We initially landed in Buenos Aires, transferred planes and continued with a three hour flight over the Andes mountains for the beginning of our cruise vacation in the capital city of Chile -- Santiago.
The mountains are gorgeous and very rugged. We were a bit disturbed at the airport in Buenos Aires. We each had to pay $100 "retaliation" tax in order to change planes. This tax began when the U.S. government began fingerprinting foreign travelers following the 911 attack. Apparently, the Argentinean government felt a need to retaliate -- thus the name of the tax.
The map above is a satellite image. The length of Chile begins near Bolivia and extends all the way to the south end of South America. The length is more than 2,600 and an average width of 110 miles. The Andes mountains form the border to the east with only two or three crossing considered to be reasonable by the average driver.
At the north lies the driest wasteland on the face of the earth, the Atacama Desert. To the south, one finds a frigid, largely unpaved landscape of glaciers, ice-caps, fiords, snow and fierce gales. It is the last stop before Antarctica. To the west is the vast waste of the South Pacific Ocean causing Chile to be far removed from normal commercial shipping lanes.
The population of Chile is about 13 million people with a third of them living in the Santiago. A happy combination of fertile soils, ideal climate and carefully husbanded vines have enabled Chile to produce high quality wines -- a major export. By and large Chileans are well educated with a literacy rate of 94% and a life expectancy of 71. They are not wealth by U.S. standards--per capita income is about $1,500--but their economy is on a strong upswing after a decade-long period of military dictatorship.
Let us begin our visual journey toward the southern tip of Chile / South America.
Our room was on the 14th floor with a magnificent view toward the east. The hotel across the way was covered with a huge billboard for a cell phone advertisement.
Below our room is the swimming pool and outdoor bar and restaurant.
The lobby entrance foyer is astounding as is the spiraled interior elevator core leading up to a skylight at the roof.
The view from our floor down the the lobby is also quite impressive.
Lynn is always on the lookout for the unusual item or the unexpected humorous event. The cabinet shown is over 200 years old and is one of a matched pair standing in the lobby. Outside, when Lynn & Crystal took a walk to a shopping mall, Lynn found the barricade stand that was placed in the middle of two handicapped parking spaces.
Imagine this, the driver is handicapped. Before he can park his car he must get out of the car and move the barricade so that he can park in the space.
We took a stroll around the pool to look at the gardens. Notice that in February the flowers are blooming. For those living in South America, their summer was half over.
Hidden behind the waterfall we found these wonderful wooden statues. From here we decided to take a stroll to look at one of their malls that was located about a mile away.
The sculpture of the "lioness" outside the hotel reminded us of similar sculptures we saw in Greece last year. The phone booth brought back remembrances of those in England and New Zealand.
No matter where we go, McDonald's can always be found. The shrub sculpture reminded us of Epcot Center in Florida.
The photos were taken inside the mall. Notice the fellow in the purple shirt. He has a computer monitor attached to a backpack advertising for the store behind him.
While Chile isn't a wealthy country one certainly would realize it with some of the fine architecture that is found.
This is the entrance to a train station.
The next day Princess Cruises provided bus shuttles that would take us approximately 70 miles to the port city of Valpariso to our floating home -- The Royal Princess. The next series of photos will be those taken from the moving bus as we traveled to our destination.
Throughout Chile (and Argentina) one can readily recognize the distinctive black and yellow coloring of a taxi. Just as common are the trucks loaded with produce. Notice the size of the celery stalks on the truck.
To think that we complain about the price of gasoline here. Our trip took along the edges of Santiago and it is evident that all is not beauty as we had seen from the center of the city. The photo on the right is a food store in the community.
As we left the city we traveled along the area where vineyards are prevalent. The castle-like building is the home of the owner of the vineyard.
These are views of the vineyard and the homes where the workmen live.
Silver is a source of income for the country as it appears to be abundant. The hill on the left are mine tailings from a silver mine. The photo on the right is government provided housing.
As we approached Valparaiso we could see the landscape and housing styles change. While not evident in the photos, the hills are largely covered with palm trees.
The condo on the left is government sponsored housing. The houses on the right seem to be clinging to the mountainside in an effort to remain aloft.
The hills appear to be covered with homes of all sorts. We are now in the port city of Valparaiso.
It didn't take long to get onboard and look over our surrounding on the balcony outside the room. We are looking forward to leaving the port soon and continuing with our journey to the south.
Next stop in two days: Puerto Montt
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