Sunday, March 30, 2008

We arrived in Santiago at 6. Only it was actually 5, since daylight savings time had just fallen back a couple of hours earlier. The bad part was there wasn't anything to do at 5 in the morning. We made our way through customs, then got picked up by our driver Gigin (sp?). He drove us around Santiago, which was much closer than we remembered. Apparently the last time our hotel was on the far eastern part of the city, far from the hotel, and we went a different route. We found downtown is actually not that far from the airport.

We drove on Bernardo O'Higgins east, in to Providencia. At some point turned left, going up into Bellavista, then came back, but a little farther north than we had gone out. We traveled past the entrances to Cerro San Cristobal, which he had visited the last time. We also drove past Azul Profundo in Bellavista, where we ate lunch the last time. Once back in downtown we drove around some more, basically killing time until 7:15 am when we would meet our guide Mariana. We drove past Cerro San Lucia, which is a shorter hill than San Cristobal, but more in the middle of the city.

We got out of the car at the Presidential palace and walked around, with Gigin giving us a little history. There were street dogs everywhere - we had forgotten how common they were, and how they were accepted. We met Mariana and walked around "London and Paris," one of the bohemian neighborhoods near downtown - cobblestone streets and small hotels. We then went to the central market, where there was fresh seafood everywhere, including some fish almost three feet long with sharp teeth.


Since we had been to Santiago before, and had seen the "regular" day trip stuff already, they took us to some unusual places. One was to the cemetery in Recoleta. We had expected to go to a cemetery in Recoleta, but in Buenos Aires, not Santiago. It was very interesting, and was enormous. We saw another street dog, this time a puppy who was whimpering. We also saw some unusual Araucarias.

From there we went to Cerro San Cristobal. It is right in the middle of the downtown area, and is basically a large hill with vantage points all around. The climb to the top is not difficult at all, and the views are very nice. On the way down we noticed a Gillette advertisement. It was basically the same one we see here in the U.S., but here there are only three athletes. In Santiago, the fourth athlete was actually the central figure, Brazilian footballer Kaka.

From there we went to one of the grandest residences in Santiago, which had been turned into a museum. It was named Palacia Cousino. By this time we were exhausted, and were doing our best to stay standing on the tour. There was a bunch of cool stuff, and every room had a different theme, different flooring, different drapes, and so on.

We left there and went to lunch at Giratorio, a rotating restaurant going out towards Bellavista. We were literally the first ones there - they were still setting up. People eat lunch late in Santiago, and it's the biggest meal of the day, usually around 3pm; so for us, it was basically brunch. The view was very nice, and we did get our Pisco sours - just like last time.

We had an appetizer dish with Prosciutto, pork, cheese, olives, and sundried tomatoes. Crystal ate a king crab pie, sort of akin to a pot pie, but with a cheesy top - it was very good. Justin had a steak and mashed potatoes - also very good. Between all of this and the drinks, and the tip, it was about $60, so at least the dollar will still get you something.

We went straight from there to the airport. There were a bunch of people parked on the roadside and staring - apparently there was some sort of show with an A380 doing maneuvers around the airport. It did look enormous, and it seemed odd that it could remain skyward with how slow it seemed to be going. We checked in to our flight to Calama easily, and hung out in the same general area we did two years ago when waiting to go to Rapa Nui. This time we didn't need to wait nearly so long.

We both slept on the flight up to Antafagasto, where about half of the passengers departed. There was nothing, and then all of a sudden the city came out of nowhere, right on the coast, with nice beaches, including some sand cliffs. The flight from there to Calama was only about 20 minutes, with more moonscapes. The airport in Calama was tiny, probably no bigger than the Maun airport.

We grabbed our stuff and got in the Explora van headed southeast from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama. There were two other couples on the bus with us, one from upstate New York and one from Frankfurt. Arrived here a little before 8 - much bigger than the place in Rapa Nui. We unpacked a bit - our room was simple but very nice - and then had some drinks.

W had briefing at 8:15 to discuss what to do the next day. No one else had done homework on all the available excursions, so we got to do what we wanted. We gave George three suggestions, and he suggested to do Cornisas in the morning and Kari in the afternoon. For dinner,we had Duck and Crab Ravioli, plus tomato soup. We went to sleep after dinner - no problema.