Wednesday, July 30th 2003 – Day 162 to Thursday, July 31st 2003 – Day 163

Wednesday, July 30th 2003 – Day 162

I was up at 9.00am but took things slowly. I had bags to pack and wanted a long, long shower. I watched – The Mexican – which Brad Pitt on TV. Not much good. I did not leave until 10.30am and had a chat with the guy in reception who had excellent English. I got my usual unhealthy breakfast with black coffee and completos X 2.

I decided today would be my museum day and I get out to visit three of the best in town.

First I went to the Plaza de Armas and visited two free attractions. They were the Catedral Metropolitana and the Post Office – Correo Central and Museo Postal. I had been in the Cathedral before and I must say it the most impressive one I have been both in design and size. It is very impressive. The post office was not. I spend only five minutes there.

Correo Central and Museo Postal – The pink, Renaissance-style Central Post Office was built in 1882 on the remains of what was once the colonial Governor’s Palace and the post-independence Presidential Palace. After the building succumbed to fire in 1881, workers rebuilt, incorporating several of the old building’s walls. In 1908, architect Ram?n Feherman added a third floor and a gorgeous, metal-framed glass cupola. On the second floor, you’ll find a small museum whose main interest is its stamp collection.

After that I posed for a carricature which I will post in the Road Portraits section soon. It took about 20 minutes to pose. The result was good. I liked it. it cost 3000 CP.

I then went to the Palacio de la Real Audiencia/Museo Hist?rico Nacional. The cost was 600 CP.

Palacio de la Real was built between 1804 and 1807 by a student of the architect Toesca who followed his preference for neoclassical design. The building has undergone several transformations, but the facade is still intact. The Palacio functioned for 2 years as a Supreme Court under Spanish rule, and then became the site of the first Chilean congressional session following independence. Today, the Palacio holds the fascinating National History Museum, which displays more than 70,000 items from the colonial period, including antiques, clothing, suits of armor, weapons, home appliances, industrial gadgets, flags, you name it. There is also a collection of money and medallions, including tokens used at salt mines, and an interpretive timeline and photo montage of Chilean history.

It was good but very big. Most interest for me was the section on Bernardo o Higgins.

I walked about 10 minutes to the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino.

Heading back on Merced and past the plaza to Bandera, you’ll find the excellent Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, housed in the old Royal Customs House that was built in neoclassical design in 1807. This is one of the better museums in Chile, both for its collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and its inviting design. There are more than 1,500 objects on display here, including textiles, metals, paintings, figurines, and ceramics spread through seven exhibition rooms. It’s not a stuffy old museum, but a vivid exhibition of indigenous life and culture before the arrival of the Spanish. The material spans from Mexico to Chile, incorporating all regions of Latin America divided into four areas: Mesoam?©rica, Intermedia, Andina, and Surandina. Each display is attractively mounted and infinitely absorbing. Downstairs there’s a patio cafe and a well-stocked bookstore that also sells music, videos, and reproductions of Indian art, textiles, and jewelry.

I thought I would be sick of museums but this wa good (cost was 2000 CP) as it did not mention the Incas put focused on the pre-colombian races and tribes of all south America. this was good as I had not thought of or focused on the history in Mexico, central America etc like the Astecs etc. i enjoyed it.

Next I went to Iglesia, Convento y Museo de San Francisco. I had been to the church before but not the museum. t was 1000 Cp in.

The Church of San Francisco is the oldest standing building in Santiago, and although this landmark has been renovated over the years, the main structure has miraculously survived three devastating earthquakes. At the altar sits the famous Virgen del Socorro, the first Virgin Mary icon in Chile, brought here to Santiago by Pedro de Valdivia. The highlights, however, are the museum and the convent, the latter with its idyllic patio planted with flora brought from destinations as near as the south of Chile and as far away as the Canary Islands. The garden is so serene, you’ll find it hard to believe you’re in downtown Santiago. The museum boasts 54 paintings depicting the life and death of San Francisco, one of the largest and best-conserved displays of 17th-century art in South America.

Nice museum but I had seen many of the paintings before as they were all painted in cusco. I had see many of them in the Franciscon museums in Cusco and Cuenca.

It was nearly time to go and I got the metro back to the hotel. I had a quick bite to eat and took the metro back into town with my bags as tur Bus have buses from the city centre to the airport every 15 minutes for 1200 CP.

I got to the airport by 8.30pm. It was early but I like to check in early. There was a a row of people already and I checked in with no problem althought I had to take a centre seat. The flight was FULLy booked and I went through customs. At 10.30pm it was announced that there was a problem with the plane and it would not leave until 1.30am (meant to fly at 11.15). Anyway at 12.00 it was announced the problem was fixed. We got going at 12.20am. I listended to my MP3 player during the wait.

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Santiago – Chile – Moument to the Military (30-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Palacio de la Moneda, i went back to the Government Palace as I had not been to the interir patio. it is free but there is a very thorough search of bags and person on the way in.

Joaqu?n Toesca, the Italian architect responsible for setting the neoclassical tone of civic buildings in Santiago, directed the design of the Palace until his death in 1799. From 1846 to 1958 it was the official presidential residence, and continued as presidential headquarters until the infamous coup d’etat on September 11, 1973, when Pinochet’s troops shelled and bombed the building until ex-President Allende surrendered by suicide. The military has since patched up the damage they inflicted.


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Santiago – Chile – National museum (30-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (30-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Francisco Church and Museum (30-07-2003)

Thursday, July 31st 2003 – Day 163

The flight was OK. It was cramped (BA have much more space). it was a Lan Chile flight and I found it hard to get comfotable. Teh food was good and we got real forks and knives. The best thing about the flight was the new entertinment controls. You have a screen in front of you (in the back of the seat in front of you). it is a touch screen sensitive. You also had a remote control with lead taken from tye arm rest.

Basically you have the choice of about 7 movies from The Hunted, How to lose a guy in 10 days, Shangai knights, Two Weeks Notice, Discovery Channel and a few more. Waht was so cool was that you decided when to view the movie. In the old days you had no choice. you watched what everyone else watched. With this you pressed start when you wanted. better still, you would forward, rewind and pause the movie if you wanted.

Other features included fullv ersions of recent albums from Coldplay and U2. Again you have about 15 albums and you could forward or rewind to certain songs.

better still were interactive games like Chess, checkers, card games etc. You could play against the computer or have 2 player games with your travelling companions. i had 2 games of chess versus the computer. The remote was like a games controller.

This is great technology. it must use a TVO like hard drive. It was cool to pause your movie while you got dinner. Everybody in the plane was watching, listening or playing different items from the system. this will only get better.

We touched down at 5.25am. I got no sleep during the 13 hour flight. We crossed the International time Line. it was now the 1st of August.

Tuesday, July 29th 2003 – Day 161

Tuesday, July 29th 2003 – Day 161

I got up at 9.00am and had a shower. Its hard to leave the bed. The weather here is great during the day (21 oc during the day today) but comes close to ZERO around 9.00pm. It is also very cold during the morning. I am glad I picked a nice hotel for my last three nights in South America. I took breakfast in the same place as yesterday.

I decided to go to Parque Metropolitano . Its where the green space is in the city and whee the highest point overlooking the city is. The extensive views that come with an ascent to the top of Cerro San Crist?bal in the Park can be ruined if it is a particularly smoggy day. Its here here at the moment so every day is smoggy. Even so, the park offered a breathtaking panorama of sprawling Santiago and its city limits that stop just short of the craggy Andes.

“The Parque Metropolitano is a 730-hectare (1,803-acre) park and recreation area with swimming pools, walking trails, a botanical garden, a zoo, picnic grounds, restaurants, and children’s play areas. It’s the lungs of Santiago, and city dwellers use the hill’s roads and trails for jogging, biking, or just taking a stroll. The park is divided into two sectors, Cumbre and Tupahue, both of which are accessed by car, cable car, funicular, or foot”.

I took the metro close to Calle Pino Nono and it took 15 minutes walk to Plaza Caupolic?n, where you’ll encounter a 1925 funicular that lifts visitors up to a lookout point. The ticket cost 1200 Cp. Along the way, the funicular stops at the City Zoo. The cable car continues to the lookout point which is watched over by a 22m (72-ft.) high statue of the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepcion, which can be seen from all over the city. I spent about 30 minutes up here.

Below the statue is the teleferico (cable car) that connects the two sections of the park. Tickets The two part ticket cost 1,000 CP. The gondola offers great views while suspended high above the park before arriving at Tupahue, which is the Mapuche name for this hill, meaning “place of God.” Here you’ll find the Piscina Tupahue, an attractive, rock-lined swimming pool (no phone). I spent 30 minutes here.

From Tupahue you can either head back on the gondola to Cumbre and the funicular, or take the Valdivia teleferico down, which will drop you off at the end of Avenida Pedro de Valdivia. From the bottom I walked back into town which took 35 minutes.

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Santiago – Chile – Parque Metropolitano / No smog (29-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Parque Metropolitano / A little smog (29-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Parque Metropolitano / It got very smoggy around 11.30 (29-07-2003)

Did not too much after 3.00pm. I decided to collect my laundry. The cost was 2500 CP (3.19 Euro) for a large bag. I was glad I got in done before New Zealand. I went back to the hotel with the bag and had lunch. I had moe completos.

Anyway I have not been able to download my camera photos to disk for nearly two weeks. I have had to delete recent photos (ones that did not meet the grade) to make room for new photoes for the past few days. I must have checked 50 places in “La Paz” for a NET cafe that had both XP and a CD-R. It was a frustratinga nd fruitless search. I found a place today near Calle Lourdes that had both. i spent 2 hours ont he NET and copied my pictures to disk for 1600 CP (2 Euro), which is a bargain. An hour on the Internet here costs between 400 CP (.57 Euro) and 700 CP (.90 Euro).

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Digital Santiago (29-07-2003)

Spent a little time at the shopping arcades around central station and had a nice dinner next store to the one I had eaten in for the last two nights. Well, I am off to New Zealand tomorrow night, Yeah!!

Watched Oz on TV. I also watched Richard E. Grant in – A Merry War. The story, which is semi-autobiographical of Eric Arthur Blair (known as George Orwell), follows the hero Gordon Comstock, who suddenly leaves the office “New Albion” an ad agency in order to be a poet and a free man.

Monday, July 28th 2003 – Day 160

Monday, July 28th 2003 – Day 160

I got up at 8.30am and had a shower. Decided to have breakfast in a nearby cafe. They have lots of 1950s type diners in this area (and every part of the city) where you sit at the counter and order burgers etc. They have a great hot dog type roll (called a completo) with tomato and mayo for between 200 CP and 400 CP. Usually the guys behind the counter wear black pants, white shirts and Dickie Bows. Its a great service and the places look great.

I have since found out that they are the single most popular food here and they are less than healthy. It is called a “el completo”. This is a traditional hot dog in a bun topped with dripping piles of mayonnaise, ketchup, guacamole and tomatoes. It is the Chilean equivalent to the American peanut butter and jelly or the Australian vegemite sandwich. More information of Chilean foods and eating habits here.

I walked the wrong way down Avenue O Higgins for about 20 minutes until I came to a Metro station which I knew was the wrong way. I got on the metro and headed back to the city centre. The price was 310 CP off peak and 400 during peak times. There are three lines and its a great service. The stations are spotless and trains are very few minutes. When I got in to town I got a city map and plan for the metro.

I decided to follow the “Walking Tour” recommended by the “Lonely Planet” South American (2002) handbook. It took me most of the day (from 10.00am to 4.00pm). I started at the famous Palacio de la Moneda, the Government Palace that was first built as headquarters of the Royal Mint (hence its name). It was just outside my first metro stop. The largest building erected by the Spanish government during the 18th century, the Palace was criticized for being too ostentatious, but today it’s considered one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in Latin America.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Palacio de la Moneda and changing of the guard (28-07-2003)

Joaquin Toesca, the Italian architect responsible for setting the neoclassical tone of civic buildings in Santiago, directed the design of the Palace until his death in 1799. From 1846 to 1958 it was the official presidential residence, and continued as presidential headquarters until the infamous coup on September 11, 1973, when Pinochet’s troops shelled and bombed the building until ex-President Allende surrendered by suicide. The military has since patched up the damage they inflicted.

I was lucky as the changing of the guard was in progress where hundreds of soldiers marched in step in front of the Palace, every other day at 10am. They wore waht looked like Nazi uniforms (especially with the helmets). I then visited Across Plaza Bernardo O’Higgins. His remains are buried under the monument dedicated to him in the center of the plaza. He was the Libertador de Chile and a red-haired Irish/Chilean. His Dad was equally famous. More information on Important Irish Americans can be found here.

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Santiago – Chile – Bernardo o Higgins Grave (28-07-2003)

Barrio Paris and Londres – This charming, singular neighborhood with its narrow cobblestone streets was built between the 1920s and ’30s on the old gardens of the Monastery of San Francisco. The neighborhood consists of small mansions, each with a different facade, that today house artists, students, and cultural centers. The neighborhood was designated a national monument in 1982, and its streets are now pedestrian walkways.

The Church of San Francisco is the oldest standing building in Santiago, and although this landmark has been renovated over the years, the main structure has miraculously survived three devastating earthquakes. At the altar sits the famous Virgen del Socorro, the first Virgin Mary icon in Chile, brought here to Santiago by Pedro de Valdivia. The museum boasts 54 paintings depicting the life and death of San Francisco, one of the largest and best-conserved displays of 17th-century art in South America.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – The Church of San Francisco (28-07-2003)

Cerro Santa Lucia is a hilltop park located steps from the Biblioteca Nacional on Alameda and Santa Lucia. The Mapuches called this rocky hill Hueln (Curse) until Pedro de Valdivia renamed it Santa Lucia in 1540. In 1872, the area was expanded to create walkways and small squares for the public’s entertainment, and now office workers, tourists, couples, schoolchildren, and solitary thinkers can be seen strolling along leafy terraces to the Caupolican Plaza for a sweeping view of Santiago.

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Santiago – Chile – Cerro Santa Lucia (28-07-2003)

Plaza de Armas – The plaza was founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1541 as the civic nucleus of the country, and its importance was such that all distances to other parts of Chile were, and still are, measured from here.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Catedral Metropolitana (28-07-2003)

The impressive plaza was surrounded by the Royal Court of Justice (now the Natural History Museum), the Governor’s Palace (now the Central Post Office), the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the grand residences of principal conquistadors, including Valdivia himself. In the mid-1800s, the plaza was fitted with gardens and trees, creating a promenade that became a social center for fashionable society.

Catedral Metropolitana and Museo de Arte Sagrado – The Metropolitan Cathedral occupies nearly an entire city block, and it is the fifth cathedral to have been erected at this site. The cathedral began construction in 1748 but was completed in 1780 by the Italian architect Joaqun Toesca, who gave the building its neoclassical-baroque facade. Toesca virtually launched his career with this cathedral, and he went on to design many important buildings in colonial Chile, including La Moneda and the Governor’s Palace. Tremendous doors made of cypress carved by Jesuits open into three interior naves with pews made of carved wood. The central nave holds the cathedral’s ornate alter, brought from Munich in 1912 and made of marble, bronze, and lapis lazuli. Just off the main body of the church is the cathedral’s religious museum, the Museo de Arte Sagrado, where you’ll find a collection of paintings, furniture, antique manuscripts, and silverwork handcrafted by Jesuits.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Palace of Justice (28-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Park Police (28-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – Mercado Central (28-07-2003)

I also visited the Mercado Central. This lively market sells fruits and vegetables, handicrafts, and rows and rows of slippery fish and shellfish displayed on chipped ice. The steel structure was fabricated in England and assembled here in 1868; it was originally intended as a gallery for national artists.

I was carrying my laundry all day in my day pack and finally found a place close to the “heros” metro station. It took me quite a while to find a place. It seems that there are only half a dozen places in the whole city who will take laundry by the kilo rather than individual items. I took the metro back to the hotel and went to the same restaurant as last night for a Lomo Pobre and a beer (4100 CP – 5.26 Euro). I had an early night. The cable TV had gone off line so I watched Chilean Big Brother and listened to one of my favourite bands and CDs at the moment. The band is “The Tossers” and the CD is called “Long Dim Road”. Just listen to the clip for “Ballard of N.A.T.O. ”

I have been recharging my batteries. I have three sets of four for my digital camera. They were very cheap in Peru (16 Soles for 4) so I am lucky to have them as the viewfinder in my Cannon A40 takes up alot of juice. I also have an additional two batteries for my MP3 Player. I have not been staying in places for the past two weeks that had any electrical outlets in the rooms. Very cheap places just have a bed. Thats it. Anyway my hair shaver and recharger did not work in Peru at all. Different voltages there.

Sunday, July 27th 2003 – Day 159

Sunday, July 27th 2003 – Day 159

I went to bed and stayed there ALL day long. It was the comfort, English movies on TV and the fact I spent the last three nights on buses with little to no sleep. You might drift off for a while but it is never true sleep as one bump on the road to an elbow from your traveling companion will take you. The hotel is the Hotel Alameda, Av. Bernardo O’Higgins 3117. It was 55 Us for three nights of hopeful bliss.

I had a nice shower (towels, great), cut my nails and generally cleaned myself up. I also shaved my head.


Sprawling outwards and sky-scrapering upwards, Chile’s capital, Santiago, is immense. Its central core, however, is manageable and relatively small – a roughly triangular area bounded by the Rio Mapocho on the north. It is a city of grand thoroughfares and plazas, lined with public buildings and churches and circled by parks. The grid town plan imposed by the Spanish, however, is conducive to traffic jams and pollution. The Virgin Mary guards the city from the peak of the 860m (2821ft) Cerro San Crist?bal, part of the Parque Metropolitano recreational area.

The city’s attractions include the colorful Mercado Central, the historical center of Plaza de Armas, the pedestrian mall of Paseo Ahumada (haunt of buskers and peddlers) and the late-colonial and block-filling Palacio de La Moneda – former mint, presidential residence and the site of Allende’s last stand. Santiago has plenty of museums, including the beautifully arranged Pre-Colombian Museum and the Museo de Santiago, which documents the city’s present sprawl with dioramas and reconstructions”

I watched Sweet November. Harry Potter, The Hound of the Baskervilles ,(David Attwood’s 2003 BBC adaptation) featuring Richard E. Grant and Facing the Enemy.

I went out to dinner at 6.30pm and went to a cafe close by for a big lomo pobre (beef, chips, onions, eggs) and a beer for 4100 CP. I browsed the shops around the central station and went on the NET for a while. Its hard to find a NET cafe around this part of the city. Found a nice article on Irish Music..

I also weighted myself. The first figures are from one month ago. It should be noted that I could lose a bit of weight as I am a Guinness drinker of many years. It is not a slim fast type drink 🙂

Saturday, June 28th, 2003 – Weight – 80.64 kg – 177.4 lb – 12.67 stone

Sunday, July 27th 2003 – Weight – 76.70 kg – 168.74 lb (US) – 12.1 stone

I have lost a little weight but I did shave my hair this morning 🙂

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile (27-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Santiago – Chile – (Palacio de la Moneda (27-07-2003)

Saturday, July 26th 2003 – Day 158

Saturday, July 26th 2003 – Day 158

It was a nice journey. I was lucky to get the last seat (number 41 beside the toilet). It was a Friday evening and a lot of people were traveling. I could put back (recline) my seat without effecting people. We got dinner and a drink from the tie wearing steward and I took a sleeping tablet which helped me to relax. They also gave us nice blankets to keep warm. It was long journey but I did not miss anything as there was nothing but desert outside.

The movies they showed were the worst ever. First, “Ernest in the Army” and then Ernest Goes to Africa . Who actually pays to go and see or rent these movies or worse, who makes them. These are silly, unfunny and play to stereotypes. Jim Varney the actor who can only make silly faces died in 2000. Seems he suffered from depression and dreamed of becoming a great dramatic actor. He was only 50. He made NINE “Ernest” films.

They then showed a worse film called “the Presidents Man” starring Chuck Norris and his son. It was made for TV.

Anyway, It was a nice ride. We got breakfast in the morning and lunch at 1.00am. Filled a gap as there were only 2 stops down South. We were stopped by Chilean customs (like all buses) and had all our bags searched again by hand. This delayed us by 1 hour. The bus was full.

We arrived in La Serena after 19 HOURS. We passed through Northern Chile, which is home to the driest desert in the world called the Atacama Desert. The region known as the “North of Chile” occupies an area equivalent in size to two thirds of Italy. It stretches from the highlands of the Andean Altiplano over the golden sands of the Atacama Desert as far as the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

We came close to the village of San Pedro de Atacama which I have been to before. See my previous stories here and here. I also started my three day trip to Uyuni in Bolivia from here.

It was 2.30pm and I wanted to get here earlier. I now had to decide whether to stay or go to Santiago by nights bus. I decided to deposit my bag at the station and decide later. I walked into town. The town has a big reputation for its buildings and 29 churches but I was not impressed.

“Important both historically and economically, the beachside city of La Serena is one of Chile’s oldest post-Columbian cities. The region’s silver, copper and agriculture were so important that the city had its own mint. Today, La Serena maintains a colonial air, although it is threatening Vi?a del Mar’s supremacy as the premier beach resort. Apart from a string of beautiful beaches, attractions include a handful of museums and a number of nearby quaint villages and vineyards”. taken from Lonely Planet.

I got some stuff (fruit) from the supermarket and enquired about tours. I had wanted to visit the Elqui Valley and visit a pisco distillery, one of Chile’s most famous spirits.

As the Elqui Valley is known for its mystic energy and clean skies I also wanted to visit to the Mamalluca Observatory, 70 Km from La Serena and not far from Vicu?a, where visitors are invited to watch the stars and attend a lecture from professional astronomers who will explain all the phenomena visible from this observatory.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Serena – Chile (26-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Serena – Chile (26-07-2003)

It seems we in the middle of winter here at the moment and it was cold and cloudy. I decided not to visit Vicuna by bus (I would have if I had arrived earlier and was not in a rush to Santiago – I was interested in such things). It was a pity but I walked back to the bus station and bought a 11.20pm overnight bus to Santiago. About seven bus companies offer this route and competition is fierce. The ticket from express Norte was 7,000 CP (8.60 Euro). Another cold journey but I had gotten the front seat which has extra leg room. We also got blankets and hot tea.

It takes seven hours to get to Santaigo and we arrived at the San Borjas station (there are 5 major bus stations in Santiago) at 6.30am. I had checked out accommodation options on the NET in La Serena and I wanted comfort and luxury for my last three nights in South America. I had stayed in only one other proper hotel (in Lima) during my five and a half months. I wanted TV and comfort. I found a hotel only 2 minutes walk from the station and close to the metro. I walked there in the quiet dark streets and got the three nights for 55 US.

Friday, July 25th 2003 – Day 157

Friday, July 25th 2003 – Day 157

I thought we would be arriving earlier, but we arrived in Iquique, Chile at 4.30am in the morning. Iquique is Capital of the region. But is a port and mining centre. It gets little to no rain.

Located to 1,845 kilometers to the north of Santiago, it is sand and desert with no greenery.

The temperature of the water fluctuates between the 19.49 Cs in summer and 15.6 Cs in winter, whereas the environmental temperature is of 25 Cs average.

Anyway, I wondered what to do this early. A few other passengers had the same idea so we asked to stay on the bus. No problem, so about half of the passengers slept on the bus until 7.30am. Great. I then went to the Tur Bus terminal. When I am sleepy like this, I find it hard to make up my mind on the next destination. It took me 40 minutes to decide on La serena which is a 17 hour bus journey (this after my 15 bus journey I had just left). Tur-bus have a good reputation on comfort but are not cheap. The ticket was 13,800 CP (12 EURO).

After that I walked to the port area. There were some nice colonial houses but when you see lads playing 3-card trick at 8.00am in the morning, you know you are in a port city. There were alot of shady characters here as well. Just as you enter the port (the biggest exporter of fish meal IN THE WORLD), was a tiny beach with sea lions. Before South America I thought these exotic creatures, but these were situated just two minutes from the city centre. I was standing two metres from them. They are lazy (but massive) creatures and I enjoyed watching them. I walked around for an hour and went on the NET for an hour (500 Cp – .60 EURO). I had breakfast in the local Mercado which was great as it is the first time I have had beef for months. It was a great big beef burger with all the trimmings and black coffee. I felt great after it.

There is little to see in the town and its pretty ugly. Iquique is a major destination for Chilean travelers because of the Zona Franca (Free Zone). It is the country’s biggest duty-free shopping center. There are beaches south of town (with a new Casino), year-round beach weather, Georgian architecture, and a laid-back (a lot of unemployment) atmosphere.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile (25-07-2003)

I decided to hitch to Humberstone as all the tours would have left early this morning. You walk to the main road (Ruta 16) just 20 minutes from the city centre. I took a left by mistake and went towards the trade free zone which I recognized. I turned back the other way. I got a lift nearly straight away from a woman who was driving a truck (gas bottles). She chain smoked the 1 hour drive to Humerstone but I enjoyed it as many people were driving quads and paragliding.

Humberstone is an abandoned nitrate town (closed 1956), east of Iquique, Chile. The admission was 1,000 CP (1.23 Euro).

“Let us imagine a city, artificially constructed in the middle of nowhere. People are brought in from thousands of miles away to live and work in this simulated “City.” Each family is provided with a “House,” all of which are neatly arranged in rows. The men work twelve-hour days of hard labor, while the women take care of the house, go to the “Market” and prepare their family’s meals. The children walk to the centrally-located “School” and then play at the “Playground” or swim at the “Pool.” The workers are paid, not in cash, but with vouchers that they can use to buy food, clothes and “amenities.”

Humberstone does not possess an air of death; it was not the site of a giant massacre or a deadly epidemic. Actually, once the owners learned that a chemical substitute for saltpeter had been discovered, they closed the mine immediately, literally flipping the switch, walking away from the city, leaving it as it was. Thus ended the “White Golden Age” industrial boom of northern Chile, forcing thousands of families to flee their desert city in search of new lives. Today, strolling the streets, it almost looks like just a quiet Sunday; the doors of the theater are open, the market stalls are empty and the noise of the mine has ceased.

For eighty-eight years, in this very spot, people were eating, crying, singing, making love, drinking and dying every day and for that reason, it is hallowed ground”. Taken from here.

This was great. I had the whole town to myself. It was quit and pretty amazing as I visited the church, theatre, hospital, school which are intact and time warped.

This is translated.

“The operation of the saltpeter – sodium nitrate or nitrogenates began per 1810. Its first use was like explosive, and its first market, Peru. Little later their fertilizing properties were discovered. In 1830, and to be used as installment in agriculture, the first boardings to Europe and the United States were made. As of that year, its demand grew of explosive way. The only zone of production was the Pampas that extend from the zone of Tarapac? to Antofagasta by the south. She filled with European, Chilean and Peruvian investors, and of labor contingent of these last nationalities. The difficulties caused by the strong Chilean presence in a territory that was under the Peruvian and Bolivian sovereignty, and the magnitude of the interests in game, caused the call War of the Pacific (1789-1884), by virtue of which the region was incorporated to the Chilean territory.

The saltpeter was a fundamental element for the development of agriculture at world-wide level. It was, also, a crucial activity for the economic, social and political development of Chile. Around this activity, made in desert solitudes, it was developed a productive system and a unique form of life, characterized by the creativity, the tenacity and the effort.

The Office Salitrera Humberstone, call originally the Palm, was constructed in 1872 by the Peruvian Nitrate Company. Per 1889 it constituted one of the greatest salitreras of Tarapac?. The Great Depression caused the paralyzation of the tasks of the establishment, that were started again per 1933, once the Office happened to be property of the Company Salitrera de Tarapac? and Antofagasta. To the reopened being it was red-baptize like Office Santiago Humberstone, in honor of the English chemical engineer who adapted to the industry of nitrate the called system of elaboration Schanks.

Between 1933 and 1940 Humberstone reached its maximum development, arriving to lodge a population of 3700 inhabitants. 1958 the Company Salitrera de Tarapac? and Antofagasta entered an acute crisis and finished dissolving; Humberstone was closed definitively. The office, along with the others of the call Nebraska Group – Santa Laura, Nebraska, Small Rock, Keryma- was auctioned in 1962, adjudging to its property an individual.

The Salitrera Office Santa Laura was constructed in 1872, by the company Barra and Riesco, adjudging it to it in 1897 the company Foelsch and Martin. In 1913 the office paralyzed its activities, resuming them in 1915, after replacing the old machineries by others, of Shanks system, that improved the productivity. In 1920 450 inhabitants lived in Santa Laura. The office paralyzed for the Great Depression, being acquired by the Company Salitrera de Tarapac? and Antofagasta, sharing the destiny of Humberstone.

As much Humberstone as Santa Laura operated with the Schanks system of processing of the saltpeter. The process began with the pebble in a brick extraction to opened edge, of the deposits of Pampas. The mineral one was transported to the crushed milling and in chancadoras. Soon it happened to “the cachuchos” calls, iron pools with inner coils, warmed up with steam of boilers. In them the dissolution of the pebble in a brick took place – leaching -. the obtained solution, saturated of sodium nitrate, was clarify in “chulladores” called iron pools, where the flock was deposited by movement. The resulting broth was pumped to crystallization trays, obtaining itself the s?dico saltpeter; a new crystallization gives rise to the potassium saltpeter. The product that did not crystallize was used in the elaboration of other salts, such as iodine, borax, etc. The material that was left after the leaching – debris was lead in cars to the call “cake” of debris.

Santa Laura still conserves the own industrial structures of a salitrera office Schanks. It is the milling, of stone, Oregon pine and zinc, in whose interior three chancadoras subsist. It is also the great structure of pillars and beams of Oregon pine, that contains the cachuchos or pools of leaching, and a high chimney, of 40 meters of stop and 1 of diameter, in good state of conservation. It is the installation characteristic of Santa Laura, and constitutes a landmark within the barren landscape of Pampas. The call “Iodine House” conserves part of the used implementos to process this element. They are also still on a building that lodged offices, seven constructions corresponding to arsenal and factories, and the enormous cake of debris, that occupies an approximated surface of 300,000 square meters. Rest of the iron routes are conserved that united to each other to Santa Laura and Humberstone, and with the network of the salitrero railroad.

The camping of Santa Laura practically is dismantled, still on being left part of the school and a small sector of houses. Vestiges of the seat and sport fields are conserved. The House of the Administration is also conserved, with a contiguous park.

In Humberstone, although the industrial sector of the establishment has been dismantled and presents/displays a great deterioration, the urban part of the office gives account of the form of life of salitrera Pampas, and their planning and design reflect the concepts developed in the architectonic movements of the Industrial Revolution.

It is possible at the moment to appreciate the social, commercial and public center of the office, with the chapel – recovered -, the commercial center with his white arcade, the magnificent theater constructed in wood, the hotel and the social club, the great swimming pool with grader?as, the school, and the seat. He is interesting to add that these buildings count on good part of their alhajamiento: the theater conserves its armchairs, the commerce has its counter and bookcases, the hotel exhibits its great iron kitchen, etc.

Of extreme interest it is the House of Administration of the establishment, constructed in 1883. This building is characteristic of the English salitreras and only they are left still on two of its type: this one and the one of the office Iris. To the entrance of Humberstone it is the residential sector of the workers and employees. Although its state of conservation is not the ideal, the set, constructed in marinates and partitions and arranged in grid, are an excellent example of the pampino camping. The enormous cake of debris of the office complements these constructions, that evokes the great wealth that produced the work of his made an effort inhabitants.”

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile – Humberstone (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile – Humberstone – Steel swimming pool (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile – Humberstone (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile – Humberstone (25-07-2003)

I visited both towns – Humberstone and Santa Laura. The official website is pretty good too. It was nealy five pm when I decided to hitch back from Ruta 16. I got a lift within 10 minutes. They said they would leave me off before Iquique but I thought on the main road. After a while (man and wife), the couple took a side road. This is what I hate about hitching. I had no idea where they were going as they drove up and down mountains with no traffic and unpaved. We chatted though and they were cool. They left me off on a side road overlooking Iquique. Damn, I could see the city miles below on the coast but it was a 2 hour trek at least. Luckily a car came by and again I got a lift. From travelers, it seems Chile is the easiest country in the world to hitch because towns are so remote here and the weather so extreme that its a rule not to collect hitchers. Anyway, he was a young lad and was good craic. He drove me back to the roundabout to the town and I walked back in. I got dinner at the same place as breakfast.

More beef – a Chilean favorite called Lomo Pobre. Its a simple beef, 2 fried eggs and chips. Big portions. All for 3,500 CP (4.30 Euro). I had time for a beer in a spit and saw dust pub (600 Cp for a 500 Ml bottle, they all drink Crystal beer here), before catching a bus at 8.00pm for La Serena.

Thursday, July 24th 2003 – Day 156

Thursday, July 24th 2003 – Day 156

I had expected the VISA card yesterday and when I got up at 9.00am as usual, I expected it to be today. It had to be as time was running out. I had to fly out of Santiago on the 30th (and its not a short journey).

Lots of more parades this morning. They have going all week. Time for the majorettes and big bands today. Its all about Simon Bolivar who was born on today’s date. Simon Bolivar was one of South America’s greatest generals. His victories over the Spaniards won independence for Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. He is called El Liberator (The Liberator) and the “George Washington of South America.

There was also a few counter demonstrations and at one point nearly got ugly. They were leaving off fireworks (loud bangers) non stop for three hours and started throwing around fuse delayed bangers on their route. Riot police headed them off away from the main parades.

It seems they were Bolivian street vendors demonstrating against a City Hall decision to remove them from the streets and reaccomodating them in proper markets in La Paz. The vendors say the decision would harm their scarce profits moving them away from their customers, the pedestrians.

I checked my email and was shocked to find from home that the card was in London. Felt like shit and emailed AIB (Bank) to find out why. They said they had tried to ring me but had the wrong number (wrong, as I had faxed them the address and number a week before) so they were sloppy. They rang the hotel at 10.30am and I told them to send it to the Irish consulate in new Zealand. This was off the top of head and I had emailed the consulates details to AIB. The guy who rang then asked me to ring New Zealand (the guy without cash or VISA). Agg, anyway I got ready to check out of the hotel and I paid 175 B (20 Euro) for 7 days stay. The Torino is great. Quite, secure and cheap but very cold.

At 11.30am, the guy from the bank rang again to say the card was in la Paz and gave me the number of DHL customer support in La Paz. I rang them but they had no account. I decided to go down there and waited for 20 minutes. They had no account of me or the bank. I went back to the hostel (now 12.00) and the package was waiting. I rushed to finish packing ad change my remaining Bolivars into Chilean Pesos.

I got a mini-bus collective to the bus station for 1.50B), its 8B by taxi) and paid 90 B (10 Euro) to go to Iquique in Chile. The bus left at 1.00pm and I was just in time. It was a very cold journey. We got a bit of dinner on board and I had two seats. Getting stamped out of Bolivoia is easy but Chile is different. The scenery was out of this world as we went over the Andes. Snow covered mountains only miles away (there was some snow on the road) and a blood red sky. It was fantastic.

At the Chilean border all our bags were hand checked and put through X-Ray machines. They are very thorough. We stopped in a a Chilean restaurant and I got a nice (I licked the plate clean) chicken and rice dinner for 800 CP (1 Euro). There was a great film on the bus called “Shaolin Soccer“. It was in Spanish but it was the funniest film I had seen in a while and it was great fun.

At 12.00, I had to share my seat with a woman as she was sick for her bus companion who had a baby.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Bolivia – Chile border (24-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Bolivia – Chile border (24-07-2003)

Tuesday, July 22nd 2003 – Day 154 to Wednesday, July 23rd 2003 – Day 155

Tuesday, July 22nd 2003 – Day 154

Two stories of importance today. Eight mountain climbers from Europe, Israel and Argentina died in the Peruvian Andes after an ice wall apparently collapsed today. The area where they were killed is not far from Huraz where I stayed for a few days and is the point of departure for the climb. I had met people who were going to do this climb. More information on the accident can be found here. More than 10 other climbers could be missing.

In Bolivia, Police and soldiers clashed with villagers during a protest Tuesday to force the government to pave a road in western Bolivia, killing one person and injuring 15 others, authorities said. About 4,000 villagers forced an oil pipeline to shut down and blocked access to oil wells. The villagers want the government to pave a road through Santa Rosa, a poor town where international oil companies have drilled for years. More information can be found here.

I got up at 8.30am, the earliest I have up for a while so that I could change some money (into local currency) and send the three fleeces I got home by post. I got breakfast in the market as usual (cheap and good) and watched the miners march down the main street for a while. Spent some time on the NET and checked if my VISA card had arrived.

I did not see them but big demonstration in La Paz early this morning. “Thousands of Bolivian street vendors demonstrate in La Paz, Bolivia on Tuesday, July 22, 2003. The street vendors were demonstrating against the high taxes they pay in order to sell in the streets, and they were waiting to hear if the mayor would reduce the tax.(AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)”

Wednesday, July 23rd 2003 – Day 155

More trouble with the Shining Path in Peru. I see Independence day there is on July 28th.

Did the same as yesterday. I did some shopping in the black market. I bought some socks and a shirt. I enjoy the market so much. I could spend all day, every day here. I find new streets and stalls every day. I also find great new foods and snacks. I have a favorite restaurant up there where I eat chicken, fried bananas, pickled onions and noodles for 6 B.

I also bought a World War 2 flag (very small for a friend) for 4 Band a Sony Headphones for 40 B.I went to the post to send a postcard (1.50 B) and the flag to Ireland. The postcard was 6B and the package 15B (1.75 Euro). Very awhard though as all foreign packages have to inspected. There were two Israelis sending fleeces and blankets home. The inspector pulled out the German (hmm) flag out (Its so small I did not believe she would) and opened it up in front of all and Sundry. I looked at the Israelis, they looked at me and the flag and I looked at the wall. They said nothing and I quickly got the envelope stamped.

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La Paz – Bolivia – Protests and Parades (23-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Paz – Bolivia – Protests and Parades (23-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Paz – Bolivia – Protests and Parades (23-07-2003)

Monday, July 21st, 2003 – Day 153

Monday, July 21st, 2003 – Day 153

Everyday is like a Sunday” – in La Paz anyway. Its another National Holiday and EVERYTHING is closed from banks, shops to NET cafes. There is nobody on the streets except MORE school pupils marching. These lot are military kids with shaved heads. I never saw so many skinheads in my life. Watched the going ons for a while (what else could I do) and went for breakfast in the market. Nice.

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La Paz – Bolivia – Skinhead Parade (21-07-2003)

I walked to the Plaza Murillo. On one side of the plaza, you’ll find the neoclassical cathedral, which took 152 years to build (1835-1987). The towers are the newest part–they were constructed for the arrival of the Pope.

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La Paz – Bolivia – Cathedral (21-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Paz – Bolivia – Parade at Murillo Square (21-07-2003)

I then walked to Calle Jalle which houses four museums including the Museo Instrumentos Musicales de Bolivia. Some nice colonial mansions here on a beautiful street, but nothing that special. You can see many of these type of streets in Cusco etc. The museums are also pretty small and uninteresting. Spent a while here (its a 20 minute uphill walk to get there) before heading back down to look for a NET cafe with XP and a CD-rewriter. This has been my scourge over the past few days. Nobody has anything but Windows 98 or ME. I cant find a place to download my pictures onto disk.

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La Paz – Bolivia – Calle Jalle Street (21-07-2003)

I collected my three custom made fleeces at 8.00pm. The cost was 125 b (14.80 EURO). These are great value. You pick whatever colour you want (they are double sided, zipped for dual use), the design – everything. They have them ready in 3/4 days. For 5 Euro a fleece you can not go wrong. I was very happy with them. You can find three of these shops on Calle Sagarnaga. I looked all over the city and could not find them anyplace else. They also make pants, tops, shirts, leather jackets etc for the same great prices. Its a Israeli tradition and they usually order a dozen or more each and send them home beacuse of the good value.

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La Paz – Bolivia – Police watch (21-07-2003)

Saturday, July 19th, 2003 – Day 151 to Sunday, July 20th, 2003 – Day 152

Saturday, July 19th, 2003 – Day 151

I was planning to go to Coroico which makes a popular side trip for visitors to La Paz. The road to Coroico narrows to one unpaved lane twisting down through the mountains. To one side is the mountain; to the other, a sheer drop of often hundreds of feet to the lush valley below.

Anyway, I did not – maybe tomorrow and I only got out of bed at 11.00am. It was COLD. To tell you the truth, I did nothing of interest to day. Spent a time of the NET as I have reached my 75 Mb limit of my server. Therefore. less pictures from now on. I cant afford to buy another 50 MB. I want to reduce waste and previous pictures to allow space. I might as well to this here because NET use is so cheap (3 B – .35 Euro and an hour). I expect it to a lot dearer in NZ and Australia.

Went to see the Iglesia de San Francisco

“The intricately stone-carved facade of the San Francisco church is one the finest examples of baroque-mestizo architecture in the Americas. Look closely and you’ll see a wealth of indigenous symbols–from masked figures to snakes, dragons, and tropical birds. The cornerstone for the original San Francisco church was placed in this spot in 1548, 1 year before the founding of La Paz. The church standing here today is not the original; it was completed in 1784. Once inside, the baroque influence seems to disappear. The small cedar altars with gold-leaf designs are much more typical of the neoclassical era”.

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La Paz – Bolivia – Iglesia de San Francisco (19-07-2003)

I went to see Terminator Three – T3 · in the cinema. It was a full house (22 b – 2.60 Euro) and its a modern one complete with guys with bell boy uniforms showing you to your seat. You can actually pick what seat you want and reserve it. A review of the film here. While not as good as T1 or T2, the storyline was good. I dislike Claire Daines though (althought I liked “My so called life“) – shows how old I am.. It was a good show though.

Sunday, July 20th, 2003 – Day 152

I was up at 9.00am. One more day and my VISA will arrive. I hate waiting. I want to move on. Only nine days left in South America. Thinking of skipping Argentna and heading to Northern Chile. Today was Civic Pride day and all the schools marched in the parade.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Paz – Bolivia – The (big) kids are alright with a police man with a gun big enought to bring down an elephant (20-07-2003)

They all had their own dance routines and uniforms. Watached it for an hour or two, but it was pretty boring stuff. I could see thought they put alot of effort and pride into their displays and were having alot of fun. Watched T3 · again on a big screen in a chicken restaurant. They all show the latest movies on VCD and are on sale for 15 B (2 Euro) all over town.

The marches by the school kids lasted all day (until 7.00pm) when it was dark. Every school and college in the district must have had pupils marching.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

La Paz – Bolivia – The kids are alright (20-07-2003)

Went back to the hostel for the “danger shower” which is every shower in South America. The showers are like electric kettles here. You go in and turn on the tap (cold water only). You then push up this massive switch (like you would see in Franensteins labatory) and sparks fly. Hot water, you can not touch anything. I touched the outlet in Cusco and was blown out of the top (tearing down the shower curtain). here I touched the tap and got a nasty shock.

To get out you need to step out of the shower, dry yourself, turn off the electric power switch (hoping for the best) and then turn off the water tap. What a procedure.

In the evening, I went for a few drinks in a local pub and went to bed.