and major jetlag!
13.10.2009 - 16.10.2009
Arriving in Santiago I think we were both fairly unsure of what to expect. South America had always seemed like a tiny dot on the horizon and now our feet were firmly on the continent. After our first fumbled Spanish conversation we were on a bus into the city, then a couple of stops on the Subway and we found our way to The Green House. Here we were warmly welcomed by the family that run the hostel, the son spoke good English which was welcomed as our Spanish really was lacking. We have improved since then but continue to feel embarrassed by being pretty clueless.
Once we were shown to our cosy, comfortable room we crashed. This was the longest day of our lives as we had taken off at midday and landed time wise only two hours later. We were fourteen hours behind ourselves and this would prove to be quite a big hurdle to get over. When we woke up it was early evening and we had neither the energy or the inclination to explore Santiago in the dark so we ended up watching tv into the early hours with our stomachs growling.
We attempted to go to breakfast in the morning, I even went to have a shower in preparation but we'd only had a few hours sleep and as soon as I lay on the bed again I was out like a light. A few hours later we groggily forced ourselves out into the daylight and began to explore Santiago. Firstly we walked out on to the main road, Av Libertador Gral Bernardo O'Higgins (Alameda) and then climbed the Cerro Santa Lucia.
On top of this 70m high granite rock there is a fort, a plaque dedicated to Darwin who climbed the hill and some decent views out over the city.
Next we walked down through the Parque Forestal which has a few green expanses and a tree lined walk way with benches on either side where a number of Chilean couples were sat indulging in some very enthusiastic public displays of affection. They are definitely not shy in that department! We passed by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes but were put off by the entrance fee. Finally it was lunch time and we found an ok cafe to have a bite to eat. Our first meal in South America wasn't the most inspiring but it filled a spot and seemed fairly standard. Meat and potatoes of some variety tends to be the norm, at least in Chile and Adam was actually overwhelmed by the mountain of chicken and chips he was presented with.We then walked through the Mercado Central (Central Market) which was very lively and a tad intimidating, so we continued on to the Plaza de Armas.
This central square contains a Cathedral, and some other reasonably impressive buildings. There were lots of people taking it easy on the numerous benches, and a few people were playing chess under small bandstands. Although we'd only been out for a few hours we were both beginning to flag and we had to admit that the jet lag was taking its toll so we made our way back to the Green House.
That night was worse than the previous and we were wide awake for most of it. It was fairly frustrating but we had each other and we spent large portions of it in a state of mild hysteria, trying to muffle our giggles so we didn't disturb other guests. We did make it to breakfast to fill our starving tummies but once back in the room we quickly succumbed to the overpowering urge to sleep. That day was pretty much a non starter. We emerged mid afternoon for another spot of hunter gathering before retreating back to the safety of our cave.
Once more we had a fairly restless night, although we did get a little more sleep. The next day being our last in the city we made a more concerted effort to fight the jet lag and we headed out at a reasonable time. First off we walked down a street which is renowned for its second hand shops where apparently if you are lucky you can find a few gems. In particular we both had our eyes peeled for a leather jacket, South America probably being a good place to pick one up. We were both unsuccessful though, there is a very fine line between a perfect jacket and an absolutely hideous one.
Next we walked to the other side of the city and caught the funicular/cable car to the top of the sharp, conical hill of San Cristobal.
On the summit stands a colossal statue of the Virgin Mary. Once we disembarked from the cable car we were treated to some really spectacular views.
From this 300m vantage point we had an uninterrupted view out across the city to the snow capped peaks of the Andes. We then climbed up some steps which cut through terraced flower beds full of brightly coloured plants. The whole area was obviously well maintained and there was a gardener on site. Standing regal and surrounded by the multi-coloured flora was the pure white statue of the Virgin Mary.
Adam commented that this is probably a pilgrimage site for some who were quite clearly out of breath having walked up rather than jumping on the funicular. He wasn't completely sure though as they were on the large side.
Back at street level we were once again beginning to feel sleepy and decided to make our way to the hostel. We stopped in for a tasty but slightly pricey meal at a Peruvian restaurant just round the corner from the Green House. We drank Inca Cola which surprisingly was bright yellow and didn't exactly have a distinctive taste, just sugary. Once our appetites were satisfied we were quite happy to give in to our tired minds and bodies.
That night we had our first reasonable sleep and were a little less zombie like when we packed up and ventured to the bus station. We were heading West to the coast and then South to the town of Valparaiso which was apparently a place not to be missed in Chile, so our expectations were high!
Laura & Adam