We said goodbye to Santiago yesterday, rising early and rushing through the metro at peak hour to catch a bus that came late anyway. I fell a little in love with Santiago. But who wouldn´t? With it´s grand boulevardes, friendly people and romantic colonial architecture? It´s european influences are obvious. And the Andes are the most amazing backdrop. From time to time I would forget they were there, but then catch a glimpse of them between buildings, so far away,yet so grand in scale there was no way to deny them. Even though it´s warm and the land is drier than the australian bush in summer, the altitude at the top is so great there is still ice on the top. Zoe and I took photos from the top of a hill looking down over Santiago, but unfortunately most of the effect is lost due to a layer of hazey smog that hovers over the city, caught between two mountains.
To get to our next destination Mendoza, Argentina we passed through the Andes. We were both looking forward to this, but I was also a little apprehensive; my last bus ride through mountains (n Laos)was a nightmare due to a bad case of foodpoisoning and a crazed bus driver. This bus ride proved to be better - the scenery was amazing. We wound gradually through at first but then there was just no where else to go and at one point the road just zig zagged up a huge mountain on a road that was more a gravel track, with a series of long semi-trailers banked up on the other side of the road. And there was the rather bumpy trip to the toilet which involved holding on to a metal rail, squeezing your glutes and looking out a small window down a very big cliff.
So we´re in Argentina now. Beautiful Mendoza, to be precise. Beautiful because the streets are lined with gorgeous leafy trees. And not just one street- every street. More later.....
I´m sitting in Hostel San Patricio in Santiago de Chile. Zoe and I arrived back from the coastal port town of Valparaiso this afternoon where we spent an eventful 3 days and nights. Valparaiso is what I would describe as a ´shanty-town´, if ever I saw one. Run-down and downright shady in parts, yet picturesque and charming in others, it certainly isn´t lacking in character. Coloured houses perch upon hills; crooked corrugated tin shacks crowd next to multicoloured picture-book perfect weatherboard houses. The streets are windy and paved - you can either hike it up the hill or catch cable cars or "ascendors", if you can find them.
Yesterday we caught a bus up the coast to the beach and resort town of Vina Del Mar, which had a certain "Florida" feel about it. After a winning lunch we walked to a botanical park where Zoe left her camera unattended long enough for someone to pinch it. A hilarious trip to the police station ensued, in which we dealt with the only police officer at the station who spoke english and his senior. It was one of those moments when travelling that you have to pinch yourself hard to check that you aren´t in a comedy sketch. Perhaps it was his accent or the fact that his english was far from perfect, but still I think this guy was in the wrong profession, he should have gone into comedy.
Last night we were witness to a massive display of fireworks. Valparaiso is famous for it´s New Years Eve fireworks and rightly so. Everyone from the town and the next few along, together with hundreds of thousands of visitors crowd the bay to watch the display. It went for 30 minutes and there were 6 different locations all along the coast, most going off at the same time.... people were dancing in the streets, confetti coated the ground and heads like snow. I woke up this morning and my bed was covered in it. Walking to the bus station this morning, we could see people asleep or passed out in doorways, while some people were still drinking.