Central Chile

Shopping mall Santiago
Shopping mall Santiago
Downtown Santiago. Bolsa de Comercio
Downtown Santiago. Bolsa de Comercio

Ok  we got to Santiago. This is a city of 3 million and is labeled as the most expensive city in South America. It is a beautiful modern city. The streets are clean and there are conveniences I have never seen. There is a very effifcient subway system as well as a bus system.We are still staying with my old room mate, Carlos Pizarro, and his daughter. We have been here a week and as I write this we are packing to leave in the morning for a cruise from Valparaiso Chile going to Buenos Aires Argentina. the cruise is 14 days and passes through the Channel where Darwin sailed. Pam is very anxious to see penguins. I have another old friend that lives in Frutillar but it doesn’t look like we will make contact this trip. (Just talked to her while editing this and it looks like we might. Teri Graf Pulvino. She was my tennis partner at the University.

Earlier I made a comment about how in comparison Eureka, Ca is a third world country which drew some criticism. All I was saying is that when most people think of South America I think they have an image of very underdeveloped countries living in poverty and it just isn’t true. In Eureka we have a lot of people living in the streets and begging. We have a small mostly empty mall and almost no elevators. By contrast a lot of these cities have very modern and gigantic malls and major conveniences. For all the travels so far we haven’t seen many beggars or homeless people. OK that explanation probably doesn’t help much unless you live in ..

Folkloric dancers
Folkloric dancers
Juan Estay and Wilma
Juan Estay and Wilma

In Santiago I had the chance to connect with another old friend, Juan Estay and his wife Wilma. They treated us all to a fantastic night of dining on paradillas, large community plates of steaks and other meats. We are talking T-Bone and sirloin. Quite a few bottles of excellent Chilean wine and Pisco Sours, there was a folkloric dancing show and then it was open to dancing. We danced for hours. I don’t dance in the US but here it is different.

Besides the fantastic malls Santiago has a lot to offer in the way of history as well. We went to many cultural places like the museum of fine arts and the Plaza de Armas. Santiago has a hop on hop off tourist bus much like the trolley in San Diego, Ca. We went to the Finicular which has a tram that goes pretty much straight up the hill over a rock floor and is drawn by cable. Pam almost lost it. We have had the opportunity to sample some of the local dishes like Charquekan a plate made of mashed potatoes and pureed carrots and squash. It is a little different each place but it is great.

Vinyards
Vineyards

Of course Chile is famous for its wines. We got to tour some vineyards yesterday. They are quite large productions here but we were at one famous one that keeps its barrels in a room that is constantly playing music like chants and classic. This winery is all about Feng Shue and everything is kept in balance. K gotta go. Will update more later..IF I buy internet access on the ship.

Still in Chile

We have been gone for a month now. Have not had internet for a while now or if I have had I’ve been too damn tired. Dont usually get to bed until 2 am. We are in Antofagasta Chile. There is a beatiful boardwalk that runs for miles around the city and we have an esquisite view of the ocean from the apartment.

We went to San Pedro de Atacama and saw some amazing things. This is the desert and there are salt flats everywhere. We stayed in San Pedro a couple of days. This is an old old town which attracts a lot of tourists kinda like a spring break thing. Lots of young americans. On the way we stopped at Chacabuco, an old nitrate mine, quite common in that part of Chile but all out of business now since the Germans developed artificial nitrates during the war ansd so they were no longer needed for explosives. This one had been converted into a prison during the Pinochet regime. Very interesting and educational.

From San Pedro we visited the Valley of Jarez in Tocanao. This is a beautiful little valley with a small river and a rock mine, liparite, a very light volcanic rock that looks a lot like sandstone, and some petroglifs. Tocanao has an extremely old church built in 1744. From there we went to the National Reserve of the flamingos in Laguna Chaxa. This is in the middle of the Salt Flat of Atacama, the third largest in the world. It is amazing to pick up and taste raw salt.

Flamingo Reserve Laguna Chaxa
Atacama Salt Flat

 

We had contracted to go to the geysers at Tatia the following morning, this is the most famous attraction in that part of Chile but that afternoon a Belgian tourist had got too close and was critically burned by a geyser. As per custom they had to close the geyers for five days to investigate so we were out of luck. We decided to go to the Valley of the Moon, another very famous place but we got there too late and it was closed. SOOOO we went to Calama, where Carlos was born and from there took a tour to the worlds largest copper mine in Chuquicamata. We were all suited up with hard hats and respirators. Unfortuantely when we got up there at 9500 ft the wind was blowing at 60-70 MPH so they wouldnt let us go down into the mine. We were treated, however, to some very interesting talks about copper mining. Chuquicamata used to be a large company town with housing and many cultural things like theatres and one of the most advanced hospitals but in the early 2000s the government declared it to be an environmental hazard for people to live there so everyone had to move to Calama and now commute. As the mine grew many of the houses etc have been burried in rock.

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Chuquicamata

We have spent two weekends in Punta Itata where Carlos has a beach house. It is barely spring so there is not much tourist traffic yet. This part of Chile is all desert and only gets a couple of milimeters of rain a year so water is precious. All of the water at the beach is supplied by gravity tanks so there is limited pressure. We cooked with Carbon chunks, not nice little brickettes but big chunks.

Punta Itata is next to Mejillones a little coastal town where copper is shipped from. They also have quite a bit of sea food there. Chile is famous for locos, known as abalone but it is actual a different species more commonly know as false abalone. Not nearly as big but otherwise quite similar. We bought 24 for $16.00 The guy there cleaned them for us and then “pounded” them by placing them in a mesh bag and beating them against the rocks. Chile is also famous for its osteones which are scallops. They have been over fished and tsunamis and other natural disasters have made them hard to find just now. We also ate erisa which is Sea Urchin and is also quite popular. There is a type of muscle here that measures about 7 inches long and is quite good also. They have good old surf smelt too 🙂

A day at the beach Punta Itata
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Pounding abalone in Mejillones

Next week we head for Santiago, one of the largest and most expensive cities in the world. We are looking at some day trips from there and on the 25th Pam and I leave from Valparaiso on a 14 day cruise around the horn to Buenos Aires Argentina. After that we go to Machu Picchu back in Peru and then on to Guayaquil Ecuador. After that who knows.. We spent the lions share of our budget here in Chile and I may have to come back to California for a year or two to work it off 🙂  K more later

 

Tacna to Antofagasta

First impression of Tacna Peru is that the drivers are sane and the city is beautiful. Very different from Lima. We stayed 2 nights and took a tour of the surrounding area including a visit to some petrogliphs and a winery where they make Pisco. That night we took at taxi and crossed the border into Chile to a town called Arica, the city of eternal spring. Again a beautiful calm city. Changed my opinion of Latin America after the craziness of Lima.

In Arica, Chile we also stayed 2 nights and took a tour up to Lake Chungara. This is the highest non navigable lake in the world at 16000 ft. Altitude sickness is a bitch. Thse tour stops every few thousand feet for 15-30 minutes to allow you to adjust. About 14000 ft  things got interesting with a bad pain around my stomach which has taken 2 days to abate. I think it was pressure against old hernias. When you reach those altitudes you expand. When you come down you are full of gasses that you have to get rid of 🙂 There is abundant wildlife up at the top but up to then there is little because most of the country is desert. We saw a lot of Alpaca and Llamas.

We got back to Arica at 8PM and caught a bus to Antofagasta at 10:45  These are nice buses with sleeper seats. It was a 12 hour trip. We are staying with my old college roommate in his beautiful apartment overlooking the ocean.

Things here are expensive. I have had trouble changing dollars because they wont take the dollars unless they are the new ones ($100,00) and most importantly must be in mint condition. Frustrating. Have not been able to get the phone to work right yet.. 4 hours difference here. Miss you all.. See you later