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Arriving in Santiago de Chile

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I tried to get some sleep during the flight but it was pretty noisy and fussy onboard. And an hour after take-off they started to serve food as well. But I guess the food was kind of well-needed. Chicken with rice and vegetables with salad and a little dessert were served with cutleries in real metal (no silly plastic knife and fork)… thumbs up! Later when the flight staff had collected all the food trays they finally switched off the light so you could at least try to get some sleep. But it’s never easy to sleep during flights. The hours felt like days but finally when the flight staff started to serve breakfast you knew it wasn’t that much longer until landing. Breakfast consisted of omelet, ham, fruit, juice, yoghurt and bread. Pretty steady breakfast I must say. With a substantial headache – I had not been able to sleep many hours – I managed to watch a beautiful sunrise during the landing at Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport.

The airplane landed around 7am local Chilean time which was about 30 minutes before scheduled (7.30am). I disembarked the plane tired as hell and remembered I hadn’t filled out the tourist card I had received during the flight. So I had to stop and fill out all the information as passport number and addresses I would be staying at during my vacation. Then I went to the baggage claim and picked up my baggage and later got in the long line to the border police. SIGH! But it really didn’t matter since we had landed earlier than scheduled and my friend Michelangelo (that was picking me up) had probably not arrived yet anyway. It took probably about 15 minutes before I got called up to a booth and got my passport and tourist card stamped… then I was FINALLY in Chile :)

Michelangelo and I had decided a place where we would meet up but since I had arrived earlier he would probably not be there yet. I looked around and I couldn’t see him. I went outside of the terminal to see if he was there, but no. So I went inside again and suddenly I heard a familiar voice calling my name. When I managed to locate where the voice came from I saw my friend. Finally! It’s been 9 months since last time, so it was time to meet again. He was worried that I had been waiting for him, but I had spent most of the time in line to the border police… so I had been waiting no more than a minute at our meeting point. So it was great timing I think ;)


We loaded my baggage and backpack into his car and it was nice to sit down in a car for a change. I don’t remember how long the drive took from the airport and back home to his place. I was so darn tired and at the same time busy orienting myself in the – for me – brand new town and handling all the new impressions. It was warm outside. Well over +20 °C, probably even more than +25 °C, which was unusual during this time of year since Chile has the opposite season compared to Sweden. In other words; they have winter when we have summer and vice versa. Santiago has a mild Mediterranean climate with relatively warm and hot summers (November – Mars) with temperatures at sometimes over +30 °C while the winter (June – August) has increased humidity and mild temperatures at about +12 °C (+0 °C at the lowest). In more upland areas, like up in the Andes, snowfall occurs during the winter season. It does happen that snow falls in the Santiago Metropolitan Region but it’s very rare and it lasts only for like an hour before it melts away again.

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What has become known as “the city” Santiago comprises a much wider area than the central Municipality Santiago that the name actually refers to. The Municipality Santiago is a part of the Province Santiago which comprises 32 Municipalities in total. And the Province Santiago is in turn a subunit in Santiago Metropolitan Region that covers entirely or partially 37 Municipalities. So it’s actually this urban Metropolitan Region, also called Greater Santiago (Gran Santiago) with 6 million inhabitants, that the most people refers to today when they talk about Santiago.

Well back home at my friend’s place (where I would be staying for the first 8 days) I could finally take a well-deserved shower and have a change of clothes followed by a lame attempt to try and look sort of okay after such long flight. I felt kind of half-dead but I had at least manage to drive away the headache with headache pills. So then we headed off to grab something to eat. If I remember correctly we went to Parque Arauco and had brunch which is a huge shopping center with more famous brands like Dolce Gabbana, Armani, Adidas, Banana Republic and so on. Though we didn’t stay for any shopping but went straight back home for a power nap. I really needed to sleep since I was tired like hell, but still I couldn’t. So many new impressions and sounds made it impossible to just lie in bed and try to sleep.


The apartment was almost at the top of the building so it was a decent view and outlook over the municipality of Providencia with the Andes towered up not far away. Mostly upper middle class and upper class people are living in Providencia and the area has many high-rise estates and all the trading in this municipality constitute a main part of the trading in Santiago.
After resting for a while I got to meet Michelangelo’s parents while waiting to get access to the car. Their apartment is even higher up (in another building) and the view from the balcony was amazing. A fantastic panorama view! When we got the car we drove to Costanera Center for some grocery shopping at the grocery store Jumbo. Actually the store didn’t have just groceries but also other stuff. You could compare Jumbo with our Swedish store ICA Maxi. Over there we met up with one of Michelangelo’s friends and now also my friend. So I took the opportunity to buy me some breakfast that I liked for the next days. All three of us went back to the apartment and unloaded the shopping bags and then drove to Bellavista for dinner. As I understand most of the Chilean people here in Santiago rather go out to eat at restaurants than cook at home, since it’s cheaper to dine out at restaurants (especially compared to Sweden). For an example; when I was in San Pedro de Atacama (between September 1st and September 4th during this vacation) I had a lunch menu with drink and tip included (which is generally 10%) for only 11000 CLP (about 15 Euros).

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Bellavista is known as the bohemian neighborhood of Santiago with new popular restaurants, boutiques and avant-garde galleries. The closeness to the subway makes Bellavista very popular and during the evenings people gathers here to feel the atmosphere and pulse of the many discos and bars in the area. During the weekends you can find handicraft markets and you can find handicraft made out of Lapis Lazuli, which is a mineral stone that can be found mostly in Chile and Afghanistan. At the restaurant I ordered Cazuela de Vacuno, a kind of meat soup with a lot of vegetables and potatoes in it. And what a portion I got. So I had to ask for a doggy-bag to bring the leftovers with me back home. On the way home Michelangelo drove through downtown and guided a little bit. Unfortunately it had gone dark outside so it was difficult to see anything but I really appreciate the gesture though. We got home pretty late that night and I don’t think I got in bed before midnight.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities Comments (0)

Downtown Santiago

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Woke up during the night every now and then (nevertheless it’s a minus 6 hour time-different compared to Sweden this time of year). But I felt quite alert when I got up just in time for the sunrise over the mountains. The sun’s fearless attempts to shine through all smog finally gave result. Rush hour was already in full speed and lasts between 7 am – 9 am in the morning and 6 pm – 8 pm in the evening. And all the heavy traffic in the central parts of Santiago Metropolitan Region is a main cause to the smog during the winter season that lies like a lid over the city. The smog contains high concentrations of air pollutions like grime, sulfur dioxide and fog. During the winter the Humboldt Current contributes to enclose the smog in between Chilean Costal Mountain Range and the Andes which makes the air so polluted that you barely can see the surrounding Andes from the central parts of Santiago. To the negative side effects belong health issues like headaches, nausea, cardiovascular diseases and asthma, even more serious health issues like lung cancer must also be mentioned. It’s not only the smog but many of the Chilean people smoke as well. Walking out on the streets you are almost guaranteed to get behind someone that smokes. In Chile it’s allowed to smoke outside at every restaurant, but not inside. So if you want a smoke-free environment you want to sit inside the restaurant.

The plan for today was to meet up with my new Chilean friend who offered to guide me downtown during his lunch break. But to get downtown I had to take the subway from Tobalaba via Baquedano to Plaza de Armas. The subway here in Santiago is one of the cleanest and safest in the world and I totally agree. I felt safe as a tourist to get around and on top of that it was well cleaned (unlike the subway in Stockholm) and well-posted signs so even I could get from A to B without getting lost. The ticket prices are slightly different during the day, divided into rush hour and non-rush hour time. One single ticket during rush hour costs 690 CLP (0.93 Euro) and non-rush hour costs 630 CLP (0.85 Euro). If you plan to use the subway frequently you may as well buy a subway card. As a tourist I would not recommend taking the local buses. First of all you cannot buy the tickets onboard, second you really need to know which bus to take since the buses usually only have a number (no destination name) and third you can forget any kind of time schedule since the buses can’t stick to it anyway due to heavy traffic.


Downtown has well-marked walking streets without traffic and a lot of stores. Since I was a little early I had an hour to spend and getting to know the streets. Paseo Estado, Paseo Ahumada, Paseo Puente and 21 de Mayor are all walking streets that starts from Plaza de Armas. Plaza de Armas is a square from which Santiago’s original city plan was designed after (like a grid) and counts as the heart and soul of Santiago. Unfortunately the entire square was closed when I visited Chile due to rebuild of the underlying subway system. Characteristics for the stores along the walking streets seemed to be shoes. Store after store replaced each other and it was sales everywhere - in other words a heaven for a shop-aholic! And just like the food, clothes and shoes are much cheaper here in Chile than Sweden. I took the opportunity to eat something before I met my friend. The temperature for the day was no less than +30 °C and bright sunshine, true summer temperature even though it was winter season. So the high temperature outside didn’t made you that hungry but you still need to eat something to manage the day.

So my friend and I met outside Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago situated just in front of Plaza de Armas. We walked along the streets and my friend told me a lot of facts about Chile, Santiago and the Chilean people. I don’t remember it all but it was interesting to listen and learn about another culture. We got to Museo Bellas Artes, an art museum that unfortunately looked very much closed. We kept on going towards Cerro Santa Lucía (Santa Lucia Hill) which is a small hill (69 meters high) in the central Santiago.


The hill is the remains of a 15 million year old volcano but nowadays represents a green park decorated with flowers, stairs and water fountains. Up on the highest peak of the hill is a popular view point with a 360° outlook over Santiago Metropolitan Region. The hill was first named Huelén but got its current name Cerro Santa Lucía since the hill was conquered by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Valdivia on the Lucía day (December 13th) in 1541. Pedro de Valdivia had founded Santiago on February 12th that very same year and became the first royal governor in Chile.


Thanks to the extreme heat neither of us wanted or had the strength to walk upstairs to the view point at the very top of Santa Lucia Hill. But we got a great view from where we did walk. By the tourist information office we asked for a map over Downtown that I could use for the rest of the week. From Santa Lucia Hill we walked along Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, via Barrio París-Londres with its narrow cozy cobblestoned alleys (well worth a visit), passing Biblioteca Nacional, Universidad de Chile and ended up near the Palacio de la Moneda (La Moneda Palace).


La Moneda Palace (or just La Moneda) is the home for the president. The palace occupies a whole quarter in downtown Santiago in the area known as Civic District. Here I had to say goodbye to my friend since he had to get back to work. I took the opportunity to walk all the way back, which we just walked, to learn how to orient myself in the city. And proud to say, but I managed to walk all the way back via Santa Lucia Hill and back to Plaza de Armas without looking at the map once! Now the time was about 4 pm and the warm weather had made me all sweaty and warm so shopping was out of the question. I took the subway back to Tobalaba and went back home to the apartment instead. During the walk from the subway to the apartment I did have time to reflect over the sidewalks here in Santiago. Very rough, sometimes big gaps and every now and then a plate stuck up. I don’t know how many times I stumbled but I learned pretty quickly to lift my feet up high and watch out where I walked.


Well back in the apartment I ate the food I brought home yesterday in the doggy-bag which still tasted good. Then I behold the arrival of the night from the balcony and the street lights lit up one by one. When the sun had disappeared behind the mountains it instantly got cold and chilly outside. Rush hour came and went but the traffic was still heavy afterwards. But what can you expect in a big metropolitan region with 6 million inhabitants? I must say it is generally a higher speed in the traffic than I’m used to. They almost drive like maniacs and honk all the time. But they do respect the pedestrians and I felt safe walking in the city and on crosswalks – they will stop for you.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities santa_lucia_hill Comments (0)

Shopping at Costanera Center

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Today I woke up to a much colder Santiago. The clouds were tarrying so the surrounding mountains (including the Andes) weren’t visible. A perfect day for shopping in other words! My friend Michelangelo recommended me to visit Costanera Center and I got directions to walk over there. I think it took 10 minutes to walk from the apartment. Costanera Center is a trade and business complex in Providencia, Santiago. The complex consists of several buildings; one shopping mall, Gran Torre Santiago (the highest building in South and Latin America with its 300 meters), two hotel buildings andone office building.

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The shopping mall in Costanera Center has 6 floors. And when talking about floors I must mention that all entrance floors in Chile are called 1. That means if you’re going with an elevator and want to go to the entrance floor you need to push button number 1. And if you need to go to the 6th floor you need to push number 7 in the elevator and so on. As I said, 6 floors with stores and stores… and the highest floor with restaurants and above those are cinemas showing movies every day. I found out that the shopping mall covers 308 stores… so Kupolen and NK, you can dash yourselves against the wall! Costanera Center is the most superior shopping mall I’ve ever visited. And for those who likes shopping will definitely find something here – there’s something for everyone! Even though shopping malls can be boring I must say Costanera Center was light, airy and anything but narrow. Something I did notice was all the visible security guards everywhere. Not just inside but outside the stores as well. In the beginning it freaked me out a little bit by being watched all the time, but you got used to it and later it felt safe knowing that they were watching over you.
And you should definitely not be asthmatic or sensitive or allergic to strong fragrances if you want to go shopping here. All stores have aroma sprays in every corner and all stores have a different fragrance. Most of the times I didn’t mind the fragrance from store to store… but the fragrance inside Armani Exchange got too much for me. That super strong scent of coconut almost made me vomit so I never went inside that store again.
As said, a lot of stores selling everything from jewelries and electronic devices to clothes and shoes. A heaven for a shop-aholic, with branded clothes like H&M, Adidas, Banana Republic, GAP, Calvin Klein, Crocs, Zara, Ripleys and so on. And during this time of year it was obviously sales in every store and as I mentioned earlier clothes is much cheaper here in Chile compared to Sweden. Cheap clothes + sales = Great findings! Ha ha, if I had known that I would never had packed my baggage so full of clothes from back home… I could easily have filled up my baggage with brand new clothes bought here in Santiago.


During all shopping I had to pause and eat. I’m surprised how little English the Chilean people speak, especially in a big city like Santiago within commercial business and restaurants. But with my knobby Spanish and with help from people behind me in line I managed to order the food I wanted. It’s obviously an advantage to speak Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country, no doubt about that, but you don’t have to be a pro… even I made it and I’m definitely not a genius for languages. I felt a little silly walking back to the apartment carrying all those shopping bags. But I was very happy with all findings I made during the day. Only problem was if I would be able to bring everything back home to Sweden without paying for over weight on the flight. In the evening I tried out ski boots, skis and poles that my dear friend would lend me during tomorrows skiing in Valle Nevado.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities shopping Comments (0)

Murphy’s law…

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Up early in time to leave for Valle Nevado at 8.30am. During this time it was still rush hour and when we finally got out of the city traffic we took off on a narrower and tortuous road leading up in the mountains. The road was edged with cactuses (!) that during winter were covered in snow… but due to the warm weather lately there was no snow now. Mainly two types of cactuses grew here; Prickly Pear Cactus and another species that reminded a lot of Saguaro cactuses. The road almost crossed itself every now and then winding uphill and we were getting ourselves from 520 meters up to 3000 meters above sea level.

My friend Michelangelo visits Valle Nevado regularly during the winter season and he told me we would soon arrive to a checkpoint where the police randomly select cars to check if the drivers brought any snow chains. Michelangelo had not brought any snow chains today since it was a rental car but also because of the warm weather and it was barely snow outside. And also he had not been selected by the police in ages and the cops have been busy with other cars or just sitting inside their booth doing everything but checking cars. So after a while we arrived at the checkpoint but today we got randomly selected by the police. Yeah, what are the odds for that? Since we didn’t have any snow chains with us we had to turn around even though the lack of snow was obvious. A little disappointed and half way there to the ski-resort there was nothing we could do. And driving all the way back to the apartment to get the snow chains and drive back would take too long so the time to ski would be too short.

Well, well. So we had to come up with other plans for today. When we got back in Santiago we stopped by at Alto Las Condes, a shopping center with 3 floors. It reminded a lot of Costanera Center in terms of fashion, a lot of sportswear and branded clothes. It felt a little weird walking around in ski clothes but my friend said that the Chileans would consider us as cool people since skiing is a sport that only a few percent of the population can afford. I managed to find two nice shirts that I bought.

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And since we had the rental car all day long (and we wanted to take advantage of that) we drove up to Cerro San Cristóbal (San Cristóbal Hill) and all the way up to the parking lot by the Virgin Mary Statue. From the parking lot you have to walk uphill for a while to get up to the statue itself. And as for many tourists this statue was one of my top-10 attractions to visit here in Santiago. Well not only because of the statue itself but also for the fantastic panorama views over Santiago that you get from up here. I got a little disappointed over the Virgin Mary Statue since I had imagined it to be much bigger than it was in reality. But I think I probably compared Virgin Mary to the Christ the Redeemer watching over Rio de Janeiro…


San Cristóbal Hill rises about 350 meters above the surrounding Santiago. You can get up the hill by hiking, driving or riding a bike or taking the old funicular. But be aware of all the street dogs around here if you plan to walk or ride your bicycle. From most of the outlooks on top of San Cristóbal Hill you can orient and point out important landmarks like the Andes and Cordillera de la Costa for people that are new to the city. If you plan to visit Santiago during the winter you will have the best view from up here after rainfall since the air will get cleared up from the smog (which otherwise is like a lid over the city). During the summer you usually have great views from up here every day. Many people say that the sunset is spectacular to watch from up here.

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And for those of you who thought I had enough of shopping for today… no, no. I had time for a trip over to Costanera Center again in the afternoon. I never bought anything though except dinner and some frozen yoghurt. I was mighty impressed by the girl at the yoghurt place because she spoke very well English!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities shopping san_cristobal_hill Comments (0)

Typical Chilean shoe fashion?

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Took the subway to downtown and Plaza de Armas after rush hour. It was significantly more people downtown today than earlier this week and it was more chilly and windy. But who cares when you’re running in and out of stores all the time? ;) So obviously a whole lot of shopping today too since it’s so cheap here in Chile. I found a great-looking soft shell jacket and a pair of winter boots (no high-heels)… Sure it’s an advantage if you do speak Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country as Chile. You don’t have to speak it fluently but basic stuff like ordering food and shopping is a plus. I’m not a pro at Spanish but I made it around with my “spanglish”. Sure there are salespersons who speaks a few words of English and that’s when you as a tourist is being tested of your language skills. Even though misunderstandings occurred both from my side and the salespersons no one ever got mad or angry for not understanding me.

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One thing I noticed about the Chilean fashion is that all the women obviously had a strong wish to wear high-heeled shoes. And all shoe stores had almost exclusively high-heeled shoes… and then I’m not talking about 2 inch-heels but at least 4 inches or higher! Seen with Swedish eyes the Chilean woman has indeed a shorter average height but instead of being proud of their height they compensate that with enormous high-heels. Most of them had no problems walking around with those high-heels but some wore them even though they almost couldn’t walk… I hope they wear them of their own free will and not being fashion victims because it doesn’t look comfortable at all.

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And since I was close enough I went back to Barrio París-Londres, a neighborhood with cobblestoned alleys and houses strongly reminding of Paris and London during early 20th Century. Typical English houses and beautiful street lights in the alleys made you almost going back in time. On top of that all cherry trees were blooming.

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And since I was near Santa Lucia Hill I took the opportunity to walk back there and this time hike all the way up to the top. Today was definitely not as hot as last time I was here, so this time I would be able to get all the 69 meters up to the 360° view-point. Said and done, standing up there looking out over the surrounding city you realized how much smog was in the air you were breathing. A grey heavy fog that was like a lid over the city with exhausts and other pollutions that stay in the air stuck in between the Chilean Coastal Mountain Range and the Andes. It was visibly more police officers out on town today with dog units and police vans in every corner. I found out a few days later that people were demonstrating against something (don’t remember what it was against though).

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities shopping santa_lucia_hill Comments (0)

Poisonous Corner Spiders

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Woke up yet again to a cold and chilly Santiago so I spoiled myself with another sleep-in. Biggest challenge for today was to get two new batteries for my portable baggage scale since the old ones obviously didn’t work. I didn’t need any other batteries than the CR2032, you know the flat ones. I took a chance that they might have those at Jumbo that seemed to have everything, but no they didn’t. I tried in another big store but without success. So I tried in a store at the bottom floor in Costanera Center and managed to find a small store where they had the right batteries. The man in the store actually spoke well English so it was easy communicating with him. Then, since I was already in Costanera Center I took the opportunity to look for a new pair of shoes. The shoes I had with me to Chile was a pair I bought in New York a year ago and they were pretty worn out by now. Such shame since I really liked them but it was time to throw them away and replace them with a new pair. I found a pair of Merrell shoes on sale. Very comfortable walking in (which is the main thing regarding shoes) and made in breathable material… so I ended up buying them.


Later that very afternoon I met my Chilean friend and we just enjoyed the company without having any made up plans really. We talked about a lot of stuff and when the darkness started to fall we had walked half way up to San Cristóbal Hill and on the way back we had bought us Empanadas. I am quite picky when it comes to food but I actually liked the Empanada I bought (with meat). Tasted really good and warmed me up in the chilly weather. The word Empanada originally comes from the Spanish and Portuguese verb empanar which means “to wrap something”. Empanada is a bread or dough with filling inside. The course was brought to Chile and South America by the colonizers and is still very popular.

I asked my friend about the most dangerous animals here in Chile that I should watch out for. They obviously have a deadly poisonous spider here in Chile, the Corner Spider, that you need to watch out for… even inside the houses. It’s a small brown spider that often can be found in corners- thereby the name. The spider is common in the whole South America though and can nowadays be found all over the world. But still you don’t want to have a “little friend” like that with you back home in your baggage.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities shopping san_cristobal_hill Comments (0)

Earthquake 6.4

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Woke up to a cloudy and chilly morning in Santiago and it was nearly raining outside. I wasn’t really inspired to even get out of bed because of that but equipped with mittens, a hat and an umbrella I got out. Yesterday evening my Chilean friend and I had walked along Avenue Suecia and in a nice little area called Paseo de la Villa. So I headed back to that area to take some pictures in daylight.

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Paseo de la Villa is a more expensive commercial area with stores selling clothes and jewelries and a café or two. The houses in typical English style and the cobblestoned narrow alley really stood out from the surrounding big city architecture yet a nice mixture breaking off the stressful daily life style.

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I kept on going to the financial district in Santiago with braggingly high skyscrapers reaching for the sky and you can’t help feeling kind of small compared to those skyscrapers.

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And then the rain fell. Just as the Norwegian weather website www.yr.no had forecasted… so that only proofs that the Norwegian weather website works all over the world! I have been thinking about what kind of special satellites they have access to that the Swedish SMHI obviously doesn’t? Because SMHI has more inaccurate weather forecasts than ever… so that’s why I trust www.yr.no more than anything right now. It rarely rains here in Chile and when it finally does the land is so dry that the water just flows on top and doesn’t absorb. So when cloud-bursts are expected the Chileans prepare themselves for days. Still equipped with umbrella, mittens and hat I kept on going for a while on the darn slippery sidewalks but eventually it got really cold. Homeless dogs (street dogs) are a problem here in Santiago. Even though it was bigger of a problem 10-15 years ago, they still haven’t solved the problem despite efforts. The dogs are seeking protection in the green parks among the trees and are difficult to catch. And homeless people are also visible along the streets here in Santiago.

Later that evening I went back to Costanera Center to have something to eat. I got up to the highest floor where all the restaurants are and I had just ordered my food when I heard people starting to scream around me. I turned my head around and saw people running away from the tables and I started to hear a muffled rumble. And I guess it was during that split of a second between the muffled rumble and the whole building started to shake that I realized – earthquake! The quake lasted for about 10 seconds and it was a strange experience but I was never afraid during the actual earthquake. For me it was an awesome experience since we (almost) never have earthquakes back home in Sweden and if we do have earthquakes they are so weak that you can’t feel them. But this earthquake was measured up to 6.4 at the Richter scale which is considered to be a strong earthquake. For the Chilean people earthquakes are part of their daily life so most of them acted calm, placed themselves in doorways, near pillars or stronger structures just as you should during a quake. The people sitting at the tables were running away from there because – as I noticed later – it was glass roof over that area… so no wonder why they were running away.

When everything had calmed down and I had gotten my food I couldn’t help myself starting to think about all “what if” situations. I was lucky to be in one of the most new-built buildings in Santiago built to manage earthquakes. But what if I had been in an elevator or stuck in a long car tunnel somewhere? Or even worse, in the subway? Then I would probably have panicking more than I was up here at the top of Costanera Center.
Later that evening Michelangelo and I together with our mutual Chilean friend went out for joined dinner at Eladio Restaurant. It got pretty late that evening and we didn’t get home until after midnight.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities Comments (0)

Italian family lunch

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Wasn’t able to get to sleep until after 2 am, so a well-needed sleep-in was necessarily this morning. Time was about 9.30am when I finally got out of bed. Today I was invited to lunch at Michelangelo’s parent’s home and even though I’m picky when it comes to food pasta is always something that I eat. And for dessert was Cherimoya ice cream which was new to me but tasted very good. The fruit tree grows on high altitudes up in valleys in the Andes. They had one Cherimoya fruit at home and showed me how it looked and I think I’ve seen those back home in Sweden in a store somewhere. After a nice lunch with company we went back to the apartment again and I felt it was time to start packing down clothes and stuff in my baggage. There wouldn’t be much time to pack tomorrow since we were finally going up to Valle Nevado to ski. Sure I had to cancel my booked Santiago City Tour tomorrow… but since I’ve already seen pretty much everything that was included in that tour it was an obvious decision for me to cancel and go ski instead.

For me it was actually the skiing part that once started the whole idea for a vacation in Chile. Born in a cross country skiing family I’ve never learned how to ski downhill and when my friend Michelangelo (professional skiing instructor) found that out he promised to teach me if I ever traveled to Chile… that was like – challenge accepted! So then I just had to start planning for a vacation in Chile to visit him and learn how to ski downhill :) Like… why start small back home at Romme Alpin when you can go extreme and start high up in the Andes at altitude 3000 meters? :P Ha ha, yes that’s how crazy I am. XD

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities Comments (0)

Skiing in Valle Nevado – finally!

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Up early in the morning for breakfast and pack down the rest of my things in my bags. Today was my last day of staying in my friend’s apartment and today we were finally going skiing. We had planned for this earlier during the week but now it was finally happening! Sure I had to cancel the guided Santiago City Tour instead… but I realized I’ve already seen most of the city so it was an obvious decision for me to cancel and go skiing in Valle Nevado instead :) When we walked to the garage to get the car it was really cold, just below zero Celsius degrees. But in the ski outfit you almost didn’t feel it. Morning traffic was already busy so it took a while to get out of the heavy city traffic. And since it had been snowfall up in the Andes during the weekend we were sure it would be a lot of snow up there in Valle Nevado. Perfect! Valle Nevado is a ski resort 3000 meters above sea level (Santiago is at 520 altitude meters) located at the foothills of El Plomo up in the Andes. Even though Valle Nevado is only 46 km east of Santiago it sure takes about 2 hours to get up there because of the difference in altitude and heavy city traffic.

Earlier during the week when we tried getting up to Valle Nevado we had been stopped at the police check-point since we hadn’t got any snow chains with us. But today we weren’t even pulled over at the check-point, I don’t know why but maybe we didn’t because we had another car with 4WD today? It shouldn’t matter though… The road meandered more and more and the poor cactuses beside the road looked a little frozen underneath the snow. It was a little odd to see snow and cactuses… in my mind it doesn’t belong together.


The higher we got the more narrow the road became and the curves turned into hairpins. At two different occasion car queue occurred since other cars got stuck in the snow. While sitting there in the car in the queue it wasn’t much you could do but being cool and keep calm and not get stressed. And during the second stop we were so close to the ski resort that we could actually see it.


After buying lift passes (43000 CLP = 43 Euros) the moment had finally arrived. Put on the skis and have fun :) I would like to add, however, that coming from a family of strong cross country skiing traditions and learned how to ski cross country before you could walk, makes those skills deeply fixed inside your brain about how to ski. So now my friend Michelangelo, professional skiing instructor, had a little bit of a challenge to teach me downhill skiing.


So after the first turns and some falls on the butt I felt exhausted. Not only because I just used new muscles I normally don’t use that much but also because of the thin air at 3000 meters above sea level… and why start small when you can start up in the Andes?! ;) So we took a break in the snow and rested for a while and just enjoyed the great weather we had. A clear blue sky basically cloud free which made the sun get to you pretty well. Sun protection factor 50 was absolutely necessarily I’ll tell you. But still I managed to get a sun burn on top of my head since I have my hair parted in the middle (and who remembers to put sun block up there?).

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The last two turns for the day I went by myself since Michelangelo wanted to ski more advanced slopes. I’m a little proud to say I managed to get down from the slope on my own without falling on my butt :D We gathered at the car and started the ride down 2500 meters to Santiago and got into the heavy city traffic again. I don’t know why but I get really stressed by heavy traffic and getting stuck in car queues. Most likely because I’m not use to that kind of traffic back home…

After picking up my baggage back in the apartment, my friend drove me to Hotel Orly where I would be staying for the next few days. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay longer in my friend’s apartment since all the guided tours I had booked only had pick-ups from hotels. I checked in at the hotel and got surprised over how well English the hotel staff spoke, but it felt great since my Spanish isn’t so good. The reception left me the message that my pick-up was going to be later than agreed for my Chilean Folklore Dinner Show I had booked in the evening. So now I had time to shower without stress. A full sized bus picked me up for the dinner show and there were many people on board. We were welcomed by 5 big moai at the entrance of Bali Hai Restaurant. It was kind of cool to see the moai… but since I was going to see real moai on Easter Island in just a few days from now I wasn’t that impressed. The restaurant wasn’t that big yet many guests were allowed inside, maybe because the tables weren’t that big or they wanted to accomplish a cozy atmosphere by placing the guests as tight as possible? For the menu you had many options for starter, main dish and dessert that were Chilean, Polynesian and international courses. To drink you chose one appetizer and one drink for the dinner. Haha, I toughened up and chose a Pisco Sour as appetizer and then white wine with the food. And damned what that Pisco Sour was strong… later when I googled about the Pisco Sour drink I realized it contained between 35-40% alcohol. No wonder I started to feel a little dizzy :P
The highlight for the evening had to be the dance show. Dances from several regions in Chile were performed, from Polynesia, Easter Island, Arauco Mapuche, Chiloé and traditional Cueca dances among others. A professional performance with a lot of talented dancers, no doubt, but the real question is how much of that is original dancing and how much is made up to make it a show? And I don’t get how the dancers can keep up their fixed smiling for so long… it must really be hurting to smile like that after 5 minutes. As soon as the show was over we met outside of the restaurant and got onto the bus back to our hotels again.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities skiing shows Comments (0)

Viña del Mar and Valparaíso

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The reception desk had phoned up to my room in the middle of the night (!) to inform that my pick-up for today’s tour to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso was delayed by 15 minutes, so new time for pick-up was 8.45am. I woke up in time for breakfast and then waited by the reception desk. I waited and waited and even the academic quarter passed and finally at 9.10am the guide Samuel (“Sam”) showed up. I embarked the bus and the bus drove to a meeting point where even more people from other hotels embarked. The full sized bus was more than half full of people participating in this tour when we started the 1 hour and 30 minute drive to Viña del Mar. Sam, the guide, translated everything he said into 3 languages; Spanish, Portuguese and English. I honestly don’t know if I would be able to keep track of three different languages if I would be a guide. But Sam was great at it and also very fast changing between the languages so you really had to be focused and alert so you didn’t missed anything he said in your language.

The bus drove west onto Route 68 and passed two long tunnels through the Chilean Coastal Mountain Range. According to Sam 90% of Chile’s total land area consists of mountains and about 80 active volcanoes. Every 30 years Chile is affected by very strong earthquakes and Sam made a joke that today was exactly 30 years ago since the last big earthquake. Sam also spoke warmly about Chile having the biggest natural reserves of copper and constitute totally 40% of the copper in the entire world. According to Sam the copper mining also constitute up to 50% of Chiles entire economy. And may I surprise you by telling that Chile is considered the second largest exporting country of Kiwis in the world? At least according to Sam. The climate makes it optimal for viticulture and great production of wine. Viña del Mar and Valparaíso I situated in Casablanca Valley known for its white wine, especially Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Despite that Sam claimed the Chileans drinks more beer than wine.

The first stop for today was Viña del Mar, a city founded in 1874 and due to its geographical location by the ocean it was often plundered by pirates. Viña del Mar is a coastal city and municipality in central Chile, in the beginning situated north of the neighborhood city Valparaíso but nowadays the two cities have grown together and Viña del Mar is now included in the Valparaíso Metropolitan Region called Greater Valparaíso (Gran Valparaíso).


Viña del Mar, often called only Viña, means “the oceans vineyard” since the city is always surrounded by the ocean and the wine. The city also goes by the name “the Garden City” due to all the green areas and big green parks. As Chiles 4th biggest city, Viña del Mar offers El Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar (a very popular music festival), a casino, some of the longest sand beaches in the country and the famous bell made out of flowers “Viña Cuidad Bella”. The bus made a stop at Quinta Vergara Park, where you can see the palace Palacio Vergara where the city founder once lived. The palace was badly damaged in the last big earthquake and is now closed for visitors. In the same park you can also visit the Anfiteatro Quinta Vergara with its big stage where world famous artists like Roxette, Robbie Williams and A-Teens have performed.


After a while we gathered onboard the bus again and went to the second stop - the Flower Bell (Viña Cuidad Bella). The traditional story about the bell says if you photograph together with the Flower Bell you will revisit the Bell at least once more in your life. Sam, as the funny man he was, joked and said he had been in so many photograph with the bell and that’s why he keeps coming back time after time (and not because of his profession as a guide). Then it was finally time for lunch. We were driven to an Italian restaurant (don’t remember the name) where the tour company had a special menu for us guests to choose from. I ordered salad as starter, Spaghetti Bolognese as main dish and ice cream for dessert. And together with a drink it cost only 12000 CLP (12 Euros). Tip not included.


Then it was time to start heading for Valparaíso, a city built on top of 45 hills according to Sam. The city is one of Chile's most important harbor cities and even though Valparaíso technically counts as Chile’s 6th biggest city, Greater Valparaíso counts as the second biggest city in Chile. Thanks to its geographical location the city had a very significant role during the late 19th Century since ships could make stopovers here during their cruise between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by passing through the Magellan Strait. The city was also a big attraction for European immigrants and was called “Little San Francisco” and “the Jewel of the Pacific” during its blooming days. But when the Panama Canal opened the ship traffic abandoned Valparaíso and ceased the economy totally for the inhabitants. The wealthy families fled the city, but the city has since regained its status and tourists starts to find their way back to explore the narrow cobblestoned alleys and the colorful houses. During 2003 Valparaíso was declared as World Heritage by UNESCO and then got the name “Chile’s Cultural Capital”.

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But I guess everyone thinks about the colorful houses when they hear the name Valparaíso. The bus drove by lively colorful parts of the city and the narrow road meandered itself uphill on one of all hills the city is built on.

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One thing that caught my attention was all the doodles or graffiti if you like. Though many paintings were very well made and obviously had a message behind. As a true artist I took a lot of photos of just the graffiti since they got me thinking about all the different statements they were telling.

Pictures taken in Valparaíso often portray the clean and colorful houses which build up an impression of a clean and colorful city in general. But behind the most pleasant and well-photographed houses is a dirty filthy city hidden with abandoned broken-downed houses, street dogs running around and polluted air blowing in over the city from the harbor. I got very disappointed since I had painted up huge expectations of Valparaíso as a city but discovered a totally different reality behind the beautiful portraying pictures. When the bus reached the top of one hill we disembarked and walked for a while to one of Valparaíso’s many funicular railways. In the beginning a total of 30 funicular railways were built all over the city but during the years most of them have been taken out of service or destroyed so only 10 remains which only 5 are still operating today.


In Valparaíso we got one hour to wander around on our own. We had agreed to a meeting point at Sotomayor Plaza where a shopping mall was situated where you could buy souvenirs and food. Just outside the mall was a small marketplace and about 30 meters away from the harbor. A huge American aircraft carrier had just arrived in the harbor and was obviously the big subject in the city. I went to see aircraft carrier for myself and it was huge I can tell you. They do not only look huge in movies… they are huge in real life as well. I’m sorry to say but it wasn’t a pleasure to walk around downtown in Valparaíso since the air was so polluted and smelled bad from all the carriers and ships in the harbor. You really got a headache.


So with an ease sigh you embarked the bus again and started the return trip back to Santiago. I arrived at the hotel in Santiago at 7pm in the evening.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities traveling Comments (0)

Back to Santiago

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I woke up to the bird-warbling outside and the last day here on Easter Island and even though the island has a troubled and violent history I felt sad to leave such nowadays calm and peaceful island. And when I’m thinking about it, the islanders were living a pretty calm and harmonic life and I never saw a clock anywhere on the island, neither in the hotel, restaurant or at the church tower. And the Rapa nui people were speaking great English which is, in a way, a condition if they want to continue living on tourism as they do today. The locals get around on the island by car, moped, motorcycle and bicycle or on horse. I think I reacted most to the horses. Not that it suddenly could appear a man on a horse on the street… no, but the fact that they just “parked” their horses like a bicycle outside the school or store (and the horses actually just stood there without being tied up) or on a lawn so they could graze. I was really fascinated by this. And the horses didn’t run away, they just stood there… During my staying here on Easter Island I managed to find the batteries to my portable baggage scale again (thank God) and after breakfast I weight in my baggage to 22,7 kg and my backpack at 7 kg. Check-out from the hotel was no later than 10am but since my flight did departure at 2.10 pm I had some hours left before my transfer pick-up.

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I left my baggage at the hotel reception and took the opportunity to go down to the moai along the coastline and re-photograph them with the sun shining in front of them. It was warm outside (especially in lee) but the wind was actually chilly and when I was walking around taking pictures a native Rapa nui approached me and wanted to chat and shake hands. This wasn’t the first time during my stay that had happened and they obviously were curious about where I came from since that was the first question they asked me (after asking about my name). Maybe they don’t have too many ginger-tourists visiting the island? Because pale faces were seen all over Easter Island even at this time of year, which by the way counts as low season, so it must have been something else that made them curious about me.

At 11.50am was the pick-up outside my hotel to the airport and I was happy to see Emily on the same transfer bus. We had the opportunity to chat a little before we kept on going on our continuously travelling in opposite directions. Emily was obviously stressed and she had just found out her flight from Santiago to Miami had been advanced and she was nervous she wouldn’t make the change of flight in Santiago. But since it was LAN Airlines operating both flights I told her to check in the baggage all the way to Miami, so she didn’t have to worry about re-check her bags in Santiago. When we arrived at the airport (as I mentioned earlier is very small) we had to x-ray our bags and then stand in line to check in. I had already a pre-booked window seat as I wanted. When I checked in my bag I did noticed they didn’t have a belt but wagons behind the desk where they put the baggage. Another sign that indicates how small this airport was (is). Then I had to wait in the departure area (that didn’t have any beverage or snacks for purchase) before they opened up the security check. Not until we got to “the gate” they had a little snack bar, where I bought a hot sandwich and water.

Boarding started at 1.25pm and almost every seat was full when the flight attendant announced “Boarding completed”. A few minutes later they announced that the staff would walk the isles and spray some kind of insecticide… and they stated that it was NOT harmful in any way. Then I felt like… WTF?!? First I felt like some kind of vermin being sprayed and then I got upset about how they dared to claim that the insecticide was NOT dangerous? Sure I understand the reason to why they did it… but it can’t be good for your health no matter what they say. And that spray was now suppose to circulate around in the airplane for 4 hours and 40 minutes and we all had to breathe that in? SIGH!
Then the airplane taxed out and got into position out on the runway for take-off. As I wrote before, the runway for take-off and landing on Easter Island is just as long as the island is wide, so the pilots cannot afford any mistakes otherwise they will have the plane ending up in the ocean. But the take-off went as planned and I managed to get a couple of nice photos of the island just after take-off.


Now only 4 hours and 40 minutes back to Santiago. During that time we got served with food (chicken with rice and apple cake as dessert) and I must say that time flew by and the plane landed at Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport about 9.40pm local time (there’s a 2 hour time difference between Easter Island and Santiago). If my travel agency had been smart enough they would have booked a hotel room for me at the airport. BUT for some reason they had booked a room at a hotel in Downtown Santiago… so I had to find my transfer and get to the hotel. Now afterwards I have e-mailed my travel agency and told them that it was very inconvenient though. So I checked in just after 10pm at Hotel Panamericano, nicest hotel so far during my trip but totally unnecessarily since now I had a transfer back to the airport at 5.25am. I wouldn’t even be able to have breakfast at the hotel so I had to order a breakfast-bag instead.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities traveling easter_island Comments (0)

Allt for this time...

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Spoiled myself with another sleep-in this very last day in San Pedro and moreover Chile. I was a little sad to leave yet nice to get back home again. Ate breakfast at 8am and later went back to my room to pack everything down in my bags and since I had found my portable baggage scale again I could weigh-in my baggage to be sure to avoid going over the maximum weight limit. Check-out from the hotel was at 11am and I paid for the massage with all the Chilean pesos I had left and the rest with my credit card. It’s always nice to get rid of cash in currency that you can’t use back home. My transfer back to Calama and El Loa Airport was scheduled at 11.30am and a young Chilean man showed up to pick me up. I don’t remember his name but he was very nice and spoke well English. He had been working in New Zeeland for a year and therefore spoke well English. Chilean citizens can file for working visas in countries like New Zeeland, Canada, Germany and Denmark (if I remember correct). When I told him I would love to visit New Zeeland one day he recommended places for me to visit. Unfortunately I don’t remember everything he told me so I should have written that down – that’s me in a nutshell :P

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About an hour later I was back at El Loa Airport in Calama. I checked in my baggage all the way to Madrid (via Santiago) since it was the same flight company (LAN Airlines) and it’s always nice not to care about the baggage. My flight took off at 2.30pm and the weather was as nice and clear as when I arrived a few days earlier. You could see the desert extend underneath and when we started to approach Santiago you could clearly see the smog started to appear and stood out as a dark foggy shadow. Had I really been breathing that air for a week!? After descending through all smog and clouds the airplane landed at a rainy and gloomy Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport at 4.35pm. Even though I didn’t have to claim my baggage I still had to “re-check” myself so to speak and leave my tourist card at the border-control police booth and get a stamp in my passport that I was leaving the country. The line to the passport control was not long but shortly after about 200 people came, so I was lucky to get there in time. The flight from Santiago to Madrid would departure at 6.55pm so now I had plenty of time to buy something to eat, and shopping at Tax-free. I found a box of perfume with 5 small bottles by Calvin Klein… and yes, as a big fan of Calvin Klein I just had to buy it ;) When I sat down at the gate waiting for boarding to start I noticed it was going to be a big Dream Liner Airplane. Nice :) As I like that model. Big and spacey even for economy class. I had managed to get an aisle seat right behind business class so I had extra room for my legs. Great! So now I was looking forward to roughly 12 hours and 40 minutes in the air before landing at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities traveling atacama_desert Comments (0)

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