Santiago is the capital of Chile, the country that forms the narrow western backbone to the Andes Mountains stretching 4,300 km from the fjords and glaciers of the south, through the fertile valleys of the heartland to the mineral-rich Atacama Desert bordering Peru and Bolivia in the north. Although the country barely averages 160km in width, it still encompasses an incredible diversity of volcanoes, lakes, beaches and ice fields, forest and desert. You can ski in the mountains in the morning, go home to Santiago for lunch and then off to the beach on the coast in the afternoon.
Chile, with a population of just over 17 million, was under the martial dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990. During that time, 3,000 people were killed and 200,000 went into exile. The dictatorship shaped much of modern Chile’s political, educational and economic life. But since the overthrow of the regime, the country certainly has advanced forward.
Chile has a free trade agreement with over 120 countries. This has enabled China to use Chile as an entry point to the rest of South America for significant trade initiatives, thus creating added income for Chile. The country has NO national debt. Because of this, Chile has been able to grow at a rapid pace. (The recent Labour Government of Australia could learn a lot from Chile about having no national debt). All motor vehicles are imported from countries all over the world. What does Chile have of benefit to other countries for that free trade agreement to exist? The arid Atacama Desert in northern Chile contains great mineral wealth, principally copper and lithium (used in the production of batteries in phones and cameras). The relatively small central area dominates in terms of population and agricultural resources, and is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century when it incorporated its northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands, and features a string of volcanoes and lakes.
It’s interesting that very few Chileans seek to migrate to other South American countries but many migrate from them to Chile. The highest intake of migrants into Chile come from Spain. That’s how attractive Chile is to its forefathers today. The universities in Chile and particularly Santiago, are of a very high standard and sort after.
We enjoyed breakfast prior to our day tour’s departure at 9:30am. Jose has a wealth of knowledge which he passed on to us during his commentary while touring this busy city in the coach. There are many parklands and wide boulevards making the city attractive even though very busy. High rise buildings are around but not to the extent of many cities of the world. The main reason for the low number of centralised sky scrapers is that Chile is affected by seismic movement on a regular basis. Despite this, the architecture is very modern, and with many of the ‘fallen’ buildings being rebuilt with extra importance placed on the expected regular ‘earthly movements’. Recently, there was an earthquake measuring over 8.0. Only a very small amount of damage was sustained.
At a public convention centre, we had a comfort stop and were held up by a protest against the road tolls being charged to motorists using the expressways of the city. The system used is copied from the one initiated in Melbourne when Melbourne’s City Link was created. Our route from the airport to our hotel took us on the expressway, 8 km of which was in a tunnel with 4 lanes in each direction (eat your heart out, Melbourne’s east-west link protestors).
Noticed at the convention centre, was a sculpture located just outside glass doors. Some of our group noticed the sculpture and deemed that photos had to be taken. It was noticed that the sculpture was of a couple enjoying the finer moments in life and ALL the photographers were ladies, mmmm!!!! (I wonder where they will share their photos and with whom?)
We walked through the town’s maze of plazas before being treated to morning tea at a lovely restaurant in the middle class part of town. Cappuccino became Italian coffee, black coffee became known as American coffee, and tea became know as English coffee.
From there, we were taken to a hill nearby the city for an expansive view of the city and the snow capped Andes Mountains in the background. This hill is where the population use as their exercise location.
Our afternoon was free and many took advantage of this time to either just sit, look around the local shops, sleep or sun bake beside the pool. (No need to tell you who sun baked beside the pool.) I must have picked up a bug and so stayed in the room for the late afternoon, changing seats. LOL.
We are aware that many of the regular blog followers, look for our Seniors Moments section. That will not change, but I have to say, the first was on me.
During the city tour, I had been typing notes into my iPad for use in this post. Right near the end of the tour, I touched an icon that I thought would get me to a particular line quickly but all it did was wipe all the data and file and so my memory and ‘good old wikipedia’, has been the main source of information today (I’m writing at 3:00am)
There have been many reports of handbags and cameras being ‘left behind’ and someone left an expensive headset on the aircraft while taking a break at Auckland Airport only to find that the aircraft was well and truly cleaned for the next segment to Santiago. Hence, they will have to revert to the cheaper alternative of airline sets for the rest of the trip.
Some took a sip on a straw only to find that it was just a stirrer.