There’s little doubt that a walking tour can educate the uneducated and today’s experience certainly achieved that.
The Metro system was our first port of education. A bit of online research identified our route and I’m fairly comfortable that route wise I’ve got it nailed.
I’d expressed concern to Chris that paying for tickets maybe challenging, what with those complicated machines they’ll probably have. The real confusion started when we discovered they have a “buy your tickets from a real person” system which had me reciting Dora The Explorer to myself before approaching the window to request “quattro” tickets for our journey there and back. Cost around £3.50 all in. Excitingly the lady had understood my order and handed over our four tickets.
Twenty minutes later we walked from metro station to the square housing cathedral, museum, city hall and post office. Along with a few statues. A quick glimpse at the layout told me “pedestrianised” and we strolled into the plaza. Next thing I knew I was stood between two cars, both of which had stopped to avoid me. Chris stood ten feet behind with a look of fear on his face. I waved a cool apology to the motorists, quickly got to safe ground and turned again to see the nearest driver laughing histetically. I suspect a slightly different trajectory and my cause of death would have been slightly different to the one I’m anticipating!
A bottle of water and our tour starts courtesy of Franco. Welsh and Americans join us and Franco begins an explanation about the creation of Chile, how Santiago became the capital, why the Spanish didn’t care for the place, the Patagonian massacre and numerous other goings on during its relatively brief history.
The 1973 Pinochet (not a silent T) revolution still affects the nation. But it is becoming increasingly clear that these people have worked their way economically into being a modern nation and are exceptionally proud of that.
Thats not to say that Santiago is a classy capital. It’s Spanish colonial buildings are few and far between, perhaps earthquakes haven’t really helped, and there’s little in beauty or majesty about the place. But it’s a modern, functioning city where the people seem friendly, helpful and accepting of my awful Spanish.
There are a handful of stray dogs. Occasional homelessness. Modern cellphones everywhere. Lots of construction. And a wonderful backdrop of the impressive Andes.
If you’re touring South America it might not be a city I’d recommend (not that I’ve seen any others yet). But somehow there’s a confident vibe about the place. A friendliness too. A positivity that suggests times are good. And while there’s clearly a big gap between the have lots and have littles
A couple of Pisco stops precede our return to the hotel.