February 19th, 2007 – by: dan2105
The Andes are there...somewhere
Our journey across the border to Chile went as smoothly as we could have hoped. Once we arrived in Santiago
we were lucky in that every time we got our map out, someone was keen to ask us if we needed help. So finding our hostel was no problem, and once we got there we were happy, once again, that we had used the online booking to order hostels by user rating. Our rooms have big beds with nice sheets, there's a big lounge, newly-fitted bathrooms, a couple of computers with free internet and there is a good atmosphere, too.
The first obstacle was getting used to the comedy currency they use out here. 1000 pesos works out at about a quid, so you end up dealing with astronomical figures to buy something not too expensive.
Estatua de la Virgen Maria
So every time I look in my pocket I think I have a lot of cash, then I realise 100 pesos is 10p, and my tip doesn't look quite so generous. I suppose being a millionaire out here doesn't actually mean that much. Everyone's a celebrity.
On our first day we visited the Parque Metropolitano, north of the city, which gave us good views from up high, as well as other attractions spreadout over miles and miles of artificially-irrigated plantlife. After a steep 6km trek to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, we reached the Estatua de la Virgen Maria and got a great view of the cityscape. There is a thick lingering smog above the city and the Andes behind are only partially visible, and this as a spectacle in itself is worth the climb.
We had plans to do far more with our day than just the ascent to the top.
There were two swimming pools at the top that looked worth a visit on such a hot day, but, unfortunately, the cartoon map we were given was about as much use as a chocolate teapot. "Yeah, yeah," I hear you sarcastically cry, "blame the map," but it was, and every time we thought we had found our bearings, we were lost again. I made the mistake of asking someone how to get there, but much language misinterpretation followed, until soon we were surrounded by a translating bus of Italian tourists eager to help by all shouting at us at once, and then, rather peculiarly, a Chilean park gardener ordered us a taxi to take us there. We didn't really want it, but waited for a while - long enough for him to be out of vision...then we pegged it.
The day was notable for the run-in I had with death.
Yes, it's true. No exagerration. We were walking up a steep hill when round the corner came three cyclists. One flew across the road and hit the other one, causing him to fall, while the offender came hurtling towards me. Only Muhammed Ali-esque quick feet saved my life, and probably his. His friend wasn't so lucky. No, he didn't die, he just lay there for ages clutching his knee, telling people in a different language that he couldn't move it. I thought about asking if he knew where the pool was, but thought against it.
We decided to leave the swimming pools to another day as they weren't quite as the child's-drawing map made out and got a cable car down to the other side of the park and had a look at some tranquil, if small, Japanese gardens. Soon the sun went and we got bored, so went and stopped off for a pizza - luckily Chileans don't see egg as essential a topping as the Argies. Doesn't make up for their stupid money though.