Andrea was far more diligent than I, and kept a 'Diary of Observations' during our 6-week, 2018/19 trip to Chile, Argentina & Brazil. The following text is a 'raw dump' of that diary (or, at least, the Chilean bit of it - not sure where the rest is), for posterity's sake...
- Car registration plates look completely different (H)
- No one uses devices in cafes/bars (H)
- The men all wear ties (A)
- People smoke everywhere (A)
- You can get the same brand of muesli bars in the supermarket (C)
- 'Short sleeves of an evening' climate (C)
- Most people look the same/not much diversity (H)
All round a great first day.
- Practically no one wears sunglasses or hats (H)
- Everyone and everywhere smells nice (A)
- The city is really quiet once people go to sleep and the talking stops (C)
- There is a real mixture of cultural influences on the buildings - very French, Italian and Spanish (C)
- The metro is a carbon copy of the Paris metro system!
The jet lag has cleared today, so we are definitely more observant!
- Pretty much everyone has a tattoo - often small, random pictures on random parts of the body - a ribbon here or a butterfly there - and all monochrome (C)
- There are sleeping dogs everywhere - they are all strays but all remarkably fat - people leave food out for them on the street (H)
- No-one wears 'active wear', nor seems to exercise (H) (I thought it was quite funny that this was a Holly observation!)
- At the food market you could easily spot the Chileans and the Peruvians - really interesting differences in people's faces (A)
- At the general cemetery it's clear who are the haves and have nots - the wealthy spend vast quantities of money on their necropolis! (C); plus there is an interesting mixture/juxtaposition of animism and Catholic beliefs on how they deal with the dead (A)
- There are remarkably few homeless people around the city (H)
- It felt super safe everywhere - even in the less touristy parts of the city (A)
- Every wall space has graffiti or really good street art (H)
- Any time you make eye contact you are greeted with a winning smile! (A and C)
Today we clocked up a monstrous 17½-km on foot - no wonder we had so many observations! Off to Valpo tomorrow for something a bit different!
Thankfully a shorter list today - mainly due to MUCH longer spent lying around this morning in bed than planned (Valpo trip cancelled due to rioting)!
- Excessive use of Comic Sans as a font - not just anywhere but specifically on public plaques, religious signs and noteworthy statues (H) (Holly could barely contain her amusement/disdain on this one!)
- Not once in the last 4-days has a cafe offered/provided a straw - which is pretty cool (except when you actually need one!) (A)
- Santiago has a truly delightful climate (A)
- There a lot of cleaners everywhere - might explain why it's surprisingly clean in a city of 6m (H)
- I've seen 6 people in wheelchairs so far - I don't think I've ever seen that many in Welly! (A)
- Today is clearly 'casual Friday' not a tie in sight - on the last working day before Christmas! (A)
- There is an incredibly active street vendor business - fruit salad before work? Small filled rolls for lunch? 'Magic' cake for afternoon tea? And a strangely unappetising corn drink any time of the day (C)
A pretty cruisey 10-km day! We'll be back to our favourite roof top bar later - in shirt sleeves! #LoveThisClimate
Today's adventure was to take three metros and local suburban bus to Santa Rita winery - 2½-hours out of Santiago. The place was delightful, lunch with a Reserve Chardonnay was super and the company was the best!
Days 6 & 7
- In our extensive metro journeys yesterday, Holly and I got to do lots more people watching and we noticed the further you got from the city centre the more interesting the mix of people we got to travel with - very cool!
- People are very relaxed on public transport e.g there is much less of an issue with 'personal space' not in a creepy way, but people seem much more chilled about sharing a seat/space; and there is no order to exiting the metro using the escalators - having lived in London for years this seemed funny - it was complete free form but everyone was so relaxed about it (note that was on the last shopping day before Christmas!!)
- 'Air con' on the platforms consists of water being blown through a fan - super effective!
- Yesterday one of the High Court judges was attacked by protestors after he had been listening to evidence about people who had run a prison during Pinochet's regime - it seemed fitting that today we went to the moving and very raw Museum of Memory and Human Rights. It was pretty harrowing at times - Holly stopped half way around and both Chris and I cried - given there are still court cases about abuse it seemed a very timely visit and reminder that the 70-80s is still very recent history here.
- We also went to the utterly, utterly delightful pre-Columbian Art Museum - full of the most amazing craftsmanship from across the region - just wowed by the level of skill and how well preserved everything. A good balance to my very Euro-centric upbringing and knowledge of art. Loved it!
That's it! Next stop Chiloe - much colder and wetter (much to Holly's delight) but I'll be missing the lovely dry 30°C of Santiago!
Ancud and surrounding area - a day exploring the island from a sunny start, through 'West Coast of Ireland' rain, and finishing with much hilarity and bad Spanish with our taxi driver got us home in pitch black countryside!
Touring the UNESCO churches - sadly not blessed by blue skies in the morning but they were fascinating and we even got to hang out at the local 'kitchen' (Chilean version of a food court run by local mums!) and try the famous local Chiloean dish call Curanto in the lovely village of Dalcahue (our favourite village in Chiloe)
We said goodbye to lovely little Chiloe and headed Deep South to Puerto Natales, Patagonia to celebrate the new year! It's got an amazing 'end of the known world' feel about it - what a different place to welcome in the new year.
Puerto Natales, Patagonia Chile Observations (and some late comments from Chiloe)
- Two weeks in and we have only seen one Chilean female with hair as short as mine!
- We have bought, and been served, a surprising amount of food and beer that is passed it's used-by-date! This seems common practice - especially when it's a 'promotional special' in a restaurant - that's pretty much why!
- Torres del Paine: Eye-watering!: eye-wateringly stunning like nowhere else I've ever been (absolutely well worth it); eye-wateringly windy (even as a Wellingtonian, the winds on our walk were pretty terrifying and not for the faint hearted!); and eye-wateringly expensive (clearly geared for a US market)
- Walking Torres del Paine we were struck by how many unlikely walkers there were all with monstrously huge packs, all looking frankly miserable and virtually no one said 'hello/hola' even when you looked them in the eye and smiled - walking tourists are clearly a dour lot!
- The sky in Patagonia is HUGE - there is no other way to describe it and it strikes you the minute you get here - awesome! Patagonia in general is just VAST!
- The privatised bus network works a charm - lots of companies to chose from, clearly marked destination, they go on time, and for a 2½-hour journey it costs about the same price as a sandwich!
- Chileans greet each other with single cheek kisses (to a woman) or a hearty handshake (to a man) - this seems to even include work colleagues when they start a shift! (Wonder what my team would think about that!?)
- It's OK to eat wild guanaco (basically like llama!) - it didn't taste especially interesting and i don't think Holly (the 'mostly' vegetarian) has forgiven me yet for eating something 'cute'!
- People in Chiloe all had an interesting mixture of sources of income - some from tourism, some from fishing plus a bit of cheese making or gathering honey etc - an industrious lot!
- That's enough for now! I'm sure I'll think of more...
Punta Areanas,Chile - 53½° South! The furthest south I've ever been (ever likely to be!).
So, Sundays in Punta Areanas there isn't much happening but we still got sunshine (a rarity I believe), another crazy rich cemetery, 1900s era mansions, whales, lupins, and the amazing Straits of Magellan! THIS is the end of the world for sure!
Our favourite holiday beer - from Punta Arenas coincidently! Like many things in this part of the world it has a name to do with 'austral' which means Southern.
La Serena, Chile - horrendously early flight to cross half the length of Chile in one go!
We checked out a locals-only spot for lunch, we admired our view (complete with hummingbirds!) and tried more local beer!
La Serena - bit more Costa del Spain than anticipated and sunburn to boot! But hey we did a 25-km walk and had possibly the best ice-cream ever?!
The Enchanted Valley, Ovalle, Chile - amazing figures carved into the stones from 1000-500BC.
Must have been pretty special if Holly said 'that was a lot better than I thought it was going to be!' High praise indeed!
And because I have a shocker of a cold our guide insisted on feeding me cactus fruit as it's the best cure for a cold (full of vitamin C)!
Elqui Valley, Chile - Alfa Aldea
We saw the sun, the moon and lots of stars - we all LOVED it - and not just cus we got wine, tomato soup and garlic bread!
Vicuna, Elqui Valley, Chile - this is the front by runner for our best day of the holiday yet!
We did a morning tour of the working astronomy research centre Cerro Tololo - Holly quote 'THAT was THE most amazing thing EVER!'; followed by a great little lunch spot; and then some Pisco tasting and a tour of the Aba Distillery 'and THAT was also really interesting!'... will be sipping macqui and Pisco cocktails by the pool soon! (And that's like actually healthy like!)
Round-up of 3½-weeks Observations
- Emergency services - they all drive around with their lights flashing even when there is no emergency.
- Taciturn Chileans - truly a quiet race! They don't say much and when do they do they really, truly don't say much - like getting conversation out of a stone at times! One of our hosts (an American who have travelled and lived in South America for about 30-years described the Chileans as 'the English of South America - whereas the Argentinians are the Italians!' (We'll see soon enough) I certainly laugh more, and more loudly, than anyone else here!
- Grape growing styles - we've noticed two distinctly different styles in the Elqui Valley - on the ground means they are for wine or eating, and high up means they are Muscatel grapes for Pisco!
- Not yet met a single Chilean that knows why there is a single star on their flag.
- Few Chileans have travelled outside their region - when they do travel they go abroad to Europe mostly but not much within Chile.
- Tourism or indeed the 'service' industry is mostly in its infancy - informal to the point of indifference at times - which can actually be quite funny as it's just so off hand!
- They don't really do public displays of affection - Holly and I often walk holding hands or arm in arm and we always get noted for doing so! (This was a Holly observation!)
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - so yesterday we had our first full day in San Pedro - it's everything you could imagine of a stereotypical, pretty South American town full of amazing looking people and adorable adobe buildings.... and millions of backpackers! This is CLEARLY on the route of every 20-something doing their South America Experience! But I can see why - it is pretty special!
At 2400m above sea level (so that's higher than Mt. Taranaki for the Kiwis, and about 1000m higher than Ben Nevis for the Brits) and one of the driest places in the world it's somewhere I've always wanted to visit since being a kid doing geography!
San Pedro,Chile - Valley of the Moon and Death Valley
Atacama, Chile - full day exploring the Lugunas - utterly amazing colours and seemingly endless variety of shade and tone - I was utterly enchanted! We also got up to 4,200 meters above sea level - another first for me - the highest I've ever been!
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