Mendoza to Santiago was stunning with crazy switch back roads leading through the Andes to the boarder control point and down into Santiago. Having learnt my lesson on not booking a night bus it was a day bus all the way but wait….somebody mentioned a holiday. Every man and his Argentinian dog were trying to cross the boarder. We arrived to be told it could take up to 12 hrs. Ughhh ohh. Luck was with us and the boarder control just took 4 hrs. A long long windy trip and boom I’m in Santiago the capital city known to the locals as exactly that The a Capital City.
I stayed in Don Santiago hostel in bohemian Brazil district. I do have a knack for picking the PPPs (post and present prostitute places). Nothing seedy just hotels that you can rent rooms by the hour as you may need a nap. Despite this the hostel was lovely being surrounded by bars and eateries including more empanadas places with 100 selections of fillings. The breakfast in the hostel was awesome with omelette, beans, mushroom and avocado etc. I’m winning right now.
One thing I have learnt whilst traveling is that free tours are a great way to learn about a city, get top tips and orientate yourself. Tours for tips it is then. We walked for 3 hrs around the city taking in the information on constant rebuilding due to earthquakes, fish markets built from iron form Glasgow and learning about the Chamber ( spelt wrong I’m sure) which clearly defines the rich and the poor from when Santiago grew and they built a bridge across opening up the land for development. Some interesting stories here about how that was done and unfortunately a great deal of death along the way. There is a huge amount of Peruvian influence in Santiago which is very noticeable in its food stalls and restaurants. It also has a very large Palestinian population. Who knew!
Chile has a very stable economy but only due to relatively recent political action. The cemetery whichSome was larger than 117 football fields really summed this up where we were informed of the military coupe back in 1973. It was quite upsetting to see so many graves of children all from 1972 when food trucks were stopped and people starved to death. Hard to believe when you look at what is a capitalist and very European feeling city today. Santiago has an incredible story to tell of human suffering, torture, political regime and now a new generation standing up for the common good, allowing people to be free once more. The human rights museum really hammered home the environment in which Chileans had to live. It was shocking and made me feel very privileged. It was interesting to learn that the people decide who are made saints and there are many stories attached to them but many of them nobody would have heard of others than the locals. One Saint was a man who sold sweets at a train station. Bottles are often left by shrines at the side of the road as many believe the saints died due to dehydration.
New busy economy driven Santiago can be quite smoggy but I was lucky to get a relatively clear day to head up San christobel hill on the funicular although the BMX track back down was not ideal. I strolled around for my last few days taking in Bellavista district with its coffee shops and bars as well as views from Cerro Santa Lucia and dropping down to visit the Bella Arts museum. The Pre columbian museum with its Peruvian archeological textile finds was also fascinating. I couldn’t leave without comparing the wine so I took myself off on a bike tour of a vineyard which once took over 1/3rd of Santiago. The wine was great
Once again I met up with some lovely people with whom I shared meals, stories, adventures and good times with. I’m glad I had time to take in the capital city and learn about their history but as always it’s time to wave goodbye and move on. With over 7,500 miles completed around South America let’s fly through time zones to Auckland New Zealand. 12.05am leave 5.15am arrive with a 16 hr time difference and a 13 hr flight. Let’s see how this turns out. At least I have my accommodation and my Kiwi Experience bus booked. Did I mention I’m staying in the Queen of Tonga house? See you on the other side.