Just a quick update here, J and I have spent almost 2 full days in Santiago, Chile (after a full layover day in Atlanta). It´s great here so far, even without much timezone jet lag, still took a day to get caught up on sleep. So we ended up sleeping in until 9:30 this morning, and though I was cursing myself for wasting part of the day, everything happens at night anyway, so we´ve gotten used to dinner at 9pm.
We´ve been enjoying our stay at Hostal Romandia, and have been walking around the city and taking the Metro to various places. Although I have the usual paranoia about walking around with a passport and more cash than I would like, we´ve been feeling pretty safe. Much better than Lima. It´s been a high of 29 deg C and blazing sun all day: Santiago has the heat, flavor, and smell that seems common to Latin American cities, for better or for worse. It´s cursed with the common post-industrial smoggy haze, but the smog hasn´t been irritating our lungs or anything.
At the North of the city are Cerro San Cristobal and Cerro Santa Lucia, two green and prominent hills that protrude above the city. A statue of la Virgen presides over San Cristobal. I immediately made plans to run up Cerro San Cristobal, as it couldn´t have been more than an hour run from our hostel, but J said she wanted to head up as well, so we hiked up this afternoon and enjoyed the view. We also hiked up the shorter Cerro Santa Lucia this morning, which has some beautiful sculptures and piscinas.
Jessica realized a life goal today (shoot for the stars!) as we visited the Concha y Toro winery, famous for $4-5 passable wines in the U.S. (actually, I still quite like them), but they have a long 127-year history and some fantastic reserve wines and others less likely to be found in the U.S. They also experiment more with mixing grapes from different regions of Chile. We hadn´t made reservations, which are highly recommended, but just showed up after an hour and a half of walking, metros, and buses, but we were able to join a Spanish-language tour. This one seemed more enjoyable and intimate, with maybe 9 or 10 of us total, compared to 25-30 folks in the full English-speaking tour, including a sizeable contingent of TCU fans. TCU stands for Texas Christian (redundant) University (oxymoron), and recently beat my alma mater in the Rose Bowl. No sour grapes or anything. Seriously, though, our relaxed tour filled with Chilenos was quite relaxed and interesting, and hopefully we understood half of what was said.
Otherwise, we´ve had simple breakfasts in the hostel, and makeshift lunches and snacks during the day, followed by delicious dinners, where we´ve been mixing ceviche and other Chilean seafood, along with pizza (always better outside of the U.S.), ample wine, and cheap South American beer by the liter(!) for $3. So far, I´m recommending Brahma over Escudo.
Above us, in the clear night sky, are gorgeously foreign Southern hemisphere constellations. Since my only other chance was a week´s worth of nighttime clouds in Peru, I have finally seen the Southern Cross.
To the East (not my usual direction) lay the Andes mountains. What a gorgeous site, as this mountain range has captured my imagination for as long as I can remember. I just seemed to have read more about the Andes than the Himalayas, and it is the namesake of one of my favourite candies (sorry, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory).
And those mountains are calling us, away from the city, as the plans are to drive up the Cajon del Maipo tomorrow, up into the high country.