Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Santiago stopover

After Christmas in Mendoza, we took another overnight bus back to Santiago to stopover there for a couple of days before moving on to our next destination.  It left Mendoza at 10:45pm and was due to arrive at 5:45am, and as there was a border crossing en route that had taken us two hours on the way to Mendoza, we knew that sleep would be limited and disturbed. But we had booked good seats on the bus with the hope of giving ourselves some chance of sleep, and they were comfortable so that was fine.  However we had a couple of girls in front of us who didn't stop talking and giggling all the way to the border, so no sleep up to then.
Santiago viewed from Cerro Santa Lucia

Three hours later, at just after 4:30am, we finally left the border.  Separate grumpy posting to follow on this point, but we guessed that the 5:45 arrival was now unlikely.  Thankfully, the girls in front had obviously decided it might be a good idea to get some rest themselves, and they finally shut up, so we could get some sleep.  And we actually arrived in Santiago at about 7:30am.

Luckily though, having been in the city before, we knew where we were headed and how to get there, so by 8:30 we were at the hostel -sadly no more fancy apartments or hotels now!  Having checked in, the guy took us back outside t use some other stairs which he said were better for us with our rucksacks.  The stairs were fine, but nothing special so we wondered what the issue was.  When we saw the stairs inside, we saw the problem.  They have a very steep and narrow spiral staircase for normal use.  I am not the only one who found this a bit of a bugger just carrying a small bag, and I reckon that getting up it with a large rucksack, plus a daypack would have been highly challenging.
I seriously hope that we can leave by the other stairs too because  I think getting down will be even worse.  The steps are almost vertical behind you when you go down, so with a pack on you would be leaning forward at a very precarious angle!

Cerro Santa Lucia Santiago

Having got over the shock of the stairs, we also found that there was an Intrepid group booked into the hostel too.  Intrepid is a sister company to Dragoman.  They do similar trips but don't have the trucks.  They have a tour leader who sorts out all of their accommodation and transport, but they use public transport all the way.  That said, their intrepid rating dropped a few notches for us when we discovered that whilst they get the buses etc between cities, they use taxis to get to and from the bus stations.  We figured that particularly in a city like Santiago, if we can get the metro and walk, they should be too!   And yes I  know we have used some taxis too but that's not the point - they are supposed to be intrepid, we don't have to be!

But taxis transfers aside, it was good to have a chance to chat with some of the group about their trips.  Most of us signed up for the hostel barbecue in the evening, which was excellent by the way, so there was plenty of time to get to know what everyone was doing.  Some of their group were just starting on the trip here, some were but already had done a bit of travel first, and a few had been on the trip since Quito in Ecuador.  They had followed broadly the same route as us in reverse, so we compared experiences and our views of the different places we had been.  Between us I think we managed (unintentionally of course,) to create a bit of anxiety amongst some of the newbie travellers about the standards of toilets and food they could expect along the way.  Oh well!

Cerro Santa Lucia, Santiago
We also discovered that one of the girls is going to be joining a Dragoman truck up to Rio for the Carnival after this trip, and we reckoned it was quite likely that she would be on with the same crew we had.  We told her to say hello for us, but decided against warning her about their peccadilloes - it seems more fun that she should find out for herself.
Whilst in Santiago we had one practical task and one sightseeing activity planned to do.  The practical was to send a package back to the UK.  We figured that as we were heading back to the cold weather, I should send my panama sun hat back rather than keep carrying I around, and we had a few other bits and pieces that were no longer needed.  Thankfully the queue at the post office here was rather less than it was in BsAs (if you can remember that far back) and once we had acquired a couple of boxes from a local shop, we were well on our way to ticking that off.

Darwin plaque, Santiago

The sightseeing bit was only a small one, but we had missed doing it first time around and thought we should out that right.  There is a rocky hill in the old centre of Santiago called Cerro Santa Lucia, which is referred to as the lungs of Santiago.  On the way up there are some little plazas, a fountain, a church, a little castle and then at the top a lookout point over Santiago.  It was fairly simple, but quite pretty and the view was good.  This seems rather ironic as Santa Lucia, or Saint Lucy, is apparently the patron saint of the blind.

Charles Darwin apparently visited Cerro Santa Lucia when he was in Santiago in 1831 and was quite taken with the view from the hill.  The locals must have been quite proud of this as they named one of the plazas on the hill after him and have embedded a plaque in the rock that quotes him on the fact.
So having accomplished our two tasks, it is goodbye to Santiago for the third and final time.

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