I am just beginning a one month journey to some fabulous places in Southern Chile and Argentina and wanted to introduce you all to my 12 co-travelers, who will be with me from between 16-28 days, starting with Rapa Nui (Easter Island) with my good friend Jack, joined by Pat, Judy S. and Larry, Angela and Julie, Jeanne and Bill, Rich and Geri, Judy H and Ginny in Buenos Aires, and finishing with 6 of us, Julie, Angela, Ginny, Rich, Geri and Jack, in the Atacama Desert of Chile I have known some of these good friends since childhood (Pat and Judy), college (Judy H and Ginny), early Berkeley (Jack) and the rest for many years and all have traveled with me previously. This is the third time we have rescheduled this trip due to COVID and now it is finally really happening!
Jack and I entered Chile this morning, arriving on a Latam flight from LAX, and following a one-hour immigration line, found ourselves fighting severe jet lag and lack of sleep in Santiago. My immediate impression is a crowded, very urban city, with some very pleasant green spaces and parks near our hotel but everywhere, and I mean almost every building, covered with large graffiti. There are very attractive older traditional buildings, in the grand 19th century European style, in the area but many look deserted or uncared for. I am not sure how those that are graffiti free have managed to keep their walls clean, perhaps some of the large public building are known to invite serious reparations if disfigured. Santiago does have well organized cross walks for pedestrians with vehicles following rules and with crossing signs which are working and being obeyed. Quite a relief from other cities!
We walked up Santa Lucia Hill where many people were enjoying Saturday morning and then walked around the area, looking for an ATM machine as every bank we passed was closed on this weekend day. We finally found an ATM down in the subway where a clerk is there watching at all times. Maybe it is too dangerous to have unguarded sidwalk ATM machines in this country.
I noticed on the plane that many of the people returning to Chile were oversized, from my young and beautiful seatmate to a business man I met who was returning after a conference in Napa Valley. This observation was solidified by noticing the people strolling along the streets this beautiful day. We understood why this may be so when Jack and I stopped at a Helanderia (ice cream shop) and ordered two scoops in a cup and received the largest portion I have ever been given — it must have been at least. 1/2 pint of gelato. Vegans are obviously not that unusual here as in addition to the signs in the Helanderia offering “vegan alternatives”, we see restaurant signs offering dishes for “veganos”, a good portant for me for the coming weeks.
We go for dinner now at an upscale hotel restaurant and then try to get some sleep before we are picked up e 6:30 AM to go to the airport for our fllght into the ancient old culture of Rapa Nui. Follow along with me as we explore and enjoy!