The road from Mendoza was spectacular, but rather surprisingly lacking in snow. You pass through the Aconcagua national park, home to the highest mountain in the Americas, yet the mountains were more martian than terrestrial, looming massive over the road and half destroyed railway that skirts it.
Upon arrival in Santiago we were greeted with some more royal hospitality courtesy of some more of Donna’s family – Eugene, Anne, Andrea, Sebastian plus the gorgeous twins who have inherited mum’s beauty and their Dad’s ability to win mum over.
We were treated to Chilean pisco sours (the Chileans and Peruvians both lay claim to this combination of distilled Grapes, sugar and lime) clams with cheese, tours of the town, meals of Chilean dishes in warm hearted restaurants and a lot of love.
The contrast between Chile and Argentina is great in the cities and less so outside. Buenos Aires is far more passionate than it’s cooler cousin Santiago, but both are charming in their own way. The Chileans are sometimes known as the English of South America, something you get the feeling they are actually rather proud of, with ties going back to the Early days of Chile’s independence. Chile may be less passionate than it’s larger cousins to the East, but there is wisdom in temperance and this rather modern South American country has strength in depth.
Occasionaly going to war with it’s neighbours, Chile has tended to win it’s battles and still retains land captured from Peru and Bolivia when they last locked horns. Bolivia still keeps a navy on Lake Titicaca in rather sad homage to it’s lost ocean.
Chile invited a lot of Germans over in the 18 hundreds who brought a lot of expertese with them. It was a clever move, not only for the industry it attracted but for the good german beer, plus a sandwich shop in Santiago called ‘The German Fountain’ (or Font Allegmaine or such like in Spanish) that serves giant meat and sausage sandwiches just like they do in the rheinland, only with the addition of avocado and some South American magic. Progress eh!
The thing that attracts me most to Chile however is that it is a country with a majority of exciting landscapes with all of the boring bits taken out. Imagine somewhere like The England with only London, Cornwall and The Lake District with a smattering of chocolate box towns thrown in, plus a few ugly towns on the side to manufacture your coca light and ‘can’t believe it’s not butter’. That’s Chile. It has mountains running down the whole side of the country until it falls into the southern oceans over irridescent blue glaciers, on the other side it has more coast than you could canoe in a life-time. In between it has places like The Lago Distrito, somewhere that would have had Wordsworth stroking his quill.
I think I’m going to have to slow down a little here. I’m liking this place.