Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Our trip to Chile - some of the people

I've blogged a few experiences on the walking blog.

One of the many aspects I enjoyed about our trip was the people we met, and talked to in Spanish or English.

Firstly, on the plane a very pleasant couple who I spoke to as we were nearing Santiago. I wanted to know when we would see the Andes - we didn't want to be on the wrong side of the plane.  They found this amusing - in any case the plane will turn so that you're on the best side, they told me. Quite right too, and, you know what, the Andes are pretty well visible from almost everywhere in Chile . . . but we did get a great view of the dawn light on the mountains.

In the lift from the appartment in Santiago we met a New Zealander. He was certainly in his sixties, and travelling round parts of South America on his own, hiring motorbikes. He'd  spent some time in the deserts of Bolivia and Peru, and was about to head towards Valparaiso when we spoke to him.

On the second or third day we were there we were walking through the Parque Forestal, a lovely avenue of trees with play areas and walkways, which goes through the town parallel to the River Mapocho. The river itself is not very attractive, enclosed by concrete as it rushes its way through the city. Five young women stopped us, and asked if they might interview us, about ourselves, our impressions of Chile and Santiago, and also about involvement in the community and leadership. Most of this I managed in Spanish. For once, I asked to take a photograph of them as a souvenir.  I tried to keep up the habit!

The next long chat was with the lady in the Café del Pintor in Valparaíso, where we ate twice during the four days we were there. The food was delicious, and reasonably priced, and the restaurant was not busy at the time we were there. She took a photo of us and was happy to chat about the food, Chile in general, and what to see in Valparaiso, as well as being interested in what we were doing, where we were going and so on. 

At the end of our stay in Valparaiso we caught the early morning bus back to Santiago, and then a plane to Calama, a mining city in the Atacama desert. From there we travelled by car to Coyo, a small settlement near San Pedro de Atacama. A harsh, dry climate, with hot days and cold nights. We stayed in a house made of adobe, but tiled and provided with all mod cons, even if they didn't always work, or were subject to power cuts. The internet stayed on, and was excellent at all times!
Jany and husband, and their friendly dog

The family who looked after the house in the owner's absence were local people, living in a house without electricity, as we discovered when we phoned them to ask if theirs was on. They must have thought we were real first world wimps. We eventually had a long conversation with Jany on the day we were leaving. She was very knowledgeable about the history of the area, and the animals and plants and their uses. Her daughter would like to study art, but can't afford the fees.

In the Valle de la Luna we met a man from Leeds - he'd been to Bolivia and Peru as well, and had hired a bike to explore the valley. We saw him again as we scrambled up a rather uneven hillside to catch a good view of the local volcano - Licancabur.
There's no photo of him, but he did take one of us.
Later on that day, on top of the Duna Mayor, a lively Chilean family from Santiago were taking selfies, so I offered to take a photo of them. They proved to be very friendly - the father spoke good English too. The children were having fun taking silly videos of their dad. We all stayed on the Dune to watch the spectacular sunset colours.

We had to return the car to the airport in Calama, and ended up in the middle of Calama, unable to find any roadsigns to it. The first guy we asked seemed to find it incredible and actually quite funny, but was not a lot of use! But we did ask a woman, who was picking her daughter up from school. She was very helpful, and even drew a map for us.
We arrived in plenty of time to return the vehicle and catch our flight! 

A chance meeting in a restaurant in La Serena with two young women enlivened our evening. One of them spoke good English and said she would love to be an English teacher, but can't afford the fees. 

Finally, in Vicuña, a small town in the Elqui valley we stayed at the Solar de los Madariaga, a nineteenth century house built by the wealthy great grand-father of the present owner, Mitzi Sylvia Diaz Cortes. Harry gave the Mitzi and her husband Alberto a watercolour sketch of their garden before we left.

There were many more - almost everyone we spoke to, asking the way, or for some kind of information was friendly, patient and helpful.    In spite of the warnings about looking like tourists, not carrying valuables around, especially in a backpack, and not venturing into certain areas - we had no bad experiences. We did manage to lose three hats between us, and on one occasion I thought I'd lost my purse, but it was back at base.