First and foremost:
Happy Birthday Jen!
I hope all went well in Whitianga.
San Cristobal gave us a beautiful 360 degree view of Santiago. Such an enormous sprawling city with a beautiful backdrop of the Andes (snowless unfortunately but incredible nonetheless) and the cordilla del costo (coastal mountains). I have photos but have forgotten to bring the camera to the internet cafe so I will have to put them up later.
We are in Valparaiso now. Have been here for a few days. the drive here, through Casa Blanca, was nice. People are maniacs on the road though! We actually saw an horrific crash involving 4 or 5 cars and a bus. One of the cars was completely anihilated and there were a lot of police and ambulances and a helicopter. A few people on stretchers.
The speed limit is 120 and not many people drive under that. And the use of indicators is rare. Berni did a marvellous job though and we arrived safely.
When we got into the city ther was a truck on it´s side (it took a corner too sharply) but no one seemed too worried about that. There was no one there.
Our apartment is on the 12th floor of a building. The only building of that size in the area. All the other houses are 2 storeys if that. It´s a beautiful street though. Our apartment (well, the hallway) looks straight out over the harbour and the living room looks out over the hills of Valparaiso. You really couldn´t have a better view. There have been a lot of photos of it!
However, when we first got here the wind was as strong as it is in Wellington and the whole apartment was whistling and very unnerving. I had a bit of a moment thinking the whole thing was going to collapse. But later that afternoon it calmed down a bit and the landlord, Alejandro, said he would fix the whistling in the morning. It hasn´t been that bad since.
¡Feliz Año! I hope everyone enjoyed themselves wherever they were. i would love to hear some stories if you get a chance.
The fireworks display here was indescribable. I originally thought it was one barge in the harbour letting off fireworks but the day we got here there was an article in the newspaper showing 12 points around the coast where they would be based. 12 points stretching for miles! So from the apartment hallway we had the most spectacular view of all 12 dispays all in sync. It was just amazing. The show went for about 25 minutes and at the end all the Chileans shouted "Chi-chi-chi, le-le-le, VIVA CHILE!". Not quite Auld Lang Syne but close enough. I did pull out Auld Lang Syne but only Greg joined in.
Our apartment also showed us the crowds gathering at the plaza just down the hill. Massive amounts of people spilling out onto all the surrounding streets.
Afterwards we had dinner (following whanau tradition we haven´t eaten before midnight since we got to Chile). We sampled some local fish, reneta, and made sushi. It was a lovely feast. Then some of us went to a house party down the road. Quite expensive (12,000 pesos) to get in but good. There was an open bar but by the time we got there it was more of an empty bar with a few bottles of pisco and rum and some flat coke which was open to the point of self service. So we grabbed a bottle of pisco and a pitiful amount of coke and went downstairs.
One guy was a bit strange and followed Tim, Courts and I around for a bit, then grabbed Tim´s drink out of his had, poured most of it down his top and then started scowling "This is my country". There was no fight thank god.
The next day, yesterday, we went around to Viña del Mar and Reñaca. Berni and Graeme had to leave that day so we just went on a bit of a tiki tour and had some lunch at a little cafe in Reñaca. The Chileans do know how to make a good sandwich. It was a bit cold round there because the coast had been covered with low cloud so we didn´t stay too long. Greg, Marty and I got the metro from Viña to the plaza and back home via asensore. The asensores are cool. They feel a little dodgy but I´m sure they are quite safe. Very similar to the Cable Car in Welly but it´s just a little box instead of and actual car thing. And the hill is bloody steep.
Marty starts uni today and Greg and I may go and do touristy stuff. We haven´t been to Pablo Neruda´s house yet and there is a big church somewhere built in 1559 which I´d like to see. I bought a copy of El Mercurio de Valparaiso today - the oldest Spanish written newspaper still in circulation starting in 1827. And I found out that there was a volcanic eruption in Araucania, a few hours south of here, last night. We are heading to Araucania in a few days. I´m sure I felt an earthyquake last night but I seem to be the only one.
Ok, I think we´re off. Have been here for a while now.