This and that

April 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

After 3 days in Santiago, today I decided to splurge on a day tour which went to a vineyard in San Esteban and Portillo, a ski resort high up in the Andes. The mountains themselves are spectacular from a distance, but up close they are almost surreal. I had almost convinced myself not to go, as 2 nights of insomnia meant that I really needed to rest up for a way-too-early flight to La Paz the next day. However, witnessing the scenes as shown in the photo, has made the trip worthwhile, and reminded me of the Swiss Alps. However, Chile has been a mixed bag of sorts for me. To give you all a rough picture, here are a few observations I made:

1. Despite sharing its namesake with my favourite spice in the world, the food here is extremely boring and bland to say the least. I love my curries and Thai stir-fries which are filled with spices, so imagine my disappointment when the empanadas and salads here are served plain, and do not have a sprinkle of dressing-up to them whatsoever. At best they plonk a bottle of oregano and chilli flakes on the table, but that is it. Being cheap does not matter.
2. People here do not wear shorts and sandals, even in 30 degree heat. So I must have looked quite the tourist venturing out all day yesterday in my mini-shorts, tank top, and comfy Havainas. In Sydney I practically live in this, but Chileans are pants and shoes people who don’t seem to sweat very much in all their layers of clothing.
3. There are lots of stray dogs on the streets. Mostly they are sleeping and look docile enough, but I didn’t challenge that theory.
4. It is very polluted, and most days the smog is so bad one can barely make out the Andes in the background of the city.
5. Not speaking Spanish has been very hard. I am sure my level of enjoyment would be amplified if I could communicate with the locals, who try their damn hardest to make me understand.

The altitude of 3300m at Portilla this afternoon has not affected me. I hope I will feel fine when I land at La Paz tomorrow at 4100m.

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First forays

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

For the first time in 2 years, I have restarted my couchsurfing career. I am in Santiago, Chile, in a nice part of town at Seb’s cute and colourful apartment, complete with my own room, ensuite, and view from the balcony and pool rooftop looking over the Andes. The mountains are pretty damn spectacular. Jetlag didn’t bog me down too much when I arrived here yesterday afternoon, but after a hot shower, a nice lunch, and a power nap, I went out with Seb to celebrate his friend’s birthday later that night. It was a full-on Chilean fiesta, and his friend A together with his band (long-haired hippie men) sang with such gusto that I was incredibly entertained and clapping along despite not knowing a word of Spanish. It reminded me of that night in Bilbao. Ah, good memories.

Another thing I find very amusing is the traffic light touts. Similar in concept to those in Sydney who wash your windscreen in exchange for loose change, but so different in approach. Over here, people perform for money. Yesterday I spotted a couple completely geared up in traditional costume, and did a funny little jig in the middle of the road. Today I saw a teenage boy manipulate a glass ball up and down his shoulders and back without dropping it. Hell, I could definitely part with some change for that kind of thing rather than having my windscreen washed!

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