Olla everybodies......apologises for the delay with this update, but I have experienced sligth problems in doing it.
I could tell you that I have been kidnapped on my arrival in Santiago a week & 1\2 ago by the narco trafficants, and that after tense negotiation between the CIA, French secret service and those b******s, a ransom of $2,000,000 has been agreed and paid by my parents for my release. I could, but I am not going to. No the sad reason is that despite numerous internet cafe on my way from Santiago, I couldn t log into my web page... Anyway I am back now :-)))))
Now the challenge is going to try to summarise the last 2 weeks in a few lines....
Ok, last entry was Auckland and the sky diving jump....enough said about that...brilliant, brilliant, brilliand... Ok so left Auckland for Santiago (Chili) via a bumpy 14 hours flights over the Pacific. Was planning to stay only 2 days in Santiago and ended up staying 5 after deeply sympatising with a Salsa teacher called Lorena :-). Strangly enough Santiago city structure is somehow very similar to what I saw in Bangkok. 85% of the city is made of very old & simple houses, 10% of brand new sky high building and the rest of historical monuments (mainly colombian architecture...not much left from pre colombian era). A majority of people are very poor while a few drive the latest BMW or Merc which is quite difficult to get used to, specially with the number of very young children in the streets trying to sell you stuff for practically nothing. But I guess this applies to many countries around the world..
If I had to sum up those 2 weeks in 2 lines I would say all the fantastic, diverse and warm people I met on my way and this despite me not speaking a spanish word. The day I ve arrived in Santiago I met at the terrace of a cafe Paulo, a 55 years writter who travelled all around the world and was currently writting a book about The Che and working for the foreign department. A few of his friends joined us later on (painters, unemployed, business man) and we spent an amzing evening talking about politics, litterature, travel, etc that done in spanish, french, english and sign language and in a very passionate way (the latinos way...). That was 2 days before Pinochet got his heart attack....Pinochet: fantastic subject to create some ambiance but not to be approached with everybodies as still a bit sensitive..
The next day, I went to the pre colombian museum of Santiago where there are hundreds of pre colombian artefacts dating up to 7,000 years ago made by all the civilisations of the Andes. This is before the spaniard conquistadores arrived in the 16th century and destroyed most of the things. Amongst those artefacts, a well conserve momie of the Chinchorro civilisation dating 4,500 BC. Amazingly those people developed a way to momified their bodies by removing all the inside and replacing it by a mixture of vegetation, soil, rock, etc.. and this 2,000 before the famous Egyptian momies. The all museum is just mind blowing and you can easely spend hours looking at those piece of art. I ve spent the evening with a Chilian guy who own a shop where I bougth a hat and who invited me for a few drinks in Brasilio area of Santiago. Fantastic place to party, but not to be walk alone late at nigth.
Next day, haven t done much during the day, a bit of sigth seeing, and went to Havana Club at nigth to dance Salsa!!!!! This is where I met Lorena and we spent a few days together hanging around...
Next stop was Valpariso and Vina Del Mar. 2 cities north of Santiago of 200,000 each clearly separated by 2 miles of road. The first a Unesco protected site, very very poor but full of soul with a bohemian ambiance and the second the massively posh, ultra developed coastal city of Vina Del Mar where all the rich people from Santiago have a second house. The contrast between both could nt be more prononced. Spent 2 days in Valpariso, which is a fantastic city filled with colour, but quite dodgy and bit dangerous at nigth if you walk on your own...won t go into too much details, let s say that I still have my wallet to the credit of a 45 years old lady who was walking her dogs at midnigth. Still I advise anybody to go there and absorbe the beauties during the day.
Next, flew to Arica where I spent a nigth before crossing the border with Peru the next day. The way to cross the border is to catch a Collectivo taxi at Arica which takes you to Tacna in Peru. Mine was a massive 30 years old Buicks driven by a very nice guy wearing a ferrari baseball hat and Dior sunglasses....7 passengers in the car plus the driver. The only things working in the car: engine, brake, stearing wheel, klaxon and 3 doors.......all the rest was out of date and real dead.. The boot could carry at least 5 illegal immigrants..not that we had some..Typical stereotype border crossing in South America that I had in mind - just brilliant!! This was done through the Atacama desert streching over 600 miles between Chili and Peru...quite impressive, miles and miles of road with absolutely nothing around than Dune and sand...and this is interupted maybe every 150 miles with a town not fitting into the scenery.
From Tacna, I took a bus to Arequipa (3,850 m altitude) in Peru (7 hours). Arequipa is a beautiful post Colombian town, better known for the volcanoe El Misti (5,850m) which is shadowing it. Stayed there a couple of days which was too short as there is such a good vibe to the place. The most amazing thing in Arequipa is the "Juanita The Ice Princess". This story to keep it simple. The Incas was the last Andes civilisation before the conquistadors arrived in the 16th century and turn the country into slavery. It took the Incas 5 centuries to conquier most of South America starting in the 11th century. In 1550 their empire was absolutely gigantesque, bigger than the Romain empire. However, they had to cope with a very difficult touraine, the Andes, with its 000s of volcanoes. Incas thougth Volcanoes were god. Therefore, in order to calm down the volcanoes in eruption (god who was pissed off) the were making sacrifice of humain being, more exactly children at the top of those volcanoes (usually above 5,000m altitude). Those children were from family of high social rank as only the best and pure could be offered to those gods. Juanyta has been sacrified 500 years ago at the top of one of the volcanoes. The ice preserved perfectly her body until this volcanoes erupted in 1995 melting the ice and uncovering her. She is in a perfect state and conserved in the museum in Arequipa. Very mixed feeling when going through her story and watching her behind protective glass: something between humility, unease of cruelty of the ritual, respect for their believe, etc...Many others bodies have been uncovered in the last 10 years all across chilie and Peru...
After Arequipa, I went to Puno (3,350m altitude), known as lake Titicaca. Stayed there a couple of days and made my move to Cusco (3,540m altitude) where I am currently getting ready to do my Inca trail 4 days trekking to arrive at the lost city of Machu Picchu....to be continued
By the way...I have decided to sligthly extend my trip.......by a month......can t get enough of it :-) ...and so many things still to see...and so many people still to meet. Plan is to fly back on the 23rd January. I am saying the plan as although I received confirmation by phone that my plane ticket has been changed, I haven t received yet confirmation by email. So I hope Quantas are not going to screw up ...and finger crossed