Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chi-Chi-Chi Lay-Lay

So goes the chant of the national football team in Chile and I found myself chanting along on my first night in Santiago de Chile as we watched the under 20s take on Brazil. The hostel, Andes Hostel, had a mix of Brazilians and Chileans so It was fun to watch it with them and their running commentary in their respective languages.

We, myself and Grace, had arrived in Santiago after a breathtaking bus ride from Mendoza, through the Andes mountains and the border crossing, before dropping down through the mountains into Chile. The scenery is amazing and you can not do it justice by camera. Switching back, through curve after curve on sometimes treacherous roads, all you can do is stare and drink in the scenery.

So I was in Chile for the first time. The immediate concern was to try and get my head around the new exchange rate. I had got used to converting $6 pesos in Argentina to £1. I now had to contend with $745 pesos to the £1. Hmm, could take some getting used to. As was evidenced by getting ripped off by our very first Chilean taxi ride. We jumped in a cab, with Louis a guy from Belgium and headed towards our hostel. Only on arrival, and paying the cab did we realise that he had charged us about £14 for an approximate £5 taxi ride. Oh well, there were 3 of us so the hit wasn't that bad to the backpacker budget.

Santiago is a clean, pleasant city and I quite enjoyed just wandering around, checking out the parks and plazas, and generally watching the Chileans go about their business. We ventured into one park (bizarrely which I had to sign us in to, I kid you not) and after a bit of a climb we got some great views of the city in the shadow of the Andes mountain range.

When it was time for coffee I thought I had wandered into one of my crazy dreams! Café Haiti was just like one of my perfect Italian coffee houses. You pay the cashier for the drink you want then take the slip to the barista who expertly prepares your drink. However, after a few minutes of being in Café Haiti I soon realised that something was different. And then I looked around and it clicked. All the baristas were females, in tight black mini skirts and black high heels. And the lower counter had been cut away so the skirts and shoes could be admired in all their glory. I was being served fantastic, strong coffee by numerous extras from a Robert Palmer video. I had died and gone to heaven. I only wish I had had the balls to take some photos but it didn't seem appropriate.

The hostel we stayed in, Andes Hostel, was large, modern and clean but had a distinct lack of character. I think we had been spoiled by Hostel Lao in Mendoza, with it's relaxing garden, hammocks and free Malbec. And it was a bit of a party hostel for travellers who were obviously on their first trip overseas and were enjoying the recently acquired legal privilege of being able to drink alcohol. Yeah, I remember the first time I had a drink.

And after 2 nights it was time to move on again. To the port town of Valparaiso, a UNESCO heritage town a couple of hours from Santiago. There we were going to meet up again with George and Mildred, aka Richard and Alison from Colchester. The plan was to do some more wine tasting, spend some time at the beach and see what “Valpo” has to offer. See what in my next blog.

I couldn't end this post, about my first time in Chile, without dropping in a terrible play on words, albeit very true. As we were the other side of the Andes now, the ocean side, the temperatures had dropped slightly. So much so in the evening that as we sat outside Galindo restaurant, having dinner, it was fair to say that it was distinctly Chilly in Chile.

Chao Chicas!

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