26.10.2008 22 °C
The border crossing into Chile was rather uneventful. All they did was throw away the sandwiches we brought which steve claims tasted dodgy anyway. The bus attendant guy did try and play with my head by pretending my bag went missing when he was really wearing it. We had a stop over in Osorno for about 5 hours. It was a very long 5 hours. Then we headed onto Santiago. Santiago is apparently the most modern and developed capital city in South America. I can believe that. There´s a number of high rises and loads of malls and people wearing suits. We stayed in a hostel in Bellavista - the Bohemian arty center of the city. Nice vibe about it. We explored the downtown area and found Japanese restaurants. This made me very happy - and the fact it was quite warm in Santiago and sunny. We mainly just mulled around but it was good. Empanadas, beef filled pastry in Argentina, are still around but instead are cheese filled. Most travellers said they didn´t like Santiago but I found it refreshing and lively after being in small towns for so long. The next day we went to Valpariso. Now everyone, including guide books, rave about Valpariso; having been there I have no idea why. It was overcast and freezing cold when we went. Outside of the hills with the fair views there wasn't much to commend it in my opinion. It's a port town but offers no good area to enjoy the water, it´s all big containers and docking equipment - quite unsightly. So glad we didn't stay there. Anyway I was quite glad to be back in Santiago which was sunny and warm again. The next day we went to the big park in the center of Santiago, it´s on a hill. Easy and cheap to get up but not so much to go down. We got up there and found a Virgin Mary statue and various scenic points allowing for views of the city and mountains - if they weren't obstructed by smog. We had "breakfast" up at the restaurant and man was it expensive. Ridiculously so and to rub salt in the wound they even have this "table charge". I have no idea what it´s about but it´s 10% and apparently not the same as tipping. Steve was raving mad and it bittered our experience up there. We went down on what appeared to be a kind of ski lifts and wandered most of the day looking for english books. We did manage to find an english bookstore and it was glorious.
I liked Santiago but I think I´m finding I like big cities more than the countryside. Chile is actually cheaper than I thought. People were saying it was more expensive than Argentina but I don´t think that´s true at all. Next stop is San Pedro de Atacama - a 24 hour bus journey away. Happily this is the last long bus journey we have. The rest can be down in 12 hours or less I think.
For pics of Santiago and Valpariso go to: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=78295&l=15c36&id=684816071