We had some relaxing days in Santiago, the capital of Chile. It was a wonderful city, much to see and with lovely summer weather.
This article is part of a travelogue from of a five month journey in 1987-1988 to several countries in South America: Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile.
Sunday 17.01.1988, La Serena – Santiago de Chile
The bus brought us from La Serena to the nation’s capital of Santiago de Chile in about seven hours, comfortable hours. The scenery was not as exciting as expected. We found it strange that the bus did not make a single stop on the way.
- Hotel Indiana. Calle Rosas no 1339 not far from the centre. 1600 for a double bed and private bath. Alright place.
We walked into the centre, and stopped only for a well deserved meal with a rather tame pint of beer.
Plaza de Armas, the centre of Santiago and Chile was fine with many trees, bushes and flowers. There were fountains spraying water into the air and people were everywhere. The side streets was much the same.
The Moneda presidential palace was much less impressive than we had anticipated, but there was a good number of other monumental buildings around. There were modern buildings and clean streets. Great weather as well.
We did some money exchanging on the street.
Monday 18.01.1988, Santiago de Chile
The tourist office was helpful with information and a lot of brochures. At the post office we picked up a letter each. After this we sat down in the park to read. Nice.
At the SAS Scandinavian Airlines office we asked if it was possible to move our departure forward a week. They could not answer and told us to return later in the day. When we did they told us to come back tomorrow.
In the meantime we went up on the Santa Lucia hill, a top with grand buildings and park. It was an excellent idea instead of bulldozing the entire hill away as we would have done at home.
The embassy let us, graciously, read some semi-old Norwegian newspapers. The Chilean Norwegian speaking secretary was helpful, while a dressed-up Norwegian diplomat yuppi was obviously too arrogant to grant us even a little nod. We had to sit downstairs and were not invited up into the embassy itself.
The lousy service of the Norwegian Foreign Service was thus confirmed once more. The grand old villa of the embassy was surrounded by high walls with shards of glass on. (The address is Américo Vespucio Norte 548. Map)
The metro proved to be fast, clean and efficient.
The city centre offers shopping opportunities a-plenty. There are many fine shops. I bought myself some new sunglasses on the street for 450 pesos (less than 2 dollars).
We found a gourmet shop with a wide assortment of food, cheese, wine and liquor, chocolate and biscuits. We bought some wine, cheese and biscuits and went back to our hotel room for a good time.
Tuesday 19.01.1988, Santiago de Chile
Bo was going to a doctor this morning so we were unable to do much. This afternoon we did manage to visit the National History Museum. It was quite good. We met Blake outside; they were soon moving on again. I figure we’ll bump into them later.
I wrote a letter home and continued with my book waiting for Bo. She was overwhelmed by the standard at the doctor’s office and went back again this afternoon and has yet an appointment tomorrow. We’re glad we’re getting the money back at home.
We cashed some more money at Amex with a 1.2 % commission.
We are now sitting in a pavement cafe on the Plaza. There are several street portrait painters around, and we are having a good time with sun, summer and Santiago.
Letter to my family
Santiago de Chile, 19th of January 1988
I will take the opportunity to thank you for the fast letter to La Paz. It came the same day I sent the letter to you. Or actually: I picked it up that day. But it really took only 2-3 days from Stavanger. Yesterday, Monday, we picked up a new letter in the post office here in Santiago. Thank you for that one as well. (…)
We came here on the tenth after a day and a half on a train from La Paz. Bo had her stomach-troubles fixed there (amoebas) and we didn’t want to mess about in Bolivia another week. Therefore we took a train to Calama in Chile. It only runs once a week and we felt that Chile was more tempting than Bolivia.
The journey took us across the Altiplano (4000 metres) and along the salt lakes, past windy towns and down to the oasis town of Calama. Border formalities took 5-6 hours and we finally arrived in the middle of the night, 9 hours behind schedule. Well, well.
The entire northern Chile is sand or rock desert. Near Calama lies the world’s largest mine. It is a so-called open pit mine and the hole is about 600 metres deep. They have enormous trucks and excavators. We were there.
From Calama we went to Antofagasta and La Serena (before Santiago). Both cities are located on the coast and we had a swim in the Pacific both places.
We are having a good time in Chile. Here there is sun and summer. The country is modern with well-kept city streets. The transportation is luxurious, tap water is potable, and the ice-cream tastes well. Last night we had a good time with excellent Chilean wine, cheese and biscuits in our hotel room.
We have become accustomed to the prices as well: I’m paying 20 NOK (3 $) for the room, 10-15 NOK for the food. Here we can even eat the salad and the fruit is delicious. We are going to stay here another 4-5 weeks. Top.
I’m now sitting in the heart of Chile; the plaza in Santiago. Behind me the water fountains are flowing, around me vacationing Chileans are strolling under a clear blue sky and pleasant 28-30 °C. Two ice-cream sellers have parked their trolleys on the pavement in front of me, so maybe I should spend a couple of NOK – or perhaps a soft ice?
We will probably go south on Friday. There are supposed to be beautiful mountain lakes and scenery. The last week before we sit down on the plane to Montevideo, Rio, Lisbon, Copenhagen and Stavanger we intend to spend on the beach. We have already got a tan and the skin’s flaking off a little. It will probably be a shock to get home, in the middle of the Norwegian winter cold. But that’s then, not now. I have by the way bought myself a new, warm jumper. It will come in handy.
I forgot to mention that we in La Paz visited the Norwegian Missionary Alliance. Bo has remote adopted a boy here and wanted to check on the conditions. Unfortunately the Norwegian missionaries were on Christmas vacation in Cuzco so we did not succeed. It seemed like the Alliance was running a bit of an operation, with several thousand children. They had a whole floor in an office block at their disposal.
Yesterday we were at the Embassy, a distinguished villa behind high walls, and read semi-old Norwegian newspapers. Apart from that we are reasonably well informed on international news, as we buy local newspapers and Time and Newsweek from time to time. It is alright to be reading some Spanish, but unfortunately we have not had much opportunity to speak Spanish beyond the ordinary tourist phrases. And how fast they’re talking here in Chile! I’d say I prefer the Andean countries.
To be a military dictatorship we see little of the military and police. They are probably dressed in civilian, so it’s no wonder an old guy we met in Antofagasta preferred speaking English and constantly looked about him. Like he said: – I guess I’m too old to be beaten up.
Okay, you guys in Norway. I don’t think I have more to say. I’ll probably send another letter or postcard before going home. In the meantime you can clip interesting job ads and place them on my desk.
Wednesday 20.01.1988, Santiago de Chile
We got up rather early and went up on the San Christóbal hill. Situated 2-300 hundred meters above the city it offers a nice view and we had this idea that the morning sun would provide good photo light. That proved wrong, perhaps we were too late. On the other hand we had a nice trip through the wood; the funicular had not yet started to run.
On the way we walked through the Parque Forestal (Museo de los Belles Artes was unfortunately close) and across the Mapoche River. It was running fast but was shallow. Bo mentioned that during the Pinochet coup of 1973 dead bodies would turn up here.
I must say that the Chileans are extraordinarily clever at keeping their parks in shape. They are continuously being watered. They might be using otherwise unemployed people for this job, employing them in public works for a minimal pay. Slave work, according to the old man in Antofagasta.
It is quite strange how many attractions are closed this summer. When we went to visit the Alhambra – an old palace – it was closed for renovation. They did however let us inside a bit to see the beautiful Moorish inspired rock carvings and the hall.
The cathedral was quite interesting. I do however begin to get a bit tired of churches now. They are much alike, although impressive.
Bo went to the doctor again for another examination.
Thursday 21.01.1988, Santiago de Chile
We started the day with a visit to Palacio Couciño. It was an extremely rich decorated palace nearParque O’Higgins. The guide spoke English and was good. The entrance was free and it was absolutely worth seeing. (Metro, line II, 23 pesos)
Afterwards we went inside the park – huge – and tried pedal boats in an artificial lagoon and watched a replica Chilean village.
We had a feast at Chez Henry with parrillada and wine. Lovely.
I should mention that Bo the last couple of days have gained enough strength to indulge herself in physical excesses. To be true, the weather is perfect for a jog in the evening. But we are on vacation?!
Friday 22.01.1988, Santiago de Chile
I went to the bus terminal and bought two tickets to Concepción tomorrow morning (1000 pesos = 4 USD). Bo went to the doctor for the last time, costing her 7000 in total (28 USD).
We spent part of the day looking into shops. We are both contemplating buying summer shoes as it gets kind of warm walking round in running shoes.
I have seen a couple of peaceful demonstrations during the last couple of days. The police was anonymous.
I got a letter from sister, really nice.
We had pizza for dinner. They are small in diameter but has loads of fillings making them almost too full.
I still sleep more than usual. The heat?
The next chapter: Moving south from Santiago to the Lake District, an active volcano and a vacation within the vacation.
Read the introduction to this journey
View a full screen map of the journey