It’s a bit Chile on the way to Antarctica so a stopover afterwards in sunny Argentina was just the job. I had a couple of bucket list items which needed ticking off.
They were to set foot on all continents on the planet and to step foot on the soil of Antarctica. This trip was to achieve both items in one hit.
Most intrepid travellers do the Europe thing and the North American thing. Everyone goes to Asia at some stage, whether it is to Bali, Singapore, Beijing or the Indo-Chinese countries of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar.
But there are seven continents on Earth and people I spoke to on my trip said that racking up six was a breeze. Doing the seventh was something else again. I had already done the Asian bit by the time I was 19. Lived in Malaysia for a while. So Australia and Asia – tick!
I didn’t count Europe just because I was born there (England to be precise) because I left when I was three. My bride and I did Italy and Paris, after England for our 6th anniversary in 1988 – tick the third continent.
Then a couple of years later, we went to New Mexico for our friend’s wedding via LA. Tick number four!
Our trip to Kenya and a visit to the Masai Mara, counted as the fifth – Africa!
Only South America and Antarctica remained…. And they remained for decades.
I am just back from the trip of a lifetime and want to share some of it with you to whet your appetite for a visit yourselves.
This bucket list trip included Chile with a visit to Santiago and Valparaiso, a boat trip to Antarctica and a visit to Buenos Aires on the way home. Knocked over the last two in the one three week trip! Yay!
So we arrive in Chile at 11.30 in the morning – a half an hour before we left Sydney. Flight time 12 and a half hours. Prepare yourselves for this, people. A trick is to have some $US on you because you have to pay what they call a “reciprocity fee” for entry into Chile. Essentially it’s an entry tax and they only take $US for the charge. (Incidentally, they do the same in Argentina but you can get this online before you go)
We got to our hotel in Santiago in about an hour or so and the bride had organised a tour of the city for us to while away the afternoon. Santiago is a large place and full of interesting history and architecture. We took a half day bus and walking tour of the city and were entertained by the guide on the ancient Inca and the not so ancient Spanish and the even more recent dictatorship elements which together make up the capital of Chile. Fascinating. The eclectic nature of Santiago is charming. It is mostly clean, with smog hanging about and a slight feeling of dustiness in the air.
The affluent areas are obvious and the working class and lower class areas are colourful. It has a river fed from the Andes running right through the middle of the city. The Chilean peso is easy to use and accepted everywhere without hassle although I got an impression the $US was a bit popular.
The breathtaking bit though was how close the Andes Mountains were. Chile is a long thin country not unlike Vietnam only longer. The Andes form the border with Argentina and are reputed to be the youngest, geologically, mountain range in the world and Santiago is at the base of them and squeezed between the mountains and the sea.
The view from San Cristobal hill, at the base of the massive statue of the Virgin, is breathtaking. You see the city spread out before you with the rural lands beyond and then rearing up majestically are the most beautiful mountain range I have ever witnessed. I reckon the Andes put the Rockies into their place.
The next day we had all day to ourselves so we booked a tour of the Santa Rita winery in the Maipo Valley. This was fascinating, because we went bike riding round the vineyard and had the methodology of Chilean winemaking described to us along the way. As a side issue, the vineyard also reared Llamas for their wool and these have to be the cutest critters on earth!
Our guide picked us up early the next day for a trip to Valparaiso, a largish city to the north and on the coast. A pirates’ den if there ever was one.
This most interesting and colourful city is built on the side of a series of very steep hills. And I really mean steep! Think the slopes of Black Mountain.
It has a very interesting past and is the major shipping port for Chile. We walked the streets, or should I say climbed, and the views were just unreal. Interestingly, many of the houses were built of corrugated iron sheeting, painted bright colours. Apparently, this method is the best insulation you can get in Chile and is use widely.
We went on a short boat cruise on the harbour after lunch (a forgettable event in a not so salubrious underground café) and spotted a number of Chilean naval ships idly parked, a massive dry dock with a ship the size of Manuka inside, and a buoy carrying about four fur seals basking in the sunshine. Smelly little devils!
Back to Santiago for some well earnt rest before our flight to Ushuaia in Argentina (via Buenos Aires) and embarkation heading for Antarctica.
More next week. I have posted some photos on Facebook for those of you interested and will be doing some more soon (after the inevitable culling process).