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Day 1 – Santiago

Thursday 22nd August

I say day 1 – but really this is the end of the longest August 22nd ever.

We landed at around 12 midday. Yes, that’s 5 hours before we took off! Time travel is easy when you live in New Zealand and have to cross the international dateline to get to any place east. Chilean customs was easy. And interestingly, for a change we were one up on the Australians. For some obscure reason, Australians, Canadians, Mexicans & USA Americans have to pay an entry fee at immigration – but no-one else does.

Tip 1: if you were only given big notes when you purchased your Chilean currency, buy a small packet of candies in Duty Free. Then you can change one of your large denomination notes for some small stuff. Useful for that first tip to the taxi driver.

After picking up our luggage we passed through the exit and into the throng of taxi drivers. We had pre-booked and pre-paid our airport pick-up through – probably slightly more than taking our chances with an authorised taxi at the airport – but we’d been warned that there were a lot of unscrupulous and positively dangerous unregistered taxis out there. It was worth the extra for the peace of mind of seeing a friendly face holding a card with our names on it.

Tip 2: Very few people here speak English. I’d bought a small travellers Latin American phrasebook in the airport, and it looked like it was a very prudent buy. That, a large smile and ‘Gracias’ were going to be overly-used.

The journey to the hotel took us along a dual carriageway, and into the city. Our first view of Santiago was of rows of shacks on the side of drainage canals. These were the dwellings of obviously very poor people. There were also side-roads covered in rubbish. Santiago could turn out to be a bit of a culture shock.

Main Square Santiago

We were staying in central Santiago, at the Amistar Apart Hotel, just off Miraflores. We’d booked it through, at a very reasonable rate. So the first surprise was being dropped off at a decidedly grotty front reception desk with a grumpy front desk porter at a building labelled ‘Infinity Apartments’. It was obviously a place where people lived, too. But it was the right place – he phoned an office, and a really friendly man came and took us to a separate office in one of the four towers that made up the apartment block.

‘Amistar’ own a number of the apartments only, and rent them out to tourists. They can also arrange day trips, taxis and any other type of touristy thing you want too – very handy! The apartment itself was nothing special – a badly equipped kitchenette, and a double bedroom with an en-suite. Rather disappointingly, the lounge area didn’t have a sofa or any seating except a couple of footstools. It did have a single bed, which we used to open the suitcase on. The rooms were very dark too, with poor natural and artificial light. On the whole I found it quite a depressing little flat, and was very glad we weren’t there long. But it was reasonably clean and the bed was comfortable – a big plus.

We decided that after our long journey, a siesta was needed before finding somewhere for an evening meal. Four hours later I had to wake Art up! Another good thing about the apartments – they are very easy walking distance to the centre of town. We left to go exploring at around 6:00 pm – right into rush hour. The place was heaving with traffic and pedestrians, all leaving to go home from work. My understanding is that most people start work early, have a very typically Latin long lunch, then go back to work mid-afternoon and work later in the evening.

One difficulty we had was we couldn’t find the Santiago map I’d bought in New Zealand! It’s probably sitting on a table at home… So we had to make do with an extremely small-scale tourist map. The writing was so small we couldn’t read the street names. But it was enough that we found our way to the Plaza De Armas.

This seems to be one of the main social areas in the evening. It was heaving with stalls and people. The bandstand was crowded with men playing board games – possibly chess, but we couldn’t see too clearly. This also seems to be the place that people come to protest, There were groups of shouting people at various spots. And there are artists of all types – oils, caricatures, balloon ‘sculptures’, jewellery. Plus entertainers – a type of punch and judy, music, magic,balloon ‘sculptures’. A good evening’s entertainment.

We ate chicken bits, cheese pastries & chips with a barbecue sauce and a huge beer in a locals bar down one of the back streets. Very unhealthy, but it went down a treat! Then back home for an end to a 38 hour long August 22nd.

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holidays/abroad/peru/day_1.txt · Last modified: 2013/09/12 15:24 by art
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