Something to Declare
Santiago Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
As the flight touched down in Santiago the passengers scrambled to disembark. We were not in a rush so we took our time getting off. Bought our visas for $US 30 each and passed through immigration. At customs we went through the 'something to declare' aisle and the official looked at our packaged Australian Bush teas and spices. She confiscated a small packet of sultanas and several selections of the teas and spices that were in the Australian Geographic Shop gift pack.
The airport was packed at arrivals, then I noticed my name on a paddle held by an Airport shuttle service. We had booked one through the hostel and were promptly whisked away to a row of mini buses and loaded into one of them.
Found a supermarket and bought steaks, salad vegetables, fruit, wine, milk, coke and salad dressing for about $AUS20. Walked back to hostel then gave in to a crashing headache and went to bed after taking headache tablets.
Next day we surfaced for the free breakfast which was bread rolls, apricot jam and coffee with powdered milk. Headed out to get money from the ATM to pay for our two week stay at the hostal and winged it successfully. The streets were full of yellow buses belching fumes as they raced to pick up passengers. Walked a long distance to the Information Centre to find it was closed for 3 days. The next day was a public holiday so we think they needed one to prepare for it and one to recover from it! We did find an independent tour guide company and met a delightfully helpful English speaking young man who gave us some options.
Next day was the public holiday for the Immaculate Conception. All of the big market places were open. We walked through fruit and flower markets ( with cats sleeping in the boxes), clothes and local crafts. Stray dogs of the larger breeds roamed throughout the streets and parks and footpaths had to be negotiated carefully to avoid the mounds of excrement. Many locals had dogs which they walked on leads and there were lovers were glued to each other on park benches and in shady parks.
Friday was our one day tour and we were collected from the hostal at 9 am in a small white car with our guide and a German girl who was training to be a tour guide and learning Spanish. As we left the busy city and most of the smog, the scenery changed to country and over a river we arrived at the wine estate of Concho del Torro. It had a huge stately garden and we hurried to catch the English speaking tour. The guide gave us a very interesting talk on the wine growing and the discovery of the Carmenere vines amongst the Merlot. The Carmenere in France and indeed Europe had been wiped out by a disease a couple of centuries ago and it was long forgotten that cuttings had been taken to Chile and had flourished in South America.
From the winery we head into the mountains to a beautiful place hanging out over a roaring river. Around us are cactus and spruce on sparsely vegetated mountains that lead up into snow caps.
Next day we take the metro to do a practice run to the bus station in preparation to going to Valparaiso. The underground is cheap, efficient and despite my misgivings, clean. We visit the Museum of pre-Columbian Chile and the Bellas Artes (Museum of Art). At dinner I am now also able to tell the waiter I am full up in Spanish and ask for the bill! Next day is round one of elections.