The South American journey begins

Santiago Travel Blog

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The views flying into Santiago were stunning, not that you could see Santiago, it was covered under a really low cloud base. Rising through the clouds though was the most beautiful view of the Andes all big and snow covered and shiny in the sunshine.

Having arrived at the airport and picked up my bags, feeling like a bit of a space cadet having not managed to sleep on the flight, I wandered through customs in a bit of a daze only to get pulled to one side by a very stern police lady demanding to search my bag. Apparently a clear bag of white powder looks suspicious going through the x-ray machine......who´d have thought!!! Fortunatly it only took a couple of seconds to realise it was only washing powder and I was on my way.

Arriving at my lodgings in Santiago Centro I was more than a bit excited at being able to afford single rooms again, in a very nice place full of antique furniture and parquay flooring. By this time it was about 5pm local time and I´d been awake for well over 24hours. My plan to stay awake to try to reduce jet lag wasn´t happening and I fell asleep only to wake up at about 3am. 4 hours of reading and listening to music later I decided to get up and go for a wander.

Santiago at 8am is mighty cold - am in serious need of buying warmer clothes before I get to Patagonia! Although 8am is early ish I was shocked at how shut up everywhere was until I remembered it was a public holiday, was really quite surreal, a bit like walking through a ghost town. Apart that is from the amount of police, army and homless people there were around.

Over the last four months I´ve become accustomed to not being stared at, got used to it in Asia, afterall as a 6ft blonde you do stick out like a sore thumb. Didn´t occour to me the same would happen here, didn´t think I looked like that much of a tourist!!! But then again when the only other people on the streets at that time were the ones mentioned above I guess I obviously didn´t quite fit in!

So, all of the streets had a slightly dark feeling to them as all shop fronts were shuttered down, but I found mayself walking down a particulary not nice one. Just in front of me was a couple loading thier car, I smiled and carried on walking, could hear a car pulling up next to me but ignored it and carried on walking. A shout came "Ey Chica!" had a feeling it was aimed at me but thought I´d ignore it and pretend it was to the other lady in the street. Afterall at that time in the morning whos going to stop a random walking down the street. Few seconds went by and footsteps came up fast behind me, and then next to me was a guy chatting away to me in Castellano. Hmm time to pull out all of the word I could think of that seemed relivant "Hola! No entiendo.....un poco Castellano" (Hi! I don´t understand...a little Castellano". At this he then spoke to me in a mix of English and Castellano something to the effect of "you lost? come with me and my friends we go to the market..." Hmmmm "No gracias I´m ok walking" (completed with sign language walkie fingers). Few more mins and he was back in his car with his friends driving off to much cheering and car horn, fairly sure they were all pissed and on thier way home from a night out! Carried on with my walk, about 10 mins later as Im crossing a street "Hey where you from" "England" "please to meet you", another random.....I mean, seriously am I that obviously English!!

Couldn´t quite understand the sheer amount of army on the streets, complete with armour plated vans, riot gear and dogs, figured that something must be going on later in the day but didn´t know what. Some of the uniforms were pretty cool. You had the regular looking green but then there were a load of guys that looked like an actionman heman hybrid with plastic looking body armour on the outside of thier uniforms. Figured whatever it was happening it must be big and I´d go back and have a look later - just needed to nip back to my room for 40winks. Turned into not waking up till 3pm by which time I´d missed what was going on (apparently a big demonstration but dont know what about).

Took a walk to the other end of town and got the funicular up the hill to the virgin mary statue that looks down over Santiago. Dont think I realised how bad the smog was till I got up there and realised that you could only just make out the mountains at the back through it. Was enough to make me decide that rather than staying in the city to go to language school I´m going to head to the lake district to do it, climb the volcano and do a bit of horse riding while I´m there.

Feels kinda strange, I´ve only been here 48 hours and I love it already. I love that although the city is very westernised its still very different, I love that I don´t automatically understand whats going on and have to try harder to communicate, the buying food from street vendors when you don´t have a clue what it is, same with the fruit sellers - buying fruit the like that I´ve never seen before and having to get the lady selling it to show me what bit of it you it, love it, love it........
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photo by: Bluetraveler