12-13 November – Days 113-4
One of the cool things about Santiago I noticed straight away is that they have ‘public’ pianos on street corners and in parks and plazas throughout the city where anyone can just sit down and pump out a few tunes. It’s excellent! It’s also lovely and warm here; the city has that feel that Sydney gets in early summer.
The other thing that was hard to ignore was the amount of rubbish everywhere. Mountains of it. Apparently, the public servants are striking at the moment as a part of a pay dispute, so rubbish just isn’t being collected. The strike also meant that several of the public institutions such as museums and national parks are closed.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Chile is holding a national election next Sunday. It’s almost certain that the next President will be a woman – given that the two primary candidates are female, it’s hard to see it any other way. Which is excellent! It’ll be the first presidential election where voting is not compulsory and it’s widely thought that Michelle Bachelet will win, returning to the top office after a stint as President from 2006-2010 when (according to one of my tour guides) she was the first female national leader not just of Chile, but of a South American country. I also happen to know that she was awarded an OAM last year.
Chile – and Santiago particularly – is working for me… I think it’s at least partly because it reminds me of home. There’s good food, nice coffee, exceptional wine, lovely weather and this sense that I just can’t put my finger on but I think it might be something close to civil order. As in people drive in a way that’s predictable, and more generally seem to ‘live’ in a way that is similar to Australia. I like it!
Funnily, other than Australia, Chile and Argentina are the only two countries I’ve visited (and I’m not just talking about this trip, I mean ever!) where people use ‘how are you’ as a way of saying hello rather than a genuine enquiry into the state of someone’s welfare.
I did a couple of city walking tours here just to get a sense of the place. It was interesting – and very impressive – to see how the country has developed and changed since the Pinochet, who came to power in 1974 after a military coup in 1973, transferred power to a democratically elected government in 1990. It’s all so very recent…
Adrian also got Beamsky serviced. Other than having a few screws loose and therefore in need of tightening (the bike, I mean), all was fine. So we’re good to go for the final few thousand kilometres to the most southerly point of the South American continent!
11 November – Day 112
Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile
Today was another border crossing day – and I can confirm that, consistent with our first experience, crossing between Argentina and Chile is a relatively smooth and seamless process. The ride over the Andes was beautiful (albeit cold), with snow by the road and mountains on all sides.