Non-stop sneezing, sore throat, watery eyes, are some of the symptoms we suffered after walking into a main square area in Santiago. Riot police were on all corners and there were a number of tanks with water canons. Professors were demonstrating for higher wages and before we arrived police used tear gas to disperse some of the crowd. It was our first experience with tear gas and at first I didn’t understand what was causing the symptoms. This aside, Santiago is actually quite a nice city. It is one of the most developed and easily the safest city in South America. It has wide boulevards, a number or nice parks, including a massive one, Parque Metropolitano, that encompasses an entire hill with nice views of the city from the top, at least when it isn’t hazy. In a lot of ways it feels like home. The city can come across as a little plain on arrival as the city edges are full of big box stores and malls. When you look around a bit you can discover some really great areas, such as around Barrio Bellavista, a bohemian area full of life and an impressive selection of restaurants. We had a great dinner there last night. The little tour we took from Peru to Chile has now officially ended and the friends we made will be heading off on their own adventures now. We wish them well in their future travels.
Yesterday we went to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. They are two very different side-by-side cities on the coast. Not bad places, but we were expecting them to be a little quainter so it was a bit of a let down. The day before we did a private city tour that concluded with a visit to a local vineyard. The owner took us around and was very frank with his opinions and methods and everyone in the group agreed it was the best winery visit any of us has had. It was very educational.
Before arriving in Santiago we had a tour of the Valley of the Moon in Sand Pedro de Atacama. There are some beautiful landscapes there and we had a good little hike up a dune to watch the sunset. Today we are relaxing in Santiago and I have been attempting to buy Olympic tickets while writing this, but have had no luck. Tomorrow we fly to Easter Island. We don’t expect to have wi-fi where we are staying so we may not be providing updates until we are back.
We have posted some photos from the past few days already and will post those from Easter Island here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=100440&id=673382190&l=badd514835