Sleeping in Santiago

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“That is not from a pig, it is from a turkey” Marilu announced as I complimented her over breakfast on the very fine lean ham. Marilu not only sets an excellent table at her Santiago B&B, she has an engaging, generous personality sharing great advice and information about her city.

We learn that the soft mild cheese like curd is eaten with the turkey ham if one is on a diet. Otherwise, you enjoy it with Quince paste. I test the non diet version on my thoughtfully provided galletas de arroz or rice thins.

The long flight across the Pacific loops in from the South so we fly into Santiago de Chile tracking along the Andes. Not as many snowcaps as I expected, still exciting.

Summer is a few weeks away but the heat is already fierce and dry. The hottest November in 100 years. Hoses spray generously in the heat so lawns are lush and gardens thrive behind heavy duty security fencing and walls keeping grand houses safe. I worry about the water in the heat. Jacaranda are in bloom everywhere and strangely, oleander seem to be very popular. The drought is obvious elsewhere, it is as dry as a chip.

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We saw some grand houses trekking the hot pavement on the way to the Consulado de Cuba. Lack of sleep and a pending virus must not deter this most important Day 1 Mission, securing the tourist card for Cuba. In Australia, there are the forms (in Spanish), the photos, the passport posting, the impossible for us timing issues, not to mention the whopping $205 fee per person! Here, apart from the 30 minute hike, cost is 5 minutes in the Consulate with a lovely woman and US$15 per person. No forms, no photos, no stress. I love it when the system works.

Second most important Day 1 Mission is to find Elena, an ex Canberra Chilean friend. The phone number is old, IT is not a happening thing so we go old fashioned, knock on the door and there she is. Smiles and hugs all round. We’ll be back to spend more time with her in February.

Santiago nestles at the foot of the Andes. The absence of snow strips the treeless mountains starkly bare.   Giant angular stone cliffs are revealed, raw and dangerous looking in their nakedness. The smog haze that hangs over everything strangely makes me think of the mountains as giant shadow puppets somehow suspended behind Santiago.

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Energy only for a brief tour of some city sights – Plaza de Armas, the cathedral and central market

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Just getting by can involve pretty strenuous activity. Traffic lights are popular for jugglers, dancers and acrobats. Try handstands on hot tar every time the lights change to make a buck.

Los Dominicos is surprisingly untouristy in a beautiful setting with local artisans making and selling.

Our last full day is very full doing a solo walking tour of Barrio Brasil. It finishes at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. A grim record of the events in Chile from 1973 to 1990. The military coup had taken place just a few months before I first arrived in South America early 1974. My only view of Chile that trip was Cristo Redento,  the giant statue at the top of the Andes on the Argentine border.

So many young people at the museum; surreal to be exposed to such confronting information about your recent history.  Australia accepted more than 6,000 Chilean refugees at that time.

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This looked like us for lunch. No, not the chicken, this next place. One Spanish word means “more”, the other “less”. Take a punt on the translation.

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Sleeping almost all caught up. On to the next destination.

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