Well we have firmly left the comfort of the english speaking world and are armed and dangerous with our latin american spanish phrasebook and buckets full of optimism! It cannot possibly be so hard to get around without knowing the language, or can it?
For the first time on our entire trip the transportation was on time! We were a little dubious about flying with a chilean airline after horror stories of Aerolineas Argentina, but it has been one of the better flights. Mike was rather impressed by the seat pitch which meant he could actually stretch his legs out! The flight from Auckland crossed the international date line so we actually arrived in Santiago 5 hours before we left New Zealand, so we got to live the day twice!
First impressions: Santiago is smoggy, so much so that the andean peaks we saw from the air were not visible from the ground, even though they were merely miles away! We are also back in the land of excessive tipping, as a bloke (who we thought was from the taxi company) charged us $2 for putting our bags in the back of the car, worst part, he wasn´t even involved with them!
Our hostal in Santiago, Hostal Plaza de Armas, is in a spectacular position, right in the centre of town on the main square. The building it´s in seems to contain everything- apartments, lawyers, doctors, watch repair shops and about a thousand´´fuenta de sodas¨.
To get up to our hostel involved a ride in a lift, operated by two attendants, quite why two people are needed I will never know, maybe attendantants need attendants here, suppose it keeps the employment rates up!
We dropped our bags and headed out into the mean streets to gain our bearings, which was pretty impossible in our jet-lagged condition! We grabbed a local delicacy of a completos (a glorified hotdog with avocado, salsa and just about every other condiment you can chuck on) and went to bed!
The Plaza de Armas really livens up at about 8pm making it virtually impossible to sleep; bands strike up and the local transvestite dancer sets up his/her pitch for the nights busking. Needless to say I had to go investigate! She was about as manly as a transvestite could be, and even had a sidekick, a one legged man playing a drum! The Nepalese guy in our room made it even harder to sleep as he snored worse than my dad, and thats saying something! Mike gave up trying to sleep and sat in the common room for a few hours in the wee hours of the morning.
It wasn´t until about 2pm the next day that we actually woke up, confused from the goings on in the square and still feeling the effects of being awake for 40 hours. We intended to go out for the day for more investigations but got chatting to our roommates, Nick and Celia for a few hours and arranged to go our for a meal that night with them.
Bellavista, where we went out, is the ´bohemian´ part of the city, crammed full of bars and restaurants. After the meal we decided to get a beer, one turned into a lot and we didn´t make it home till after 5! I´ve developed a taste for lager now, after months of attempting to learn to like it before we left home! I was almost knocked unconscious by a man spinning around with a drum on his back, don´t know how I would have explained that to the insurance company! Even at this time of night we felt perfectly safe, but I suppose we are in the safest of all south american cities. The same cannot be said for Quito, which I have heard has a pretty dodgy reputation. Hopefully we´ll bump into Cecila and Nick further down in Peru!
The next day was spent in a hungover mess, Mike didn´t make it out of bed till 4! We just hung out around the hostel and went to bed early as we had to be up at 3 to fly to Quito.
We got up on time, went to the airport but didn´t actually make it to Quito.
We queued up and handed our tickets over at the Taca Airlines counter, expecting the production of 2 boarding passes, but things are a little different here. ´´Your reservation is cancelled, you no fly´´ Great! We were stuck at Santiago two days before we were due to leave for the Galapagos. We had confirmed and reconfirmed the flight but were told by the manager that the word ´´confirmed´´ on our booking reference ´´does not mean confirmed´´. What else can it possibly mean? We were given a new ticket (or piece of paper with a reference number scrawled across it) and told to come back the same time the next day.
Suppose had we have flown on the correct day we wouldn´t have seen any of Santiago and would have missed Taco Night at the hostel! We spent the day ambling around the town, watching dancers in the square. The show turned out to be some kind of audience participation competition, people seemed to come prepared with their own handkerchiefs to dance with! I almost made it up there, had it not have been for some stupid twelve year old who ran towards the costumed guy and took his hand. I lef the square bitter, as I was the day they cancelled my bollywood debut!
The next day we turned up at the airport with our hand writtem ticket, handed it over....and received two boarding passes!