dorm to a 4 person room with a window! The boat was rather empty, with 13 tourist passengers as well as a few lorry drivers and lots of cargo (though some more locals got on at Puerto Eden, the one stop on the second last day). In my room were Maurizio, from Columbia via Australia, and Hafeez, and older Pakastani Gentlemen. The rest of us were a Dutch couple, 2 Ozzie guys, 2 young French guys (wearing shorts for chrissakes), another slightly older French Guy, a Chilean Gentlemen and a Polish couple who kept themselves to themselves. The boat didn´t leave till nearer five, by which time we'd been on board a good few hours. Up on the top deck the views of the sunset and the mountains on all sides were great, and my fears that there´d be nobody else on board and I wouldn´t be able to see a thing were banished.

The food was pretty good, with large enough portions and soup every meal, the only exception being the chemical pink dessert and it's orange cousin. Movies were also played in the canteen, as after 5pm it was dark outside, and it was too cold to spend all day out anyway. THe first night I was feeling a bit rough, something I ate I think, and went to bed early. Turns out Maurizio was a worse snorer than Ashton on the last trip, even the Dutch girl in the Cabin next door could here him, so sleep was sporradic.

The next day we go the chance to go down on the lower deck at the bow, and while we were there we sighted lots of dolphins. The dolphins came and swam along at the prow of the boat for a bit and I got some great film which I can hopefully link in eventually. We also saw seals, sealions and leaping salmon. Meanwhile the sky had cleared in the afternoon and we got much better views of the far off mountains and we passed through some narrowers channels between the coast and the islands. However, that evening we would head out into the golfe de Penas, which meant we were on the open ocean and had the heavy swell that entains. We were told the exact moment to take sea sickness pills for best effect, I took one. Whether it was necessary or not, I didn´t get sick, though the swell was pretty bad, and you had to walking seemed like you´d drank rather too much, or so I'm told. We had a few beers that night, and Guillermo, the Chilean gentleman taught us a captivating dice game called ¨Ambitioso" (Ambitous).

Next day visibility was pretty poor in the morning but cleared up later on. We passed through the English Narrows which were narrow as you might imagine.Views on this morning were really great. Later we stopped in Puerto Eden, about the only communication this place has with the rest of the world. We went down to the cargo decks to watch as supplies were unloaded and shellfish loaded up. That night was Friday night and the last night and we were in the mood to party. Unfortunately the only music they were providing was Sophie Ellis Bextor, and they didn't put the disco lights on for us. Fortunately we had an ipod speaker dock and a bottle of whisky. At some point in the night we were called to come and look at icebergs that we were going through, but what we passed was really just some pathetic excuse for icebergs, but there was ice there! Late in the night the Dutch guy surprised us all by coming out of nowhere and dancing by himself, truly 'Caido de la Perra'. Unfortunately the bar closed and by 2 we'd run out of fuel (except the Dutch guy) and turned in. Next morning I was up in time to see us pass through more narrows about 830 when the sun was just coming up. These were exceptionally narrow with barely room for the boat to fit. We go to Puerto Natales by 10ish but it was hours before we were allowed to disembark. Anyway, the trip was great and the photos don't do justice to the 360 degree views. I've tried to make some movies, which are better, but I don't think I can upload them for a while.

Photo time:

At sunset on day 1

New hat at Puerto Eden.

Flying seal.

Estoi Baltico, as they may not say here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lakes Trip - Part 2

The next day we were to leave Pucon for a drive along the scenic '7 lakes' road to Vladivia. Unfortunately the visibility was crap, so we only stopped a few times for photo opportunities - once at where the lava river sometimes flows (giving me a chance to demonstrate my immense stone-throwing prowess!) and then at another lake side where we could see a reasonable view and some wooden statues that had been reinterpreted. We had also stopped for breakfast where one lucky dog got an empanada bonanza, but for many the highlight was the stop at the filling station where we beheld a faded poster of a chimpamzee playing tennis. This had smoke machine (who had already lost against a monkey at basketball on his trip) in stitches for a good 15 minutes, and then at periodic intervals throughout the trip, and then again whenever it popped into his mind...

...anyway, when we got to Valdivia the first thing we did was to go and look at the Sealions. These were rather entertaining and talkative creatures, and contrary to some expectations, they had faces!! They also stank. After that we went for lunch, though it was going on 5pm by this time. We caught the end of the Wimbeldon final on the TV (hey Hips don't Lie just came on the radio here and gave me a flashback..) and those who were able started on the beer again) some had trouble with food at this point. We managed to go buy a "surpriso" (or something like that) and some beers for back at the hostel - smoke machine opting for an alphabetical tour of South American beers, with the odd alcopop thrown in. We then headed out to a bar - the bunker, along with the Irish girls friend Harry who'd also met us. This was a pretty nice bar; huge burgers, huge Long Island Ice Tea's (we're talking half a bottle of spitits in this thing), we got the hooters out (so to speak), penguins were making unfortunate noises, Smoke machine's wife went up in flames in the end, and so on. At 4am they kind of wanted to shut the place so we left (the Irish having already gone there sordid seperate way. We returned to the hotel where the plan was to have a little whisky. Unfortunately the Irish had left us their foul pink girlie drink (Frutilla Colada) and we felt it would be wrong to let it go to waste, so it was disposed of. Much to our regret the next day when we had to get up after 2 hours sleep and head for Puerto Montt where I was meant to get my boat. As for Valdivia itself, it was nice to see the sea lions, but the town looked fairly grim to me, as always maybe it was just the weather.

After a sleepy hungover journey we got to Puerto Montt, and the bus was eloquently described as smelling "of ass and alcohol". Turned out my boat wasn't leaving that day, maybe not the next, due to weather problems, so I was going with the remaining tour people Puerto Varas nearby to wait, as it was nicer and "less dangerous" than Puerto Montt. We did have lunch in Puerto Montt in a tiny little restuarant by the sea. I ordered on a recommendation, and it was not what I expected so I struggled a little in my convalescing state (maybe it was for the best my 4 days on a boat hadn't already begun. The free pisco sour's did go down okay though.

When we got to Puerto Varas everyone was incable of doing anything, especially as it was cold and wet outside. We flicked through a lot of tv and movies and generally did nothing, while smole machine had fizzled out and was hardly seen that day. The next morning it turned out my boat was still not going, but would leave the next day. The rest of the tour headed off back North in the stinky bus and I stayed in Puerto Varas another day. The weather had actually brightened up and you could see across the lake, so late morning I went out and had a walk and climbed a small hill near the town. There I accumulated a canine entourage, and was feeling pretty good walking through the park in the fresh air. Unfortunatley the promised view at the top didn{t materialise as it was forrested up there. I bought myseld some stuff to cook lunch and dinner and spent most of the afternoon taking advantage of the free internet and getting this damn thing up to date. I had another stroll in the evening and a reasonably early night to catch up on some sleep without the snoring and farting Ashton in the room.

Next day I got the bus to Puerto Montt, which was a bit nicer in the sunshine. After checking in I did a bit of shopping and managed to get some contacts to replace my missing specs, and an adaptor so I could finally charge my iPod and Camera. A quick lunch and some snacks for onboard purchased and I headed back, I even bought the obligaratory wooly hat to keep my ears warm on the boat. It was around 2pm where we were finally allowed to board the Navimag to take us south to Puerto Natales!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lakes Trip - part 1

In Santiago I booked a trip South through the lakes district for 4 nights, linking up with the Navimag ferry which I'd already booked. Otherwise I'd have shot through here on my own and only visited a small fraction of the places, and probably not seen another gringo anywhere.

There were only 7 of us on the bus along with the guide and the driver. 3 Irish girls, one American girl, an Australian guy, English guy and myself. Nick the English guy was monumentally hungover and nearly missed the bus, this kinda set the tone for the whole trip.

The first stop was for tea and empanadas, the next was at a not quite spectacular hydroelectric dam. Then we got to Pichelmu, which was out first overnight stop. This is a big surfing destination, but was a little chilly for such activities, instead we opted for horse riding. It didn't seem like we'd get to go for while, as the whole town was suffering a bit of an out of season shut-down, but late in the day, after a quick pizza and coke break, we heard there were 6 then 5 horses available. Thankfully Nick and Ashton took one for the team and allowed the rest of us to go. It was a rather enjoyable jaunt, especially the trot back along the beach. We even saw a dead penguin, unfortunately my only penguin sighting in Chile so far. Upon our return we then took a trip to a nearby cliff to see the sunset, which wasn't quite happening, and have a little ramble. After some faffing about and watching of crap movies all of us but the Irish headed out for some dinner in a nice little place with a log fire where we met the mayor to be who told us the town was shit and to go to Pucon. Well we did that later but that night many were still suffering from the night before and I was still trying to get my soul into the right time zone so an early night was had. This did not set the tone for things to come.

The next day was a bit of a long drive to Pucon, and unfortunately the good weather left us and it was grey and wet for the rest of the trip. This day we stopped in Santa Cruz to go to a museum set up by Carlos Cardoen, international arms dealer and formerly on the US governments top ten most wanted list. The museum had an amazing and eclectic collection: fossils, Inca gold, figurines giving birth, Nazi memorabilia and formula one cars. That night we got to Pucon but the weather was pretty dire and it didn't seem we would be able to climb the volcano the next day. Had a nice dinner and then headed on to the wonderfully named "mammas y tapas" for some drinks, and some more drinks. We learned that hips don't lie, even our driver Sergios. I got hit by jetlag and had a bit of a grump and left first, though not without stopping for some popcorn and a strange wine and coke combination back at the hostel. This meant I had to miss out on the fun of getting lost and going to the woods at 6am.

Day 3 and I was up early. Eventually everyone got up and the weather was so poor that rafting wasn't even an option. What was left to do in Pucon? Evidently drinking was the only option. We started at brunch, met our friend Pisco (the dog not the drink) and then had some beers back at the hostel, where we adopted Amy Winehouse as out group idol, though we never got as far as the Amy Winehands game. At 5 we were off on a trip to the hot springs. On the way we met our good friend Ron Silver, who'd mysteriously disappeared by the end of the half hour journey, and some extremely dubious photos were taken. The hot springs were great: hot and springy, but unfortunately idiot boy here lost his specs, never to be found again. Hence I ended up wearing by sunglasses for the rest of trip, and till this very day. The have been ungenerously dubbed the paedophile glasses, as paedophiles were sunglasses at night, clearly, obviously, definitely. Dinner was at a restaurant home to massive burgers and some great singalonga tv. Then it was back to Mammas y Tapas again where we got to witness the awesome power of the "smoke machine". Doesn't work for lesbians though. This night went on quite a bit despite the early start and what can I say, it was fun!

To be continued...


Got on the bus to Valpairiso around 7am so got there not long after nine. Walked to the far end of town and began to work my way back. First impressions were not good, the town is fairly scabby and packs of stray dogs roam the streets. Where there are stray dogs there is also lots of stray dogshit. Some areas also seemed dodgy, and there were tramps and passed out drunks. I was beginning to wonder why people say it is so nice. The town is also covered in graffiti, including some amazing surreal murals and lots of really crappy destructive tagging.

After some wandering the first sight was the Lord Cochrane Museum (he was a Scotsman who led the Chilean navy in their war of independence!). The museum turned out to have barely anything in it, but was in a lovely old house with great views over the ramshackle houses that sprawl over the hills of Valparaiso. More wandering around followed, including a trip up on one of the Ascendors, basically short steep funicular trams to get around the town, and then through an open-air museum of graffiti murals. I then went to a second Neruda house, which I again enjoyed- it'd be nice to have a house like that some day, and he seems a very interesting guy. Each house had at least one bar in it and this one told you the secret recipe for his 'Coquetilon': equal parts champagne and cognac, with a few drops cointreau and orange juice - sounds nice!

Unfortunately the art museum here was closed for renovation, so as the Santiago post says I got back there in mid-afternoon. Valparaiso did grow on me, but it's not as beautiful as many say!


After a long trip on which I didn't manage to sleep much and left me with sore knees I got to Santiago airport at one in the afternoon (having left 16 hours earlier at 11am). I'm not sure my 1 hour at Christchurch airport counts as a new country so I haven't given it a post of its own. Once I got to the hostel I proceeded to settle down to try and sleep for a short while, but in the end had five hours of weird and crappy sleep. I nipped out for dinner and found that Chile was definitely going to be more expensive than I thought. That night I slept poorly, with some jetlag insomnia, and also getting fairly pissed off with noisiness of the hostel, which turned out to be a bit of a party hostel, with my dorm right by the reception where you could here the doorbell going every 5 minutes all night. Also, when I came back from dinner there was a guy pissing in the doorway. And not just quietly doing it in the corner, but waving his willy about like a sprinkler. Having waited till he went to tiptoe through the doorway, I wasn't feeling to enamoured with Chile at this point.

Next day was Santiago day, I headed into town pretty early, found that to the rate of commission on travellers cheques is prohibitively extensive so used my card instead, and then wandered around the Plaza de Armas for a bit before the museums opened. First up was the museum of Pre-Columbian Civilization. This had a excellent and fairly compact collection with informative English captions. Quite freaky were the Chinchorro Mummies, made millenea before the Egyptians were making theirs, where internal organs and bones were replaced with mud rocks and sticks. After that I took in the National History museum. This had eclectic collections from a long period, but all the captions were Spanish, so I couldn't get much out of them. I walked around a bit before grabbing lunch and heading up a large hill overlooking the town on a funicular railway. From the top I could finally see the snow-capped mountains overlooking Santiago peeping over the smog. At the top was a statue of the Virgin Mary, and half way up was a zoo, which you could smell before you could see. After that I went to visit one of Neruda's houses, getting the English language tour all to myself. I enjoyed this, it was built in three separate parts to look like a ship and have great views, and is full of interesting knick-knacks and pieces of art from around the world. Something a bit different.

When I was here I realised I'd lost my key to the padlock I'd put on a locker with my bag in it back at the hostel. D'oh. It had been in my wallet so I retraced my steps to everywhere I'd had it out. At the bank they seemed to say they had it, but couldn't give me it until the next day (as they spoke as much english as I do Spanish, this involved having to make the internationally recognised gesture for "I've lost the small key to my padlock in your bank, maybe"). The next day after going to Valpairiso I went back and indeed they had it so I didn't need to smash the locker open. Still have no idea why they couldn't give it to me straight away.

Anyway, that afternoon I also had time to visit the Palace de belle artes, which was a good collection of generally fairly modern art in a beautiful old building. That night I struggled through a beer in the hostel ("just one" I thought but they're 1 litre big here) before going to bed and grumping again, it wasn't the right hostel to chose to try to sleep through my jet lag. I'd decided to go on a trip through the lakes leaving on after my third night there, which meant a dash to take in Valpairiso in a day trip the next day. At 630 am I knew I'd get no more sleep that night so I got up and headed straight to Valpairiso, see the next post for details of that.
I got back at about 3 in the afternoon to Santiago so I had time to get a haircut and search out another museum before going to the bank to retrieve my key! Well I was trying to go to the museum of solidarity for Savadore Allende, but it was shut for restoration. The guy there directed me to somewhere on the other side of town where I thought it was temporarily housed, but this turned out to be a different Allende museum, with a small collection of works by modern Chilean artists. Was ok, but had an interesting photography exhibition. After that I walked to town to het my key (I must have walked 10 miles this day) passing though town it was packed with people and they were pumping out a pan-pipe version of night fever through a tannoy all down the street. Strange. That night I watched a slide show in the hostel about the trip I was doing the next day, and a similar trip to the north, where I hope to head later. Next morning I got up for the minibus south, eventually getting my breakfast in time after it taking them over an hour to fail to make toast.

I actually liked Santiago as a city once I got out to see it. Was in a bit of a grump for a bit with jetlag and lack of sleep, and the key incident to worry about, so wasn't very social in the hostel.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Time spent: 40 days
bites: only in the north, my ankles got ravaged one morning.
On budget/time: Just about made my revised higher budget, if you don't count the didgeridoo purchase
Lost/stolen: Chucked the shoes I got in Indonesia as they were too small and hideous, bag briefly lost but found, accumulated far too much stuff, including 2 pairs shoes, warm clothes and two small penguins.
Sound of Australia: Hmm, much like the UK of course. Don't hold back must was the sound of the backpacker bars and clubs, and Horse with no Name was well and truly stuck in my head at one point. Dr Karl's band also must get a mention.
Taste of Australia: Fish and Chips by the coast, witchety grub, and yet more Tim Tams. Sadly didn't manage a Chicko roll.
Highlights of Australia: Really enjoyed the trip in the North, especially swimming spots in Lichfield and Kakadu, and around Uluru. Melbourne if a lovely city, and Bondi beach at sunset was special. But can any of this compare to visiting the town of Penguin, and seeing actually real little penguins question mark.
Drink of Australia: Tooheys extra dry was pretty good, Boags and Cascade not bad either. Coopers green also. Beer beer beer.

I had a great time on the trip in the north, in fact good times, great times. Taz was nice, and good to drive for a change, but meant you were a little isolated. Melbourne was nice and so was Sydney, was good to meet up with people in these cities. Still a bit tired of traveling alone, partly because when you do meet nice people you often go your separate ways very soon after, never to meet again, that's why its nice to meet up with people again. Australia was of course as developed at Britain, and as expensive, if not more. That's why going to South America has felt like starting the trip all over again. Theres so much of Australia I still haven't seen, and I hope to be back some day, and to see a bit of NZ.