Tag Archives: Chile

A sunny Sunday in Santiago




The long drive from the port of Valparaiso to the capital city of Chile took us through countryside which was lush, green and filled with vineyards. These were interspersed with orange and lemon groves and with the high, snow capped Andes towering in the distance, the two hour drive was a visual delight.



Not so delightful was the entry into Santiago. I have never seen so much graffiti anywhere! There were political slogans, anti-police slogans, some dubious art work and then the hideous scrawls of kids just wanting to leave their mark. And these marks were everywhere. Statues, buildings, pavements…none were immune and it was difficult to look past and focus on something else.

It didn’t help that, in common with most cities in Catholic countries, everything was closed. Even the ubiquitous Mcdonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC were resolutely shut. Not a coffee to be found anywhere. Therefore a visit to Constitution Square in the blazing sun and a long talk from our guide on the political and constitutional make-up of Chile could not be assuaged by the simple pleasure of ‘an Americano to go’. But at least the guards protecting the President’s formal residence (even though he only goes there on official occasions), smiled benignly as they indicated we should step no further forward.




So, onwards. We couldn’t go to the main square because there was a ‘demonstration’…no details given, but at least this was unlikely to have an anti-British flavour. However, the drive through the new part of Santiago, with its fabulous modern architecture (free from the graffiti which adorned places like the Opera House), was fascinating. So were the open spaces and lovely parks throughout the city.


2FAF7253-D325-4521-BB32-AD6E016C2359.jpegI have to mention lunch at the partially open air restaurant. A traditional drink in Chile is ‘pisco sour’. This is made from distilled grapes and is ‘soured’ by lemon. Delightful! We were given this in Puerto Montt as an aperitif and it was definitely not strong. However….. Santiago wanted to leave a lasting impression. Bigger glasses and a punch like a swinging sledgehammer caused general noise levels to rise and loud laughter joined in when copious amounts of the local wine were added to the mix. I had visions of people sliding gently under the tables for an early siesta but fortunately everyone arrived back at the bus.

Those who were then sleeping (!) missed the joke about our next stop. The coach driver navigated his way through cyclists and walkers to take us up ‘Conception Hill’ for a panoramic view of the city. This is a local name given because it is a favourite place for young couples who cycle or walk to the top, watch the sunset and, eventually, come down again. Great views from a myriad of private viewing spots on this densely wooded hillside.

What day in Chile would be complete without a visit to a vineyard and a chance to simple the local wines? But it’s a great way to sell the products and people came away laden with cases of wine. Sadly, my baggage allowance is already tight and ‘getting tight’ on board by drinking in my room is not an ambition.

Next stop Easter Island.


Back in Valparaiso we were in time to catch the local ‘flea market’. Stalls sold the usual goods that few people wanted or stopped to buy. I was amazed to see a huge number of second hand stalls (a bit like an English car boot sale) which attracted a lot of attention. I was even offered “nice relaxing smoke”. Time to sail off into the sunset! Next stop Easter Island.






‘Dancing on Ice’ in Chile

We have spent an amazing two days cruising the Chilean fiords and visiting a number of spectacular glaciers.

What I found incredible was our ability to get so close but I almost choked in an effort not to laugh out loud when I heard this morning, “I’m so disappointed that we didn’t dock and get to walk on the ice”.

Most glaciers in the world are shrinking but this morning we visited something quite unique. The Pio XI glacier is actually growing. This massive flow of ice is currently over 20 miles long and 6 miles wide – the size of Santiago – growing about half a mile per year. You don’t quite get the perspective when you sail up close but you do see, very clearly, the towering ice formations, the rock being swept down to the water and the incredible colours.







7B5F1E55-9E39-418B-B785-2FCF4FBFCABB.jpegIce is white, right? Wrong. There are some deep blues and aquamarine colours in there, along with pinks and the grey of the rock which has been carved from the mountains and carried to the sea. I think it needed a better camera than mine to do it justice but I have still managed to capture a little of the majesty.

It would appear that my geographical ignorance knows no bounds, or else I have long forgotten what I was once taught. On the way to yesterday’s viewing of the Amalia glacier, I couldn’t help but notice, with some surprise, we were passing the odd small ice floe or two. Of course glaciers shed ice into the sea, hence icebergs… doh!!! By the time the glacier was in view, we were totally surrounded by small (and some not small at all) ice floes. A boat was launched from the ship – did that mean we needed to worry? Apparently not; it was the ship’s film crew at work making a film of the ship amongst the ice floes and right up against the glacier. That should be worth seeing. Hats off to the Captain and the incredible skills of the navigators who made it possible to almost reach out and touch. I did hear there had been a few bumps along the way and some of the floes are now proudly sporting the ship’s paintwork!


Within the fiords, the weather seems to change constantly, and minute by minute the views also change. The sun breaks through on one side to reveal snow capped mountains from the Andes range, whilst on the other side of the ship the clouds descend and completely obliterate a view which was clear just moments before. The prevailing feature throughout is the intense chill and it is not sensible to stand still on the upper decks for too long. Hot chocolate and hot soup are served on deck during glacier watching and how comforting to wrap icy fingers around a steaming hot mug whilst appreciating the wonders of the world. If you are going to ‘do cold’, how much better to do it in comfort!

Tomorrow, we are out of the fiords and back into the Pacific as we head north for our next stop in Puerto Montt and from there onwards towards warmer climes. In many ways it will be a relief to warm up but what truly awesome spectacles we have seen and, for me, it has been another opportunity to marvel at the beauty and diversity of our planet.


Trekking in Patagonia



imageWhatever was I thinking about when, back in November, it felt like a good idea to go on a guided hike through a forest? I was clearly guilty of failing to read the small print and when I saw some of my fellow ‘trekkers’ kitted out with stout boots, walking poles and every conceivable bit of walking kit you could wish for, I thought my own waterproof jacket and trainers were a little under stated! However….

Our arrival in Punta Arenas had been peaceful and in an area famous for its summer winds of wild proportions, that was a relief. (They have purpose built hand-rails throughout the town as there are days when you cannot stand safely and walking is incredibly difficult – sounds like a windy day in Blackpool). I also learned that they don’t have sunny days in this part of the world. Sometimes the sun shines for a little while but you can experience four seasons in the space of 10 minutes. Today’s high cloud was considered ‘beautiful’ by the locals. The port itself is too small to take a cruise ship of this size and so we had to tender ashore. Therefore, with no rain, little wind and the temperature almost reaching a magnificent 10C, it felt like a good day for a walk. That was before I realised we were being taken to a chair lift.

A2C73FE8-FC05-4437-B357-A3EB3902D3A3.jpegThe plan was to go to the top of the mountain via chair lift and walk all the way back down through the dense forest. Right…..that was the bit I missed in the write-up! The gentle breeze at the bottom of the mountain soon gave way to something a little stronger which had the chairs swinging and our guide cheerfully told us that the temperature at the top of the mountain was about 10 degrees colder than below. As we had a very long walk ahead we would soon be warm.



AE427005-FAE8-4B50-A94F-C007529D7723.jpegTaking in the different types of trees and plant life was only possible when your eyes were not glued to the floor as you were stepping across tree roots, wading around bogs, jumping over streams, clambering through dense undergrowth and negotiating scree and rocks. The two guides were good and helped people across the really awful bits but there were a few ‘bottom slides’, trips and stumbles along the way. Not, I might add, from me, although I did find myself giving the odd tree a hug to avoid planting my bottom on a steep slide which would have carried me into a stream. All along the trail there was evidence of animals, some of them very large, but the guide was dismissive about the numbers of wild animals. “Lots of rabbits”, she said. If the rabbits round here leave that amount of mess, they either have exceptional appetites or Harvey, the giant white rabbit, is here on holiday!

It took almost 3 hours to reach the promised hot chocolate at the bottom. But by then I was warm. My knees felt as though they may not function for some time and my toes, which had been firmly welded against the fronts of my shoes, were complaining loudly. Climbing the steep steps onto the coach was hard but getting back down them pure torture.


I just know I am going to be stiff later and probably worse tomorrow but I have two days in the fiords visiting glaciers and a day at sea to recover before my next Chilean experience of waterfalls and a volcano from Puerto Montt.