Chile - Santiago and Punta Arenas

 

Home

Summaries

Journals

Gallery

FAQ

 

Journals

Antarctica!
Dec 7-20, 2000

Europe - Germany, Belgium, and France
Nov 28 - Dec 6, 2000

Nepal - Around Manaslu
Oct 30 - Nov 27, 2000

India
Oct 18-29, 2000

Australia - Driving around Southern Australia
Oct 6-17, 2000

Australia - Olympics
Sep 25 - Oct 5, 2000

Australia - Great Barrier Reef
Sep 17-24, 2000

Bali
Sep 10-16, 2000

Thailand - Bangkok
Sep 4-9, 2000

Cambodia
Aug 30 - Sep 3, 2000

Vietnam - Central and South
Aug 20-29, 2000

Vietnam - North
Aug 10-19, 2000

Laos
Aug 5-9, 2000

China
Jul 26 - Aug 4, 2000

Egypt - Along the Nile
Jul 16-25, 2000

Egypt - Touring and diving
Jul 11-15, 2000

Israel and Jordan
Jul 5-10, 2000

Norway
Jun 22 - Jul 4, 2000

Brief return to the USA
Jun 6-21, 2000

Ecuador - Quito and surroundings
Jun 1-6, 2000

Ecuador - Galapagos Islands
May 25-31, 2000

Ecuador - Quito and the jungle
May 21-24, 2000

Peru - Machu Picchu and Lima
May 17-20, 2000

Peru - Cusco and the Sacred Valley
May 11-16, 2000

Bolivia
May 3-10, 2000

Zimbabwe and South Africa - Vic Falls and Blyde River Canyon
Apr 27 - May 2, 2000

South Africa - Motorcycle trip
Apr 12-26, 2000

Argentina - Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls
Mar 30 - Apr 11, 2000

Argentina - Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes
Mar 25-29, 2000

Chile - Exploring the Lake Region
Mar 17-24, 2000

Chile - Pucon and the Bio Bio
Mar 9-16, 2000

Argentina - El Calafate and El Chalten
Mar 1-8, 2000

Chile - Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine
Feb 18-29, 2000

Argentina - Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia
Feb 13-17, 2000

Chile - Santiago and Punta Arenas
Feb 8-12, 2000

Guatemala and Honduras - Rio Dulce and Copan
Feb 4-7, 2000

Guatemala - Coban and Spanish school
Jan 28 - Feb 3, 2000

Guatemala - Tikal and Spanish school
Jan 22-27, 2000

Guatemala - Antigua and Spanish school
Jan 16-21, 2000

Belize
Jan 6-15, 2000

 

Tue Feb 8, 2000 - Santiago

We arrived in Santiago at the insane hour of 4:00am after a red-eye flight from Panama City on a packed 737. We hardly slept but did watch two horrible movies. They actually woke up the entire plane at 2:00am to serve a second dinner which seemed particularly odd. At 4:00am at least customs was a breeze. We took the equivalent of SuperShuttle to our hotel. During the drive through the city absolutely nothing was open. Originally we thought that we might take advantage of the early morning hour and watch the city wake up, but with absolutely nothing open and no Chilean currency, we decided to sleep instead.

The Hotel Bonaparte is very comfortable. The rooms even have carpet which Louisa was craving. After a few hours of sleep we walked around the neighborhood. We are staying in a residential section of Santiago called Provendencia. It is beautiful and practically serene. Actually, we started talking about how great it would be to live here and speak Spanish for a few years. Then w started speaking with some Santiagans. They speak faster than imaginable and clip off their words. It is crazy! We wen from understanding 50% to about 10%. Yikes!

The tourist office was a major bust. They hand out maps that are hysterically bad. Most tourists must spend most of their time being lost in the city. We stopped for lunch at a local sandwich shop and had hamburgers (this detail becomes important later). After lunch we braved the metro which is quite nice.

Next stop was the Amex office. No books were waiting for us, which is too bad. We spoke with a very patient and helpful travel agent there. She booked a car and driver to go the Maipu Valley for the villages and wineries for tomorrow morning. We also tried to change our tickets from Santiago to Punta Arenas for Friday. We can hardly wait to get down there! Amex could not change the tickets since we have a special "visit Chile" fare, so we had to return to the hotel for the tickets then go back to the same neighborhood for LanChile.

We had resigned to the fact that it was going to cost us some money to leave earlier but decided this was worth it. However, the agent just called the airport and had them open up seats for us in our class of ticket, for no cost!

During the first 5 weeks, we identified some items that we wanted, but could not buy in Guatemala since we are both giants by their standards. So we went off to a mall. it looked exactly like a mall in America, including a food court where we had McDonald's for dinner. Not so much because we had the urge, but if we were going to eat fast food, then why eat Chilean fast food. It is best to head for the original, right?

Immediately we had success finding dri-weave t-shirts which are essential for these hot temperatures. During the next 2 hours we tried every shoe store in the mall for shoes to fit Louisa's feet. Every sales clerk in the mall gave an incredulous look when she asked for a size "40." A few actually had this size, but we quickly figured out that this was actually a 9 or 9.5 rather than a 10. One store in the entire mall, Nine West, came through.. So 5000 miles from home, Louisa bought a pair of Nine West shoes for about the same price she would have paid at home. The other purchase was a pair of black pants. Again an American vendor came through and Louisa has a new pair of Esprit pants. We closed down the mall and headed home.

 

Wed Feb 9, 2000 - Change of Plans

Upon going to sleep last night, Tom mentioned that his head was pounding and his stomach had been grumbling most of the afternoon and evening. We didn't think too much of it until 1 am when he was shivering, which Tom just doesn't do.

His temperature read 99.9 degrees which doctor Louisa treated with Advil and went quickly back to sleep. Tom tossed until 4:00 when we checked his temperature again, and it was a little higher. Hmmm... We decided no action since it was just a headache and fever. We called World Clinic at 8:30 since his fever had not broken and he finally had one sprint to the bathroom. Dr. Carlin was incredibly reassuring. He listened to the timeline and said this was food poisoning. That meant the one attack and now recovery. So, tylenol for the fever, lots of liquids and rest. This was incredibly reassuring and seemed to fit because Tom was feeling much better.

After room service toast and canceling the trip to the Maipu Canyon, Louisa headed out for a few errands, while Tom rested. We used the walkie-talkies to keep in contact, which worked for a 3 block circumference of the hotel.

When Tom started to feel worse around 1pm, Louisa called the doctors again. Dr. Carlin agreed that the continuation of symptoms indicates that Tom ate some sort of contaminated food (remember the hamburger, yesterday lunch?). So Tom started Cipro. The frequent trips to the bathroom were made more annoying by the fact that the toilet kept breaking - we became experts a fixing it.

How ironic that we spent 5 weeks in third world countries without getting little critters in our stomachs and here we are in a beautiful, civilized city and get our first round of traveler's sickness. We passed the day keeping Tom warm or cool depending on the fever. When he seemed up to a laugh we talked about the critters throwing a huge party Guatemalan style because they were setting off firecrackers in his stomach in celebration of finding such a large, tasty victim. As a result, we had a very low-key day in the hotel room sleeping and reading.

We are amazed at the climate of Santiago. It must be almost 80 for most of the day, but incredibly pleasant with no humidity and a nice breeze. Also, it stays light until almost 9pm. Right now it is 8pm and outside it looks as if it is the middle of the afternoon.

 

Thu Feb 10, 2000 - Santiago Sights

The day started out with a low key morning in the hotel room and continued rest. We got the a-ok from the doctors at World Clinic that walking around the city some should be fine for Tom, so we headed out to see a few sights, mostly by taxi. First stop was the Plaza des Armas with the baroque cathedral and many other colonial buildings. We walked around the square and into the cathedral for a few minutes. Their is a gazebo at one end with many men solemnly standing around with their heads bowed. We walked over to investigate thinking that it must be a mid-day mass. However, on arrival we realized that the men standing are watching others play chess. We thought of Tom's brother, Seth, and had a good laugh.

We walked the four blocks to central market, which Zena, who we met at Hotel Tijax, mentioned is a great place. The stalls sell any type of food you could imagine. There are also many small restaurants that probably serve delicious Chilean food, but considering Tom's stomach we waved off any invitations.

The next taxi drove us through the Bella Vista neighborhood to the base of the funicular up San Cristobal. At the top is a gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary and a small chapel blasting Gregorian chants. We enjoyed the view of Santiago. Although, we had another laugh about how terrible the map from the tourist office is since we could not identify any buildings from it. There is a silver dome shaped building that give the impression that a UFO has landed in the middle of the city.

Overall, we were surprised at the vast size of Santiago. It fills up the valley. We had no image of the mountains that surround the city creating a beautiful backdrop. It should be nice to see from the plane tomorrow.

We rode down the hill on the telefunicular, which is the same as a 2 person ski gondola. Next stop was an internet cafe. Funny how there were so many in Antigua and so few in Santiago. We caught up on email, Tom IM'ed with folks, and updated the site with a few choice pics.

 

Fri Feb 11, 2000 - To Punta Arenas

Until today, we have arrived at the airport on average 3 hours before every flight. Today, we decided one hour for a domestic flight. We were on target until we hit the terrible traffic on the road to the airport due to a terrible accident. So, we arrived 35 minutes before the flight to discover that LanChile closes their flights 30 minutes before take-off. Tom his excellent Spanish to alert the agent and we got our seats at the 30 minute bell. Other than that, the flight was uneventful. Seeing the Andes out of the windows is supposed to be spectacular, but we had low cloud cover all day.

Los Navegantes sent a shuttle to pick us up at the airport and we chatted with the driver. He is a native of Punta Arenas which is amazing. There just isn't much down here. The temperature was about 50 degrees today, not accounting for the wind. The strength of the wind is so severe that the trees do not grow straight up. Those in the fields are basically horizontal! We can hardly imagine what Punta Arenas must be like during their long winter.

In Santiago the travel agent had made a reservation for us to fly from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia via Rio Gallegos. We did not purchase the the tickets because Tom got sick. We did not think anything of it since at the time there were a couple of flights that had seats. Today, we spent the afternoon visiting every travel agent and airline office in the town - no such flights actually exist. It felt like we were in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Both our guidebooks mention the flights, but nobody even seemed to know that there ever had been flights, much less told us why they no longer existed. Simply that there are no flights now and we must be crazy.

One travel agent finally told us that we could fly from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia, but we'd need to take a 5 hour bus ride to Rio Gallegos. Since we seemed to have no other choice (short of a 14 hour bus directly to Ushuaia), we bought bus tickets to Rio Gallegos in Argentina on the next bus, which was on Sunday at noon. We also made a reservation to fly from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia at 8pm Sunday night and figured that we had made the best possible plan. In fact, we were happy to be traveling on Sunday - it is often a lost day because lots of stuff is closed. Little did we know.

We also looked into ships to Antarctica. One was leaving on Tuesday early morning, thus prompting our urgency to get to Ushuaia Sunday night so we'd have Monday to arrange things. There was one twin cabin left, but they wanted $5k each for it - we were looking for a last minute deal. Unfortunately, we found out too late that another boat had had a special half price deal, but it was full. We were told to call back on Monday to see if the deal was available for this one.

Finally, we bought a ticket on the ferry tomorrow to go see Isla Magdalena, the island with 50,000 penguins.

At 8pm we went back to the hotel briefly, took a picture of Punta Arenas, and then headed out to dinner. Donning our sunglasses (the sun was still high), we headed to Sotito's, recommended by our travel agent. The food was excellent, topped off by the absolute best centolla (king crab) we've ever had. Awesome. By 10:45 it was dark, and we headed back to bed.

 

Sat Feb 12, 2000 - Punta Arenas & Isla Magdalena

Sometimes ya just gotta sleep in. We just barely made breakfast at 10. We then headed out to the excellent Museo Salesiano and learned a lot about native life, Punta Arenas history, and current mining and oil drilling efforts. Of course, we only understood about 30% because everything was in Spanish, but it was still very enjoyable. When it closed at noon, we headed over to the beautiful cemetery, which had some awesome cyprus trees and a view of the Straits of Magellan. Finally we headed back into town for lunch at Lomit's, which makes excellent chicken sandwiches.

We then gathered our gear for Isla Magdalena, including nearly every layer we brought - and this is summer! We almost missed the shuttle to the ferry, and then when we got there, discovered we'd forgotten the tickets. The shuttle driver kindly raced us back to the hotel and back again, only to wait while the ferry left late.

We left Punta Arenas behind, and after an uneventful 2 hours we arrived at Isla Magdalena. We were astonished by the crowds of penguins! The fishing must be great, because we couldn't believe how many penguins live on this tiny island. These were Magellanic penguins, and their chicks were 2mos old, just attaining maturity. In some cases, they seemed bigger than their parents. They dug burrows to live in, and headed down to safety when we got too close, although they would usually peek out at you curiously. They also congregated on rocks that it seemed impossible that they could climb to. And when they get scared, they have the most comical combination run and belly slide, but it moves them pretty fast. They also swim amazingly well, often popping completely out of the water when chasing each other.

We spent a cold and windy hour there, touring the old lighthouse, and listening to the penguins squawk. On the way back, the flat front of the ferry smacked through the oncoming waves, sending shudders through the entire boat, and spraying over the bow.

When we finally got back at 9pm, we headed out to dinner at Donde Marin, for some delicious conger eel and steak. We were a little dubious when we arrived and only 1 other table was eating, but the place filled up after 10. People really do eat late here.

After dinner, we happened to notice a 24hr internet cafe, located upstairs in a house. We checked email briefly, while the proprietor explained that tourists loved the 24hr aspect because they were touring all day and only had the night to surf. Whatever works.

Revised: Wed Feb 13 11:37:54 2008 on www.shieldsaroundtheworld.com.
Copyright 2000 Tom & Louisa Shields. All rights reserved.