Round The World Trip – Part 5

Travelling across the Pacific and the international dateline from New Zealand to Chile we had the peculiar feeling of travelling for 11 hours and yet landing 5 hours before we had taken off.

We landed at Santiago and stayed in an apartment in the heart of the city. The city feels just like a European city with similar architecture, modern amenities and numerous cafes and restaurants. These line European style squares and wide open boulevards. You can see from the architecture how Santiago was the centre of a tug of war between the Spanish, native settlers and other Europeans.

When the Spanish were finally sent packing, the remaining settlers all contrived to build parts of the city in the image of their own country. So there is British, Italian, French, Spanish influence everywhere. Judging by the grand scale of many of the buildings there was quite a bit of “one-upmanship” going on in these early days.

Having explored the main parts of the city the next day we took a tour to Valparaíso on the coast. How do you explain Valparaíso? “Unique” I think is the word!

Built on the side of massive hilltops you have all sorts of buildings in every shape, size and colour imaginable. It looks like the town planner got drunk one evening, knocked pots of paint over the town plans and someone used them before he could realise his mistake. The place is like the illicit love child of Havana in Cuba and Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. There are bright colours, artisan architecture and plain madness everywhere.

Its history is equally as interesting as its appearance. It was once a thriving port serving all of the shipping traffic from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

However, in 1914 this all changed with the opening of the Panama Canal, which brought much of the city’s trade to a grinding halt almost overnight. It took decades to recover but it now has and it a city that is well worth a visit.

On the way back from Valparaiso it would have been remiss not to experience one of the vineyards that Chile has become famous for in recent times. We enjoyed a guided tour and then, of course, it didn’t take much for us to be persuaded to taste some of the best wines that they had to offer.

 

It was a shame that we only had a few days in Chile though as the country has so much more to offer. Travelling from the top of Chile to the bottom is about the same distance as travelling from the south coast of England to the middle of Africa! There is coastline, mountains, deserts and even glaciers.

Despite its length, Chile is only a couple of hundred miles wide and so our flight to Buenos Aires over the Andes only took an hour.

When we arrived in Buenos Aires the first thing I noticed was how similar it was to Santiago. The same historical European feel, with a heavy Catholic influence. It should not have surprised me as its creation was almost identical to Santiago. As with Chile, the Argentinians had removed the Spanish and the European settlers who remained built the areas of the city to resemble their own country. As these settlers grew more and more wealthy on the riches of the land, so the buildings became more and more grand and the areas of the city more and more affluent in character.

  

With only a night and a day to experience the city, we did the compulsory tourist activity of visiting a tango show. Here we enjoyed fine steak, fine wine and some extremely fine tango dancing!

The next day we enjoyed a city tour which included a visit to Eva Peron’s grave. Well, I say grave, the graveyard is completely out of this world. It is filled with hundreds upon hundreds of the most massive and elaborate family mausoleums. The European settler’s competition didn’t seem to end at death!

After this slightly ghoulish stop off we headed to the airport to fly down to the southern tip of Argentina, to start the last part of our journey… to Antarctica.

 

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