Friday, 9 December 2016

From Santiago to Lima - Days 82 to 86

The Perito Moreno glacier from the air (centre)
In the last four days we’ve travelled 4,600km north from 53°S to 9°S in two legs, a flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago, the capital of Chile, where we stayed for two nights and a second flight to Lima, the capital of Peru, where we’re staying for another two nights.
Santiago from our apartment window
Tomorrow we take a third flight to Mexico City, another 4,200km north and into the northern hemisphere at 23.6°N. It means we’ll have travelled 8,800km and 76.6° round the world, which is not good for our carbon footprint, but we promise to do little flying after this, hopefully travelling mainly by land as we head slowly back down through Central and South America in the New Year. In between we’ve got a Christmas and New Year housesit with three dogs to look after for 6 weeks to look forward to, so it’ll be great to stop, take a breath and enjoy being domesticated for a while!

The Presidential Palace, Santiago. It was in front of this building on 11th September 1973 that 4 tanks appeared and bombed the entrance at the start of General Pinochet's revolution
The statue of Postales outside the Palace
The trips up from Punta Arenas have not been without their problems and have caused Jackie some stress. It all started straight after the last blog entry when I forgot the online check in for our flight with Sky Airlines (the Chile equivalent to Ryan Air) opens 48 hours before the flight and, when I looked all seats except 2 were shown to be occupied. Those two were single seats at opposite ends of the plane. Oh well I thought, no point in checking in online then, we’ll wait until we get to the airport, but then I looked the next morning to find those two seats had now gone and it appeared to be full without us. Whoops! Had they overbooked the flight? Had we missed our chance as all other flights were shown as being full?

And the bullet hole in his face
Needless to say, Jackie’s stress level went up through the roof and, of course it was my fault. Solutions? Not many, drive? No, it’s over 2000km and the route only goes through Argentina. Email Sky? We tried, no response. Phone? We tried ‘you are 30th in the queue’, phone credit ticking by. I looked online and there is a Sky Airlines office in the town, 25 minutes walk or a taxi ride. Jackie’s up and dressed and ready to go, not sure how high her blood pressure was at this stage. ‘No chance of any breakfast before we go then’ (probably not the wisest thing to say) and we were off, taxi of course. Got to the office, spoke to the girl behind the desk who looked online, consulted her colleague and finally said………’would you like a window or aisle seat? ‘What? Oh, er, window and middle seat please, so it’s not full then?’ ‘No’, she said and printed out the boarding cards for us. Wow! ‘Can we go back and have breakfast now?’ Jackie now back to normal, even stopping to stroke a cat on the way back.

This is Gary, one of many stray dogs that live in the park and are cared for by the locals. He joined us on our city tour walk
Locals even provide kennels for them
We’d asked Jasmine, Hernaldo’s girlfriend in our best Spanish if she would phone for a taxi to take us to the airport and, sometime later she phoned to tell us something but we couldn’t understand. She phoned later and put an English speaking person on the phone who told us that the taxis were too expensive so she would take us, duly turned up with her friend and we were driven off to the airport in plenty of time.

Walking through the Plaza de Armas
It was now just coming up to 48 hours before our next Sky Airlines flight to Lima so we asked the girl at check in if she could check us in for our next flight in 2 days time. ‘No’ she said writing down’ 48 hours’ on a piece of paper. Well, we were about 20 minutes before the 48 hours so we hung around and went back a bit later. Got the same girl who repeated her earlier statement but we insisted it IS now 48 hours. She checked, asked a colleague and he checked us in and printed our boarding cards, all good.

One of the 'coffee with legs' cafes
Got on the plane and found the seats we were in didn’t recline as they were in front of an emergency exit so we had a pretty uncomfortable 3.5 hour flight sitting bolt upright while everyone else reclined and went to sleep. At least on the next flight we were in row 9 and not 10 as on this flight, except when we got on that one for a 4 hour flight they were in front of an emergency exit and didn’t recline either!

Dancing in the street in Santiago
To add to Jackie’s stress level I had booked an Airbnb private room in a house in Lima, the owner appeared to be a youngish girl, judging by the photo she had put on and, although she responded quite positively when I first enquired she didn’t respond to any emails requesting details of where exactly she was and how we get access. I looked at the address on Google Maps Street View and couldn’t see anything that looked like a residential property. Airbnb contacted her and could get no lresponse so we decided to cancel and look for something else one day before. Jackie’s stress level? Yes, you’ve got it. My fault? Yes, of course!

Brian wearing his 'Sooty on tour' T shirt while waiting for the Indian restaurant to open in Santiago
The Museum of Fine Arts built in 1910
Anyway, we (Jackie) got something sorted in a hotel, the Hotel Espana, which turned out to be really quirky and arranged an airport pick up through them. There was further stress as she contacted them directly, but while waiting saw that the hotel on were down to just one room left, she panicked and booked it through them, got a reply directly from the hotel to say they were fully booked but had booked us into another local hotel, she wrote to explain, then they wrote to say OK we have a room but then wrote through to say they hadn’t and would we cancel through them (it turns out they were trying to save us money as its more expensive that way, but it was lost in translation). Jackie’s stress level? Anyway, it all worked out and we are now in an old and very quirky hotel right in the old centre of Lima, a stones throw from the Plaza de Armas, so we’re happy.

Argentina's gift to Chile for the 1910 festival. They called it 'boys playing', but Chile is being pushed into the water by Argentina, Peru is on top, but only with the support of Bolivia!
Sunset from the apartment window in Santiago
It is a very old hotel and lots of reviews run it down but we actually quite like it. Yes, there are some things a bit old and broken but its stacked full of charm and eccentricities like chandeliers everywhere, including the bedrooms, lots of paintings (which possibly the owner has done), stairways leading all over the place and a rooftop garden/breakfast area with peacocks, tortoises and pigeons milling about.

The quirky Hotel Espanola in Lima
To backtrack a bit, the flight to Santiago did have its benefit as it was a clear blue sky, the plane followed the spine of the Andes and out of our window on the right hand side we could look straight down the eastern slopes of the Andes and had a brilliant view of the Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate in Argentina that we had visited only a couple of weeks before. As we went on we were hoping we might be able to see Fitzroy mountain in El Chalten, but although we saw spectacular mountains and long glaciers we couldn’t pick it out.

The old but charming interior
On arriving in Santiago we got an airport shuttle bus to the Airbnb apartment I had booked (this one worked out OK fortunately for me!), which was on the 17th floor of a 28 floor apartment block about 15 minutes walk from the main centre with a fabulous view out over the city and the mountains beyond. We went out and grabbed a take away pizza, taking it back to the apartment as it had a little kitchenette with bar stools we got eat at.

The Presidential Palace Lima. Better than the Santiago one we think!
The Plaza de Areas, Lima by night
The next day we walked to the Plaza de Armas to join a free walking tour and met Franco, a native Santiagoan (?) of about 30 who has done this tour for the last 7 years and plays guitar and sings in a band playing blues and 50’s rock and roll (too bad we couldn’t see him play, but he wasn’t playing on the only night we were there). His English was excellent and he made the tour really interesting packed full of irony and a really interesting view of Chilean history.

Jackie meets Santa outside the palace
He told us loads of stuff and I wanted to write some of it here, so if you’re not interested I’ve coloured it in green, just go past it. Here’s some of what he told us:

The Plaza de Armas, Lima
One of the 8th December parades through Lima
Santiago apparently wasn’t originally planned as the capital of Chile, it was going to be much further south near the Strait of Magellan, which would have given the Spanish easy access to the Atlantic and a route back to Spain. However, in what is now Patagonia were (and still are) the Mapuche tribe, a ferocious fighting tribe who kept the Spanish at bay and stopped them ever conquering that part of the country. After about 300 years of fighting (so our guide said), the Spanish gave up and made Santiago the capital.
An Egret paid us a visit in Lima (thanks Helen S for identification)

A little bit further on we came to the presidential palace which, on 11th September 1973 was where the coup started after 3 years of Salvador Allendes left wing socialist government that left the economy struggling, mainly due to non-compliance by the right wing. At 09:00am the army, led by General Pinochet positioned 4 tanks in front of the building and issued an ultimatum to the president. Sniper fire from the surrounding rooftops was followed by the tanks blowing out the front door. All the staff left the building by the president decided to stay, he made a last radio broadcast in which he said: “Tengo fe en Chile y si destino” (I have faith in Chile and its destiny). He then went into his office and shot himself. At 11:00am the air force came over from the north and bombed the building and later the president’s body was found inside. Thus began the dictatorship of General Pinochet, much liked by the UK’s Margaret Thatcher because of the help he gave her in the Falklands War, that lasted until 11th March 1990. During that time many opponents disappeared, but nothing concrete was ever pinned on him. He died in 2006 after being treated in the UK for cancer in 2003 just as a case was being brought against him. In front of the palace is a statue of a chap called Postales who was a 19th century reformer and widely disliked, eventually he was killed by a shot in his face. During the gunfire on the 11th September 1973 a bullet hit the face of the statue, so you could say he was shot in the face twice.
A Heron (thanks Helen S for identification)

What else, the president’s palace is not the president’s home, only his office, the president’s home is his private house, wherever it is so, if you lived next door to someone who subsequently became president, you would have him as your next door neighbour.
The San Fransisco Church by our hotel

Walking round the back of the palace we came to a huge flag flapping in the wind. In Chile it is illegal to fly a flag outside your house and you can be fined if you do so. However, 18th September is Independence day in Chile and on that day it is illegal not to fly a flag outside your house and you can be fined if you don’t!
Here's a close up, not sure I'd fancy climbing that ladder!

The other interesting thing occurred in 1910, that was the centenary of Chile’s independence so a lavish festival was planned and lots of world leaders invited. The very impressive museum of fine arts building was built and a lot of parks were laid out and everything was ready for the big event. 7 days before it all started the president died so when the world leaders arrived they all had to attend the president’s funeral first. At the funeral the vice president caught the flu and died 4 days later so all the world leaders had to attend a second funeral and after that no-one really felt like celebrating anymore.
Jackie finds a cat in the park...

Coffee in Chile never used to be popular and the only sort available was instant coffee. A company however decided to open a chain of coffee shops and to make them more appealing he had the coffee served by scantily clad women wearing very short skirts and revealing tops. So as not to offend passers-by the windows were darkened glass so you couldn’t see what was going on inside. The coffee was still pretty bad by all accounts, but the girls took the customers minds of the bad coffee. With the advent of Starbucks one company went a stage further in trying to compete and for one minute during the day the girls would remove their tops and do a dance routine, but no-one knew when that minute would be, it could be any time during the day. The police decided this was a step too far and shut them down, but the scantily clad girls and darkened windows are still going today and we took a walk past a couple of them on our walk. This is referred to as ‘coffee with legs’ and is only available in business areas in business hours!

But look who's lap it wanted!
Dinner was going to be the second half of the pizza, until I idly looked on Tripadvisor to find the closest restaurant to us was an Indian, got all excited only to find it was in the highest price bracket, hmm, quick look and actually found another, very popular, and very cheap. We were next door, sharing a beer at 18.15 waiting for 18.30 opening. By 19.00 all the tables were full and people were being turned away! It was good, and we asked for ‘piquante’ and got it, though it wasn’t authentic Brummy curry we really enjoyed it. It did mean however we didn’t get our last bottle of Chilean red, not sure when we’ll see wine we can afford, and want to drink again!

I think the one in the middle is to be careful of!
Anyway, on we went from Santiago, had another uncomfortable flight with non-reclining seats, waited 5 minutes or so to be collected from the arrivals hall and got to our quirky hotel in Lima. It’s Christmas here, the Plaza de Armas is beautifully decorated with a large white dunces hat for a Christmas tree, a sleigh with reindeer in lights, a nativity scene on the balcony of one of the buildings and a lot of father Christmases. We walked 10km round our part of the city today in the heat of the sun, giving up to come back to the cool during the afternoon and went out again tonight after the sun had gone down. Today, the 8th December is a holiday in Peru as it is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and it seems to be marked by many groups carrying a large image of the Virgin Mary on the shoulders of many men round the streets to a marching band and dancing women. It also seems to be when a lot of people go through first communion ceremonies and all churches are open with lots of singing music playing and fireworks, it’s all quite a party atmosphere.

A guinea fowl in a park in Lima (thanks Helen S for identification)
So assuming nothing else of note happens in the morning that’s it for Peru, next stop Mexico. We leave for the airport at about 2:30pm, have a flight to Mexico at 18:20 and arrive in Mexico City at about midnight.
Saw this statue in a park, but look at its raised hand...
This bright red bird was sitting quite happily
More shots from the quirky Hotel. This is the rooftop breakfast and further bedroom floor, with peacocks and tortoises

This guy really enjoyed a head stroke

1 comment:

  1. My goodness, I can't wait for you two to land in Mexico and settle into your house sit! Almost too stressful to read!
    Sorry Brian, didn't read your history, not because boring.... too difficult to read light green on white!
    Hope you are settled now. Lots of love. Speak to you next weekend. Xxxx