So it’s finally started. After quite a few years of making plans and then changing them several times we have eventually landed in Chile, South America, on the first of our trips. We are writing this first post sitting on the roof of a 22 storey apartment block looking out over Santiago to clear blue skies and 30 degree heat.
The first thing we both want to do is to thank all our family, friends and work colleagues, for all the help, support, positivity and encouragement they have given us during the planning and preparation for our adventure. “Thank you”.
We arrived here on New Year’s Eve after a 6 hour stop over in Atlanta sandwiched between two 9 hour flights. We were pretty tired and just about managed to stay awake to see in the New Year on the rooftop, watching the fireworks all over the city. Quite a fitting start. Did they know we were coming?
We have been here for 6 days now and have used the time to relax by the small pool and explore Santiago almost entirely by walking. We both agree this is a great place. It’s very clean, very organised and pretty easy to navigate around, with tree lined avenues, parks, cycle paths and a metro system. We have stuck to a 4 mile stretch between Las Condes (known locally as “Sanhatten” due to its ultra modern skyscrapers, including the Gran Torre Santiago, the largest building in South America) and Plaza de Armas which is the main square in the city, containing some beautiful buildings including the Santiago Cathedral. The Cathedral is fabulous inside reminiscent of some of the great cathedrals in Europe. We intend to visit the museums and markets in and around the square over the next few days.
Our favourite area however is San Cristobal Hill. This is a huge park area towards the North of the city, very close to where we are staying. It has a twisting, winding network of roads and paths and we have spent several days wandering within the park. It is, however, very hilly but for us that’s perfect, as this will help us prepare for the longer hikes in Patagonia. There is also a cable car system which runs from the bottom right to the top, with a station just under halfway where you can get off and explore. We stopped for a few hours here at a huge freeform pool area surrounded by grass banks. It was a lovely place with lots of families enjoying a day out.
At the very top of the hill is a 22 metre statue of the Virgin Mary. We have made it up there twice so far. In the base of the statue is a small shrine where visitors can enter. The area around the statue is particularly pleasant with a church and terraced seating. It gives great views and you can get an idea as to how sprawling the city really is.
There are also a couple of cafe’s selling drinks and snacks. We saw literally dozens of people drinking the same unusual looking drink and here we had our first exposure to the traditional drink of “Mote Con Huesillo”. This is sweet, clear nectar like liquid with husked wheat in the bottom and a couple of dried peaches floating in the middle. Sounds strange but they are surprisingly refreshing. With dozens of people walking, running and cycling the two and a half mile route (a climb of over 1000 ft) to the top in 30 degree + temperatures, the two cafes were understandably doing a roaring trade! Sarah’s Mote Con Huesillo barely touched the sides. 🙂
On a couple of occasions we have used the Funicular to get back down from the top. This is a tram concept on a very, very steep gradient. The “Funicular” puts you back in the city about 1 km from Plaza de Armas. We have tended to spend a few hours walking up the hill and then catching the Funicular down, to then walk back through the city. With a few detours along the way, this route is about a 7 or 8 mile walk.
We have also been spending a lot of time just relaxing by the rooftop pool. It’s quite small but serves the purpose of cooling off in the heat. This area has an unbelievable view of the city and is surprisingly quiet.
During this first week we have been doing more or less the same things we would do if we were on holiday. Relaxing, exploring the area, staying active and spending some time together. During the planning Steve has repeatedly said “This is not going to be one long 5 year holiday Sarah”. However right now it does have that feel to it. It hasn’t sunk in yet to either of us that there is no job to go back to. Maybe reality will set in when we don’t get a paycheck !!
The days here are incredibly long. It gets light at 6am and sunset isn’t until 9.30pm so we are spending a lot of time enjoying the outdoors. However, in the evenings we have devoted one hour to a Scrabble competition. That may sound a bit boring, but we are having a few laughs with it. Some of the words Sarah is producing are not fit for publication and we are developing a whole new dictionary! Sarah is leading at the moment but there is a long way to Rio!
Sarah has meticulously planned for the amount of toiletries needed for the trip, especially her precious shampoo. So she was not impressed at all when she found Steve in the shower, happily using it to wash his dirty T Shirt! “What do I know about shampoo I don’t have any hair” was Steve’s reaction. Sarah’s response ended up on the scrabble board!!!
Steve’s one disappointment here has been his inability to cycle or run. He has been suffering with an injury for a couple of months which isn’t going away so he has decided to completely stop training and give it a chance to heal, otherwise it may inhibit our plans for later in the year. It’s been hugely frustrating because cycling and being active is so easy here and appears to be a big part of people’s lives. There are cyclists and runners everywhere and with the imposing Andes mountains so close by it’s been a constant torment. Luckily the plan was always to come back here in a couple of years to start our trip to the North of the continent. We may now be coming back for a couple of weeks rather than the couple of days as originally planned.
Signing off for now……. hasta luego 🙂