I made it! Just.....
With the airport transfer driver not being anywhere in site I was either quite literally 'taken for a ride' by a pretend private transfer company or I am being a little skeptical as to the kind nature of these two gentleman.
Needless to say the driver had no English, a young guy too, and dropped me eight blocks from my hostel.
Luckily it was in the middle of the day so walking with a pack on your back up San Antonio wasn't a traumatic experience.
In saying this, Santiago city centre itself is quite safe. Yes you still have to have your wits about you, especially those who look like tourists (ie this blonde and blue eyed Westerner) are still targets for the odd wallet or phone snatch.
Don't let this put. you off though, the people here are very friendly.
You ask for directions and they give them to you.
Even though they might not know exactly where it is you want to go. There's something in their nature I know a bit about which is 'not saying no to someone.'
It pays to learn the bare minimum of Spanish before you arrive so at least you can say 'Hola, Gracias and uno Empanadas por favor' to name a few examples.
Learning Chilean dishes will get you a long way...a lot further than I managed but I'm learning quickly!!
If you're following my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts you'll see a solid collection of photos and the odd video on what I've been up to.
With this in mind, I thought I'd take this blog in a slightly different direction and share with you some observations.
The benefit of being a solo traveller is you get to do a lot of observing!
- There's never a traffic jam - everyone seems to know their place and there's one speed...fast. If someone thinks you aren't respecting your place or paying attention to the lights they're quite happy to use their horn. A lot!!
- As a taxi driver, it seems you provide your own car and signwrite it black and yellow to represent being a taxi. It doesn't seem there are firms operating taxis like back home, but I haven't ridden in one so could be mistaken.
- Drivers don't slow down for pedestrians either - walk fast or you guessed it, hear the sound of the drivers horn. This can occasionally be on the green 'running' man light pedestrians get for crossing the road or for those who wander aimlessly across in front of a fast approaching vehicle - which they do a lot!
- The influence of European Architecture is still strong, which beautifully showcases the history of Santiago. The people are pretty lucky to have a few of these buildings still standing considering the number of earthquakes they have. They have a theory in Santiago that anytime someone try's to put the crown back on the Jesus that stands in the church the ground starts to shake, so it's remained around his neck every since the first earthquake that put it there.
- There is beautiful (and not so beautiful) street art around every corner.
- The amount of exposed electrical wires travelling across the roads isn't comforting in a double decker bus.
- Everything is publicly owned which makes it hard for government to do anything for its people. Which makes me ask what the President of Chile actually does?
- On the way up to the Andes there were 60 curves the bus had to tackle - a far side more than up to Coronet Peak or the Remarkables!
- The mountain Cacti with its red flowers looks like it should be a Chilean Christmas tree.
- Random sticks make good battens on barbed wire fences...these barbed wire fences wouldn't keep anything in!
- Most people write left handed.
- Everything is small - the humans, the dinner set, the serving size and the Bãdos - for your average sized Kiwi squeezing sideways past a basin to then contemplate how to take the squat position is something of an experience!
- Women don't wear stilettos, they wear wedges or thick heeled shoes because the pathways are made up of small bricks or concrete blocks with many a ankle breaking crack.
- Smoking is something every second person does and you can buy a packet off a blanket from a street seller.
- Marijuana is illegal but there's loads of shops selling paraphernalia for it and also the cheeky batch from out the back. The government is looking to legalise it in some form soon so watch this space. It'll be the Amsterdam of South America.
- Most vehicles are new - the oldest would be the public transport buses followed by the workman's lorry's. It seems the majority are manual too - now I know where all the manuals are in the world I'll be importing my next one from Chile!
- In 37+ degrees locals are still in jeans and sweaters and not one person is in the pool.
- Even the resident hostel cats have an accent when they meow 😳
It's been a great three days here in the capital of Chile. I've seen a lot but there's still a bit to do.
When I return at the end of January I'm off to Valparaíso and Viña Del Mar to taste some Chilean wine, some local seafood and take in the fresh salty air before heading home.
If there was one bit of advice I'd give you it's to reconfirm your private transfers if pre-booked, grab a decent map, arrive with an open mind and you're walking shoes.
Don't leave the place without enjoying a Pisco Sour or Terremoto!!