The Hendersons Chile - 2016
2016 Tour of Chile
Sunday - March 6
It was still dark when we left our hotel for our drive back to the airport in Calama. Driving through the desert in the dark was really much more pleasant as it was not too hot and there was almost no traffic. We were able to find a gas station in Calama and filled the cars tank before continuing to the airport. Gasoline in Chile costs about one dollar per liter, so it's a little more expensive than at home but nowhere near as bad as in Europe. There is no reason in the world to go to Calama other than flying to and from the Atacama. It is gritty and dirty and the street dogs are everywhere. It appears to be a center for miners. Interestingly, there is a factory there that is producing solar-panels which will be set up to provide energy to the mines, which, we were told, are high consumers of electricity. Seems like a good solution – with intense sun, little to no rain and cloud, one would think that they could produce enough electricity for the whole country. There are some windmill farms in the Atacama, where it can be quite windy, but the sun is so intense that solar seems like a better option.
There was no one at the rental car counter at that hour, so we simply locked the car in the parking lot and dropped the keys in the key drop box at the rental counter. We got checked in for our Sky Airlines flight back to Santiago and had some breakfast.
The flight was interesting in that the passengers were almost all younger males, obviously South American, if not exclusively Chilean. It seemed that they were headed to Santiago for a break. No one, even the flight attendants, spoke English.
After arrival at the airport in Santiago, we collected our luggage and found the rental car counter. We got our new rental car and headed for Viņa del Mar. It has been somewhat frustrating using the navigation app on my tablet, because the maps of Chile are obviously not that good. In some cases the map system doesn't know whether the surface is paved or dirt, and the details are sketchy enough that you get no advance notification either through something that shows up on the screen or through spoken directions. Nevertheless, we were able to drive pretty much straight to our hotel in Viņa del Mar. They had parking along the side of the hotel and we were able to unload our luggage and get checked in to a very nice accommodation.
We had lunch in a restaurant across the street from the hotel. While we were eating our lunch, we watched an interesting spectacle at the intersection. When the light turned red and the traffic stopped, a fellow with three juggling pins would step out in front of the stopped cars and begin juggling. Before the light could turn green again, he would walk between the cars and collect tips for his act.
We went for a walk down past the municipal casino. Yes, you got that right, the municipal casino. Across the street from the municipal casino is a restaurant named Divino Pecado . This restaurant had very high reviews on TripAdvisor and we decided to walk back down there for dinner. The dinner was every bit as good as the reviews had indicated and the service was excellent. Overall, a fine dining experience. We both had a filled pasta called something like tortelli. Mel's had spinach and mine had mushrooms. It looked as if they were made by taking a ribbon of pasta about 2 inches wide and 3 1/2 inches long and putting the filling on top of it, then folding it over and twisting the ends sort of like a candy wrapper. I am looking forward to trying to make them when we get home.
Monday - March 7
We went to visit a museum called the Museo Fonck. It's a relatively small museum but extremely well done and has an excellent display of items from Easter Island. There was a Chilean woman there who took us through various rooms and explained all of the items we were seeing. She was very knowledgeable and very kind.
After visiting the museum we took the car and drove up to the Botanic Garden. It's an unusual sort of garden in that much of it is laid out so that you drive around and stop if you see something interesting. There is also an area where they have formal planter beds.
That evening we had dinner at Restaurant San Marco. Our waiter was Chilean but had lived in both Germany and Italy and spoke beautiful Italian. Mel had ravioli that was filled with Osso Buco meat. I had small ravioli that were filled with spinach. The dinner was excellent.
Tuesday - March 8
We took the train from Viņa del Mar to Valparaiso. There was a funicular that we took to the top of the hill and then visited the Maritime Museum. This was another very well done and very interesting museum. One of the things they had on display was the rescue capsule that was used to rescue the 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped in one of the mines in the Atacama.
Some interesting pistols - The first pair are about 1 foot long, the revolver in the second shot has a cylinder and barrel combination, one of the revolvers in the last shot appears to hold many more than 6 rounds
We had lunch and then waited in the plaza for a walking tour of Valparaiso. This is a tour where there is no reservation and no set price. When the tour is over you tip the tour guide whatever you feel his services were worth. The organization is called Tours for Tips and the tour guides arrive dressed like Wally. Our tour guide was named Ignacio and he was very knowledgeable and spoke very good English.
There is a lot of street art (not graffiti) painted by very talented artists on the sides of buildings with permission of the owners. This abstract example has creatures with human lower bodies and fish head uppers.
Unfortunately, Valparaiso is a set of quite steep hills, so by the end of the tour we were exhausted. We took the train from Valparaiso back to Viņa del Mar and waited for the restaurant Divino Pecado to open. We had dinner there again and it was excellent. Then we drug ourselves back to our hotel and slept the sleep of the dead.