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'Hablamos Espanol'
CHILE - Aug/Sep 2003
'Smog central'
Thursday 14th August 2003 Barrio Bellavista, Santiago

As we flew into Santiago we got a great view of the snow covered Andes and the yellow smog that is the capital city. Customs was very quick and we where through the whole airport with our bags in about 10 minutes. We then caught a minibus that would take us to our hostel. Luckily I had remembered the address of the hostel we had booked. But when we got there I was very doughtful that It was correct as we ended up outside a block of flats. It took a good few minutes before we worked out that 184 is completely different to 0184 so the very patient drive took us up to the other end of the street where we were very grateful to se the 'Bellavista Hostel'.

Barrio Bellavista is a posh cosmopolitan part of the city. and is bursting with bars and restaurants. To get into the spanish feel we decided to go out for Tapas on our first night in mainland South America.

I had totally forgotten what good food tastes like. The flavours where amazing even if it was just chicken and potato. I even splashed out on a Corona whilst Sarena went for the Happy Hour cocktails. We did eat too much but it felt good.

I spent the evening plucking notes on the hostels guitar until my dinner had digested and I could go to bed.

Absolutely amazing coming in to land as the view was breathtaking, snow covered mountains and dramatic landscape, then you saw the smog! it was a thick blanket of brown hazey muck above the city which i hadn't seen since China.

We came into land at about 5pm local time then got ourselves into a taxi with Emma, Toby gave the driver the wrong address so we took quite along time to finally work out where our hostel was. It was such a superb place to stay and was done out like a house in London- really funky and bright. Catherine who we bump into all the time was sitting in on the couch so we had a natter to her for a while whilst waiting for someone to sort out our room.

We dumped our bags in the 4bed dorm and found that we had lovely new mattress and big duvets, absolutely wonderful. After making up our beds we went straight out to get something to eat at a Tappas restaurant right next door. It had been quite a while since we had eaten anything nice and tasty so it was with great gusto we ate our salads (that's what me and Emma had) they were really fresh and full of flavour, lots of bread and dips and then we were brought out lots of wonderful different Tappas, what with all the good wine, beer and cocktails, we just couldn't get enough.

After we all couldn't move because we had eaten so much we just went back to the hostel and went to bed.

 

Friday 15th August 2003 Barrio Bellavista, Santiago

After breakfast Sarena and I went for a walk through the centre of town. First we tried our chances at some local Spanish schools, but they where all shut as today is a public holiday. Sarena and I want to do different courses as we reckon we may learn better when on our own.

Surprise, Surprise we ended up at the central market for some fruit and veg, and the supermarket. An hour after we had bought some fruit at the market I realised that I had given the vendor far too much money (confused 500 pesos with 5000 pesos) Bugger. I tried my luck to see if he would be honest enough to repay me, but he insisted that he wouldn't and I couldn't argue too much as it was my own stupid mistake.

Even on a public holiday the centre of town was buzzing, not many shops where open but there where loads of street entertainers although most where simply juggling acts or human dolls. We walked right across town to an area called Barrio Brazil to look for a much cheaper hostel that has been recommended to us, La Casa Roja. We found it in the end. It is a massive old 19th mansion that is very run-down but gradually being renovated by the new Australian owner. It had loads of space and is half the price of our current hostel so we put ours and Emma's names down on the reservations list for tomorrow.

By this time we had been walking for a while and Sarena refused to take another step so we ended up catching a taxi back to Barrio Bellvista. Back at the ranch we found Emma lazing around on the back balcony so we joined her with some wine and some nibbles for dinner.

We decided to go out for a walk and get some bearings on the area. First of all we went to find the Spanish Schools to see if they were open to find out about the whole set-up but they were both shut because it was a holiday.

Thought we should go and get some shopping instead of going out for something to eat so walked for hours and hours all around the City trying to find a supermarket and another hostel which we had tried to get in before but it had been full. The area was amazing and full of character and the buildings were rambling old mansion type places with turrets and balconies etc. They were all different colours and i just loved the whole atmosphere of street performers and painters, rather like London. We found a huge indoor market selling everything including the biggest fish i have ever seen. We bought some fruit then went and had a quick lunch before going into a huge supermarket to get some food. It was there Toby realised he had given the fruit man too much money so we walked back to try and explain, we obviously didn't get the money back, Toby keeps getting the notes mixed up and giving out too much.

We then walked about for another hour and finally found the hostel which turned out to be an old family home, must have been a huge family as the place was bloody huge. It was like a massive run down french chateau with tall ceilings and tall skinny doors - oodles and oodles of character. After a quick look around we put ourselves down for the next night for 3 people but they couldn't tell us until some people checked out the next day if we could there was going to be any room.

I put my foot down and said we would get a taxi back to our hostel as i was so tired so Toby had to conseed even though he wanted to walk all the back again. Spent the evening sat up on the deck at the back of the building eating fresh cooked chicken and tomato's and olives accompanied by 90p wine then just dossed out for the rest of the evening.

Saturday 16th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Continued trying to book spanish classes for monday but still everywhere was closed. La Casa Roja hostel managed to secure some beds for us so by 12 we left the Bellavista hostel and caught a taxi to Barrio Brazil.

La casa roja is a lot bigger than the previous hostel and so a lot more livelier. I spent the afternoon updating and downloading our web site to the internet. Then the 3 of us went hunting for a bar to sit in. Didn't find much though. Just a corner shop with a few beers and a table and chairs. This closed at 7 so we decided to get some beer to take back to the hostel.

We ended up playing cards and chatting to some other backpackers (Patrick, Nick, Jim,Paul and Bubba) to the early hours.

Had b'fast then packed our stuff whilst Toby phoned up the hostel to see if they had any room for us, which they did so we all got in a taxi and scooted over to the new hostel. We were now in a 8 bed dorm which still had someone asleep in it so we just dumped our bags and went to investigate. There seemed to be quite a few people walking around with hangovers so they had obviously had a good night.

I went out for little walk leaving to other two to their own devises then came back to make dinner for the both of us finding lots of free food left over in the fridge. We thought it would be nice to go out for a drink so Me emma and Toby went out to find a bar thinking there would be loads but couldn't find anything apart from one place which was just closing so we just had one large bottle between us and got chatting to an Ozzy bloke.

We decided to get a couple of takeaway bottle and go back to the hostel only to find ourselves walking past a few really funky bars which we hadn't seen as they were all tucked away. Spent the rest of the evening playing cards with loads of others who were also staying in the hostel getting through lots of beer and wine. I left them to it and went to bed at midnight.

Sunday 17th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Tried to chase up some more spanish courses in the morning but obviously no one was answering phone calls on a sunday. So I sent a few emails and then went for a walk to the park.

Met up with Emma in the park. I had a quick snooze on the grass while the salvation army brass band played and then watched 'The Lord of the Rings' on TV. Sarena had got a reply for her course so at least one of us will be starting spanish tomorrow.

Didn't get up until 10am which was so late for me, had a quick shower then didn't do much for the rest of the day as i was feeling pretty rough. I did want to go for a walk around the park but just ended up sitting on the couch and writing my diary.

Didn't do much in the evening but did get an answer from the Spanish School saying it would be ok for me to start first thing in the morning, how exciting is that!..

Monday 18th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Got up nice and early as we had a 35 minute walk to Barrio Bellavista where Sarena starts her spanish course. I was a bit miffed that all the cereal had gone so I had to make some porridge. I took my frustration out on Sarena a bit and we didn't speak at all for the entire walk across town.

Sarena started her spanish lesson at 9. I still hadn't found a course so I sent 2 hours hunting around. Eventually I ended up at one school and was immediately thrown into a classroom that was halfway through the lesson. I had no clue as to how long the classes where so just went with the flow. Whilst doing my lessons I have decided to write my diary in spanish as best as I can, just to get some extra practice in (nariz marrón)...

Para mi lección primero, yo apprendi el verbo 'ser' (to be) en tense presente. Él verbo irregular y permenate. e.g.

yo soy
tu eres
usted/el/ella es
nosotros somos
vosotros sois
ustedes/elles/ellas son

Tengo también apprendi; Estaciones (Primavera, Verano, Otoño y Invierano),Meses (Enero, Febrero, Marzo, Abril, Mayo, Junio, Julio, Agosto, Septiembre, Octubre,Noviembre y Deciembre), Dias (Lunes, Martes,Miércoles, Jueves, Viernes, Sábado y Domingo) y los verbos regular en 'er', 'ir' y 'ar'.

Tengo poco trabajo casa y estudiar solo siempre la tardes.

 

Got up at 7am and whilst Toby made us some lovely porridge which i thought most healthy but Toby had once again woken up in a foul mood and ended up breaking someone else's dish which fell out of the fridge......... he then proceeded to moan because all the chocolate cereal had been eaten (it was a very small box) even though he had always said he hated chocolate cereal for b'fast and couldn't understand why would people eat that crap? ........ needless to say by the time we left the hostel and were walking to school, (Toby thought he would try out one around the corner) he had got himself into a right mare and proceeded to really upset me on my first day of School.

When i arrived, an hour later, that will keep me fit everyday! i found i was the only one in the class and you would usually have to pay extra for personal tuition. I met my lovely teacher called Paola who is 28 and very very nice, so proceeded to introduce me to the wonderful world of Spanish which i enjoyed a lot more than i thought.

At 1pm I said goodbye and took myself and my new folder full of notes and homework and walked all the way back to the hostel which seemed to take me an hour and a half this time? very weird walking back though as the people really stare at you if you have lighter hair and different coloured eyes, you really begin to feel self conscious. I loved walking around the City though and was just like London with all the fantastic buildings and large open Squares with parks etc, very very cosmopolitan.

Went back to the hostel and had some lunch and met up with Toby who grunted a few words, i couldn't be arsed with him so sat and did all my homework then sat up till late watching Tomb Raider.

Tuesday 19th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Nosotros desayunamos en porridge y café y caminamos de la leccion espagnol para nueve. Hoy yo apprendi los verbos 'estar' (to be) en tense presente. Él verbos irregular y momento. e.g.

yo estoy
tu estás
usted/el/ella está
nosotros estamos
vosotros estais
ustedes/elles/ellas están

Tengo también apprendi, los numeros y mascuilne y feminie sujectos

del la tardes yo escribo mi journale y del la noches yo finiti mi trabaja casa.

Another early morning but this time Toby woke up in a better mood so there were no tantrums. I checked my email as i am still waiting to hear from Clare about when they are going to get to Chile but still haven't had word. Walked to School which took only 40mins and had a great day ( still the only one in the class) finding it a little harder today and just cant soak up the information, my brain has never retained anything even though i try sooooo hard - really annoys me.

Finished School at 1pm and walked back again on my own stopping off to look around a huge Cathedral, took my breath away going in as it was just so beautiful - proper Catholic grand thing with all the trimmings. I then went to find the museum so that we could both go for look around another day then walked back to the hostel.

Took all afternoon and evening to do all my homework then had a glass of wine and an early night.

Wednesday 20th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Okay, Okay. Its only the 3rd day of lesson and I have given up writing my diary in spanish already. The truth is I have fallen behind with my diary and it takes me ages just to keep it up to date in English. It was all a bit of a teachers pet idea anyway!

Any the spanish lesson where pretty good, just wished our teacher had a bit more personality. My classmates, Lisa and Melanie also do an extra lesson in the afternoons and seem to be improving a lot quicker than me, especially with pronunciation.

After school I scoured the second hand shops for a new pair of trousers. Not my favourite occupation but I managed to stick it out for a couple of hours and ended up with a pair of chords and some well used cargo pants. Sarena was a bit upset that I didn't find her anything but that's asking a bit too much.

Spent the evening with a few beers and being entertained by emma with her new (second hand) furry boots.

Still nothing from Clare so starting to worry now.......

Walking to school was pretty hard because of the pollution, really made my chest burn.

School was great and we went for an outing to the supermarket so that she could teach me how to purchase and what the names of the veggies and fruit were etc, all very interesting but we did manage to filter towards the chocolate isle and purchase some large bars of chocy to take back to school to consume in the afternoon

Met Toby after lessons back at the old Hostel we first stayed at so that we could hopefully meet up with Rob ( ditty man whom we met in Tahiti. But he had gone down the beach for the day, so we went out for some lunch in a lovely little place suggested by Paola (my teacher).

Didn't walk back today but caught the Metro on my own whilst Toby went off to look for some second hand trousers.

Didn't do much in the evening but spent the whole afternoon doing my homework and then had a beer in the evening. Emma managed to purchase herself a pair of second hand boots which have to be the funniest things I have ever seen! They seem to be made from some kind of animal - probably labrador, and are just Emma all over.

Thursday 21st August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Spanish lesson seemed very confusing today. Our teacher struggled to explain some theory to us which I'm sure is very simple but non of us seemed to get it. He ended up getting pretty frustrated and looked like he was about to throw a tantrum. Luckily we had top fill a questionnaire out about the weeks lessons as well... we all suggested a new teacher for next week, in the nicest possible way of course. We didn't get any homework though which was a good bonus.

Caught the Metro home with Sarena and didn't do much else for the day, although we did get some arrival details from Beau and Clare who are coming out to meet us for a few weeks in september. Cool. I also went to the hairdressers for a perm and highlights but they didn't seem to understand my spanish so I ended up with a very short chop.

Yep up for School and looking forward to the weekend!

lessons were really good as usual but still struggling!

Had lots of laughs and have really made friends with Paola which is nice, hope to go out for a few drinks with her at the end of the course. I met up with Toby again and caught the metro home. I wanted to post a card for my dads birthday so thought there would be a post box near our hostel but when we got back it seems there are no post boxes due to kids setting fire to them...... so the only way i could post it would be to go all the way back into town to the Post Office and send it from there - bugger have to do it in the morning on the way to School.

Spent all afternoon doing my homework as usual whilst Toby didn't seem to have any... bastard. Didn't do much in the evening but did have good news from Clare and Beau telling us they are flying out on the 8th Sep!!!!!! i am soooo excited.

Emma and Toby went and got some beers which seemed to escalate by the evening, turned into a bit of a girls session with Emma being the funniest one out of the gathered group. I have to try and explain about Emma - i think there should be an 'Emma' in every household as she is like a ray of sunshine bringing joy and light everywhere she goes. She is open and honest, kind, generous and has the funniest sweetest nature you could ever wish to meet - how are we going to travel without her? got so used to her being around now........

Anyway whilst we were drinking and having a laugh Toby got approached by Simon the owner and asked if we would like to move to a twin room, for only 5,000pesos - £5 each a night as apposed to the £4 we were paying each for a dorm bed. So of course we jumped at the idea and were soon moving all our gear into the room next door. Problem was leaving Emma, felt so guilty seeing her little face ( she was also in our dorm).

Almost forgot to mention that our Colin came by the Hostel to say hello, the same Colin from Easter Island who helped our poor Emma when she got her foot bit by the dog, very nice guy. It was great to see him again so made arrangements to meet up Friday afternoon for some drinkies.

 

Friday 22nd August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Really appreciated our new double room in the morning. I made the porridge and we headed off to school for the last time before the weekend... a good feeling. School was school I think we are all a little disappointed with our teacher.

After school though I met up with Sarena and also meet Rob (from tahiti) sitting at a street bar. Emma had also come to meet up and with Robs Swiss friend (Neder) we ended up with an instant posse. Just the right excuse to celebrate Friday with a few drinks... and a few more drinks... and a few more. We sat out on the street drinking all afternoon. It was actually a pretty popular spot with loads of locals also celebrating that friday feeling. One group of young-ins drinking where very keen to talk to us but only new english from Hip-hop records that the have heard. Most of the conversation is pretty un repeatable but they where intent that I bough my 'Bitches' over to sit with them. It was all very funny. The where especially amused by my spanish pronunciation, when I tried to tell them about our traveling. I ended up with '2 anuses the size of the world'!!!

Well the evening drew on and it got very cold on the street our expanded posse (we had now been joined by Lisa and Melanie from my classes and a few other backpackers) retired back to a local hostel for some warmth. Probably not a good move as 8 hours of drinking and a warm room made me loose some of my pizzazz for the rest of the night. I had also received some disturbing news on email from my brothers so I wasn't in the mood to stay out any longer. Sarena and I caught a taxi back to Casa Roja leaving Emma to keep up our side of the posses (felt a bit guilty leaving her on her own).

It was nice getting up in the morning and being able to turn on the light for a change! after our regular bowl of porridge we raced to school stopping of at the post office to send dads card. Then went our separate ways for the day and i spent my day getting boggled by some more Spanish !! good thing was it was Friday which meant it was the WEEKEND............... oh how fantastic is that! felt just like the old days when we had weekends to look forward to, oh so long ago when we were working and all that malarkey.

After School i met up with Toby and we went to a bar where we met up with Emma and Rob and a guy called ........... from Switzerland, had a great afternoon drinking our way through copious amounts of beer and gaining more people all the time from various hostels and different nationalities. LIsa and ..... also joined us who were in the same class as Toby learning Spanish - LIsa is really nice. So by the end of the afternoon we had ourselves a right old gang of people having a laugh. Problem was, it was bloody cold and i didn't have any jumpers with me as they were both in the launderette for the day. So Rob very kindly went and got me one of his which saved my life cause at that point i had turned blue!

................ proceeded to tell us how he had all his things stolen a couple of days before, only telling us half the story at fist then as the night went on he told us how he had got drunk and then took a lady back to his hotel room and managed to have a good time with her then wake up the next morning to find her and his things gone. His bag contained his flight tickets, passport,visa,money - oh dear....

She did have a conscience though as she handed back in the flight tickets,passport and visa !!! Toby went and called Colin to see if he was out and about but didn't manage to catch up with him in the end. We all started to get really cold so decided to back to Robs hostel (our old one) to sit in the reception and get warm before heading elsewhere. So off we all went, sat around for a bit and chatted but Toby was tired and wanted to get back so we left them all to it and caught the metro home, Toby went straight to bed whilst i stayed up and watched TV for a bit.

Saturday 23rd August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Wah hay its the weekend - no school today - lets go crazy. Well in fact we where both up by 7:30, I had developed a bit of a cold over night and was feeling pretty groggy so we ended up wasting the whole day hanging around the hostel. I phoned home from a call centre up the road, things have gone a bit pear shaped back home so needed to make sure everyone was alright. It was great to speak to mum though and I gave a few other friends a ring. Sarena seems very keen and wrote up all her notes from the weeks spanish lessons, whilst I sneaked my laptop onto the hostels network and downloaded some new albums for my iPod.

Took a small walk around the local area just to see if I could shake off my groggy head. Didn't work though. The rest of the day just seemed to blur away.

So looking forward to a lie in but managed to get up early and then sit around for a good few hours putting off doing my Spanish homework and to put all my notes in my lovely new note book i had purchased. I did have a shower at around 11am then put some moisturiser on my body because for some reason i have turned reptilian? i have never seen anything like it, my legs are white with scales....... could it be the pollution and the water?

Anyway after lunch i sat down for hours and hours and hours re doing all my notes whilst Toby went off to do his own thing-he didn't have any homework. Gave up at 8pm and then just pottered around chatting to different people and looking for Catherine's (she works at the hostel) mobile phone - seems it had been stolen some time in the day. Have to say there are a lot of thefts going on, whether it be food or other, mostly food. Some bugger stole our loaf of bread whilst others have had loads of food stuff taken. A girl also came back to the hostel saying how she had had a bloke run past her in the street earlier on in the day and he had try to grab her bag but she luckily had a tight hold on it so he just stole her sunnies from the top of her head.........lot of that going on around these parts. That's why i worry cause it was only yesterday when Toby got up to go in the restaurant to order some food whilst we were sat out on the outdoor table, he just left his bag on the floor and his wallet on the table ( a table away from us) The others couldn't believe it whilst i just nodded in desperation - when will he learn!

Toby went to bed at 10pm as he had the beginnings of a cold again

Sunday 24th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

I have had enough of the pollution on top of my cold It is very uncomfortable. So in a quest to get some fresh air, Emma and I decided to catch a bus to the coast. Sarena wasn't too keen on coming and spent the day with her head in her spanish books.

The bus to Valparaiso was very smart. The city is 80 odd km west of Santiago and took us about an hour and a half to get there. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco as we drove into the heart of the city as all the houses are built on steep hills and are pretty colourful. As i got off the bus i was pretty disappointed as the air was still pretty polluted. Never mind. Emma and I first took a walk around the down and caught a hill lift up to a very old part of down. Some of the buildings are amazing and a lot are falling down leaving huge holes which fall away from the hill edges to oblivion. After a good view from the top of a hill (and a bit of fresh air in the wind) we caught a train to the neighbouring city of Vina del mar. This city had a beach so after we grabbed a kebab and walked the pretty developed high street we made our way to the beach. It was pretty small and busy but I guess I have been pretty spoiled with beaches over the last couple of years in Oz and the Pacific. By this time it was getting pretty late in the day so we caught the train back to the bus terminal and got back to Casa Roja by about 9 in the evening.

Had a bit of a lie-in and then went up the shop to get some b'fast then spent the whole day sitting in the sun doing my Spanish and trying to make some sense out of all my notes whilst Toby and Emma buggered off for the day. In the evening Simon ( the owner) hung a wall hanging on our bedroom wall whilst i did my diary, he said we could have a double room tomorrow. Seems though the couple who's room we were taking over weren't leaving the next day so we couldn't move in yet. I studied all day until 8.30 in the evening but just couldn't do anymore so did some of my diary then sat down to watch some TV. Toby and Emma came back at 9pm and were both knackered from walking around all day and Toby seemed to be feeling pretty rough by now with his cold.

Monday 25th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Back to school. It doesn't feel good having to get up early when its pretty cold outside. Even worse is that I have developed a cold so found walking pretty hard with the nasty smog. We walked to school for 9 and I spent 20 minutes sitting in the park revising the work we had done last week. Although most of my time was spent dodging the sprinklers that seem to come on next to every bench I chose to sit on.

We had a new teacher and my 2 fellow students where nowhere to be seen in the morning. I started to think that maybe I had been moved to the dunce class. Lisa managed to turn up for the second lesson though, she had just had a heavy weekend. Our new teacher was much better than the first, everything seemed much simpler thanks to his explanations. So I was feeling pretty happy by lunch time.

After School I went straight back to the hostel and hung around until Sarena got home. We then opted for a pizza for tea which was a great choice as Monday was Happy hour day as Dominos (yes they even have them here). We got a massive pizza in the hope that it will last a few days. In fact I could only manage 1 piece so at least there is some left for tomorrow.

The couple next door were moving all their stuff out so we chucked our bags in and left for school. Feeling pretty tired but being good students, we hauled our asses into school and went to our lessons. Didn't go so well as i was just not getting into the whole learning thing and just feeling tired. Poula, my teacher just said it was because it was Monday but i think i'm trying too hard. I set myself such high goals sometimes that i get frustrated when i can't reach them. Didn't meet up with Toby after School as i wanted to have a look around and get a red pen and some hair stuff which turned out to be quite expensive as usual - why to they charge so much to stop your hair from going frizzy? I had a walk around the second hand shops for a bit then walked home. Toby was already back after catching the metro home but he was doing some computer stuff for Simon so i left him to it and did my homework for the rest of the day. Toby went out and got a takeaway pizza and came back with some free garlic bread, bottle of Sprite. chicken wings and a big pot of Carte Dor ice-cream - can't be bad! Emma helped us eat some of the ice-cream but we left most of the pizza for the rest of the week, yeah right.......Had an early night in our new double room which was really nice especially as we had a window, the rest of the rooms were pretty dark and dingy due to not having windows.

Tuesday 26th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Found some of the spanish lesson a bit confusing today. But managed to muddle through it. I met up with Sarena after the lesson to phone a few people back home and then we caught the metro back to the hostel. I was feeling a little unmotivated so kind of wandered around the hostel for a bit nibbling on a couple of slices of pizza.

The hostel owner, Simon, then caught up with me and we sat on reception and went through some changes that he wanted made to his web site for 'La Casa Roja' . The meeting ended up turning into a bit of a party as I was offered a few beers and wine. I got pretty drunk pretty quickly and more people sat around the reception. two new lodgers, Clive and Nicole joined us and Clive bought his guitar and harmonica so we had a bit of a strum before we resorted to music of my ipod whish I plugged into the hostel stereo. It was all a bit spontaneous and I was still felling pretty lively by 1 in the morning but took the sensible option of going to bed. Unlike emma and a few others who stayed up until 6.

Woke up feeling a lot more enthusiastic today and school was really good fun, still the only one in the class so Poula and i have formed a really good relationship and laugh all day. We went for a walk around the palestinian area which was full of market stalls and clothes shops so we walked slowly around whilst i learned all the colours and clothes in Spanish. Met up with Toby after School then went over to phone my dad as it was his b'day. He was really pleased to hear from me and it was o good to speak to him. I then phoned Beau and Clare and spoke to Beau just to confirm what they wanted to do when they flew over on the 9th of September. All very exciting!!!

We then caught the metro home and did our homework for the rest of the day - well i did mine and Toby helped me as he didn't have any, as usual. Toby went off later in the evening to do some more work for Simon and seemed to be in his element, answering the phone and helping out on reception - looked like one of the family. Catherine was on reception for the evening shift and said we should go down and keep her company. So after dinner i grabbed the box of red and went down to reception area only to find a little party gong on. Emma and Toby were already into the wine and were joined by quite a few others, all of whom were getting very merry on the red wine. Toby linked his MP3 player up to the stereo so we had music, good crowd and drink. Ended up sitting up till quite late chatting and finding out all the other travel stories.

I went to bed at quite a respectable time leaving everyone else to it. Toby didn't come to bed till a few hours after me and a little worse for wear.......

Wednesday 27th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Was feeling a little groggy in the morning and we where late leaving the hostel so we caught the metro in. I was actually pretty on the ball for our first lesson of spanish though. but things went down hill for our second lesson. Lisa didn't come at all, so I checked in on her after Sarena and I had lunch. She had a pretty nasty hangover so had written the whole day off. I hung around the school for a couple of hours... Well fell asleep in the park with some fellow students, whilst we waited to go on a museum tour at 3:30. The tour is arranged by the school so all the students met up and we caught a 'death trap' bus to the museum of President Salvador Allende. Allande was the president that was ousted by Pinochet and his military in 1973. The museum was a combinations of photos and articles relating to the event and more on the atrocities of Pinochet's government than Allendes. There was also a few rooms of art some of which was pretty good.

I got back to the hostel by 6:30 to be presented with some dinner that Sarena had prepared. We watched a bit of crap TV and then I went to bed.

Woke up feeling a little low and Toby feeling a little hung over so we caught the Metro in giving us an extra 30mins at the hostel. Had another good day at school and ended up watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon then had to answer questions about what i had seen - my favourite cartoon.

I then went and met up with Toby for some lunch as he had to hang around the area because he was going to a School outing at 3.30pm

I then caught the metro back to the hostel and spent all afternoon doing my homework and chatting to Emma who was leaving first thing in the morning.

Had a quite evening just chilling out in front of the TV, Toby didn't get back until 5ish but didn't tell me a thing about what he had seen.

Thursday 28th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Emma left us this morning. It was pretty sad to see her go as we had become a bit of a posse with her other the last 3 weeks or so. I did pretty well at school just repeating stuff we have meant to of learnt already. it was Nicole's birthday so we all had some sparking wine at our 11 o'clock break. spent the afternoon making the changes to Casa Roja's web site.

The highlight of the evening was watching the same 5 videos being nominated for every category in the MTV awards. What a load of crap.

Had to say our goodbyes to little Emma first thing and i was really upset to see her go, she had become a really good mate and was just a bundle of loveliness to have around. Had another good day at School and couldn't believe my week was nearly over- have i even learnt anything? Got back home and studied for a few hours then just vegged out in front of the TV watching the MTV awards with the crowd and was once again bowled over at just how cringy the whole American - looks are everything attitude, the whole show was just an unbelievable pile of poo and was only made worse by watching Madonna snog Brittany Spears and Christina Aguilara (with tongues) just for affect ...... seems it worked though cause all the blokes thought it was great!

Friday 29th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Schools out for ever! Rock on Alice!!!! Actually the lessons where really good as we learnt some neat tricks that will help us loads with our spanish. It will actually be quite sad not to come back again and study with Lisa, Melanie and Luis. Managed to get a quick photo of the class in action. Then for lunch I met up with Sarena and we joined the rest of my class for a meal in a local restaurant. All in all I have been really impressed by the school (Tandem) with have learnt a slightly different style to Sarena as I think we have concentrated more on the theory than actual vocab but I guess that will come as I use the language in the real world. At first it was pretty daunting as no English was spoken and I got no explanation of what the curriculum was, not even my class times. but that was just a minor problem and probably due to my turning up halfway through the very first morning session.

After Lunch Sarena and I headed back to La Casa Roja in Barrio Brazil. I spent the afternoon working on la Casa Roja's web site (http://www.lacasaroja.cl) as Simon (the owner) wanted a few changes and new pictures adding. All pretty good work when he was offering some free nights accommodation in return.

Later that evening (well about midnight) Simon invited us to a bar in Providencia so a gang of us jumped into a couple of taxis and we spent a good few hours in one of the poshest bars I have been to for a long while. Managed to have a good chat with a few other guys at Casa Roja. Emma and James from NZ who have been traveling for 8 years. Jimmy from Inverness, Ryan from Philadelphia, A couple of guys from Brazil. and a few others that turned up a bit later.

Ended up getting back at about 4am.

Last day at School! feeling quite sad about my last day as i will miss little Poula and her funny stories as well as not learning anymore. I stopped off to buy some cakes before class for our tea break for a treat. Lessons were cool and we did a run through all the stuff we had covered which to my surprise i had remembered quite a lot - maybe i'm not such a waste of space as previously thought.....

We had lots of laughs and ate cakes all day accompanied by the other Poula who also runs the School. At the end of the day they presented me with a certificate and took my photo then gave me a book to write my opinion of the course which of course was all good - both girls were just fab. I asked Poula if she wanted to come to the BBQ and band the hostel was doing on Saturday night but she was having a bit of a shin dig at her place that she invited us to, which i said i would love to go. We all had lots of hugs and kisses then i said goodbye and went to meet Toby who was waiting for me on the corner. He said that his school mates were all having lunch together so we walked up to find them, then went for some grub which wasn't so good - not very good at doing food over these parts.

We then went back home then i studied for a few hours but ended up talking to a lovely girl and her brother from the UK who were so extremely nice. They were both really talented and could sing brilliantly, he also played the guitar and harmonica - very clever family. Clive is a doctor and Nicole is a speech therapist and get on so well which is strange for a brother and sister, i ended up listening to the iPod with Nicole sharing the earphones and sang our hearts out much to the dismay of everyone else. Clive also played me a few tunes which they both sang along to, so it was a lovely afternoon of making new friends and singing. The hallway seems to be a great place to sit down as people who walk past just come and sit down to talk and chill - way cool. A another couple came and joined us, he was just about to leave to go back to the UK whilst she carried on traveling for a bit so they came and had a chat then went off. Later on whilst i was in the kitchen i noticed to girl come in - she looked so sad so i went and found her a little later on to see if she was ok - i found her in the dorm room looking so forlorn and when i went and asked if she was ok she just started crying. Bless her heart, so i went and made her a nice cuppa tea and asked if she wanted to go out for the evening, but she declined saying she would be ok, it was just a bit of a shock coming back to the hostel without him. Anyway back in the kitchen Simon asked if we wanted to go out to a bar with him at about 10.30 so we said we would give it a go. Don't know if i have mentioned the people over here don't go out until 11pm then stay out all night - bars stay open till 9am. So in the end a group of us got together including Emma and James a Kiwi couple who have been staying in the hostel for a couple of months and were really good fun as well as some other people who worked at the hostel. The bar was also a restaurant and seemed to be a real popular place - it was packed so we squeezed ourselves into a corner and proceeded to drink beer and have a really good laugh. Some more guys joined us a bit later on so in the end there was about 10 of us. At some point in the morning we decided to go back to the hostel so we all bundled in taxis and went back. The rest of the group then went back out again whilst Toby and i didn't but did go to bed at 4am which wasn't bad going for us.

 

Saturday 30th August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

We really must get away from Santiago. we have 10 days before our friends Beau and Clare arrive so we should make the most of it. Sarena and I have hardly spoke to each other over the last few weeks, what with School and all the other distractions at the hostel (and on my mind) we have drifted apart a bit. We ended up having a bit of a discussion about it all and came to the conclusion that we need to put a bit more effort into our relationship. Sarena suggested that I go off on my own for a bit so we can both have some thinking space. So we decided that I will go up North at the beginning of next week for a few days camping whilst Sarena stays here. My first task then was to go and get my boots split. The poor things have been practically stuck to my feet for the last 2 years and I have taken no care of them at all. The leather is starting to split in places.

My search for a cobblers was in vain. I found a few but they where all closed so after hours of trudging the streets of Santiago I returned with a solitary tube of glue that cost me 60 pence. I Glued my boots and then we hung round the Hostel for a BBQ that Simon was putting on. There was so much meat. And it was all cooked to perfection It was the first decent steak I have had for ages. The BBQ went on to 10:30 when a local Jazz band turned up and started to play. We listened to them until about 11:45 and then Sarena and I headed out to a house party that we had been invited to.

The house party was Sarena's spanish teacher, Paula. we arrived at her flat to find a few others there. They where all speaking spanish

Seems the rest of the group didn't get in till 7am which was a fantastic effort.. Mind you i saw Emma that afternoon and she looked bloody awful! I spent the afternoon just studying whilst Toby went out to find someone to mend his now split boots, i had told him for 2 yrs to waterproof and clean them so they would last him - need to look after your boots! but he didn't listen and the darn things have now bust. The rest of the hostel family were all busy making salads and preparing for the BBQ that evening. Toby came back later on not achieving a thing, but did buy some glue.

The BBQ turned out to be a great success and the food was bloody wonderful - so much meat. It is so cheap over here and so good thanks to no chemicals etc so it's all really really tasty. We all had such a good time and the band were very good, before we knew it, it was 11pm and time to go to Poula's house. We jumped in a taxi and found her place, she was really pleased to see us and introduced me to her mates - some were German and could all speak fluent Spanish. We got talking to ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,who is Poula's friend and wanted to try out his English on us which was very good. he even had a proper accent and sounded just like the Queen, which everyone thought was hilarious when i said this out loud, it turned out he was gay.....

We all then buggered off to another party where we greeted by the other Poula and then spent the whole evening drinking and dancing Salsa and Tango. The whole group of people were good fun and we all just got mixing and talking to everyone. As it turned out ..............mate was his boyfriend which i hadn't realised and we all got on brilliantly - i seem to attract gay guys? he thought it was amazing that i didn't even blink when he told me. It seems gays get an awful time over these parts and are not accepted which is a shame. That's why he seemed shocked that i wasn't disgusted with him and his boyfriend, no skin off my nose.

Had a fab time dancing and drinking, drinking and dancing then decided to go home seeing as it was about 5.30am, so the gang walked us to a taxi and we had lots of hugs goodbye and promises to meet again when Beau and Clare get here, then we went home - didn't get to bed till after 6ish.

Sunday 31st August 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Had a nice lie in which helped me get over my grogginess, and pretty much spent the rest of the day lounging around the Hostel. I didn't get much sleep so was trying to edge my way to bed pretty early although I still didn't manage it until after midnight.

Didn't get up till the early afternoon which was a waste but i did feel pretty groggy. Just sort of lounged around for the afternoon We had another chat about whether he should go away for a few days whilst i did my own thing around Santiago and Toby thought it would be a good idea - we just haven't been communicating as well as we should so thought it would do us good.

Stayed up to watch a film and didn't go to bed till late.

Monday 1st September 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Didn't get up until gone midday. I really seem to be falling into the right pattern now for South America. Late nights and late mornings. The plan was to go hunting for a new pair of boots. But after checking my attempt at gluing my current pair I decided that they may last a little longer .I have become very attached to them and just don't want to get rid of them. Instead I hunted around the shops in Provendencia to find some more video tapes, I also found a couple of useful Lonely planet books. They where a bit extortionate but I am building up a nice collection of LP books now so got the spanish phrase book and one on Argentina,Uruguay and Paraguay.

Got back to Casa Roja by 3 and did some final changes to the hostels web site then uploaded it. Also found an email from Deon letting me know that Saints beat Manchester United. I then checked the premier league to find Pompey at number 3. What the hell is going on back home!!! Simon also lent me some spare camping gas for my trip north tomorrow which is very cool as I was beginning to think I wouldn't be able to find any.

Spent the rest of the day chatting to a few guests and getting sucked into the evil that is TV.

Woke up feeling pretty rough again - feel like i'm coming down with something, my glands are swollen and i'm full of gloopy stuff.

The pollution certainly doesn't help and everyone seems to coughing and feeling a little ill, but then everyone burns the candle both ends! Toby went off to find some boots and other bit and pieces but came back empty handed apart from some glue for his split boots. I tried to do some Spanish but just have the energy so ended up chatting to people and milling around. Woke up in the early hours because some guys had come back from a night out and decided to watch TV full blast then shout to each other over the top. I sleep in my loose see through top and baggy trousers at night time, and my bikini top. I got up to got and shut the lounge door and tell them to keep it down so in i stropped and said my piece then crawled back into bed again, it was only when i did this did i realise my bikini to had come off and was around my neck exposing my boobs to all the world through my see through top. How bloody embarrassed was I !!!!! explains why they all just looked at me and went very quiet - i thought it was my angry face........

 

Toby is definitely going tomorrow and i think he is looking forward to getting away from the area and probably from me. Made lots of arrangement to do things for the rest of the week which was cool then just chilled out with some of the crowd for the rest of the evening. Didn't sleep well as i kept forgetting to breath all night and wake up gasping - very much like when i did the Everest climb and the altitude had the same affect.

Tuesday 2nd September 2003 On The Bus / Barrio Brazil, Santiago

I'm off. Quit frankly I have had enough of Sarena's selfish attitude. If she wants to travel on then she can damn well find someone else to travel with... only joking, its probably the other way round. But we both agree a little time to ourselves will do us a world of good. I have decided to take a 24 hour bus ride into the driest desert in the world - Atacama. My bus left Santiago at 3:30 so I spent the morning packing.

Waved goodbye to Sarena at 2:30 and headed to the Bus terminal. I had expected a few travelers to be catching the same bus north. But there was only one. Libby (Sydney) is also going to San Pedro de Atacama as she has a few days to kill before returning to OZ. I had a seat at the very back of the bus and was joined by a chilean guy who I think was a paramedic - if my spanish was good enough to understand him. It was quite good to sit next to him for the rest of the day as it gave me an opportunity to practice.

Not much else really happened on the bus. It soon grew dark and I kept dozing all the way through the night. The Buses (Tur-bus) are pretty smart. with loads of leg room and a the seats recline a fair bit. An added bonus was that we also got fed. really it was just like being on a plane.

Well today is the day i'm left on my own! i emailed mother to let her know the plans and of course she sent me back an email panicking telling me not to go out on my own or to do anything stupid etc, honestly i think she thinks i'm going to walk out with a mini skirt in the early hours.......i might not be a clever chick but i have always had good common sense.

Ole Emma is traveling around South America on her own so i'm really not being brave by staying in Casa Roja on my tod........We packed up all our stuff from the double room as i now had to move into a dorm room - bummer. Toby left at 2pm so we said our goodbyes - seemed very strange to watch him walking away down the road with his backpack on - hope he stays safe.

I went and got my bag and headed off to Saint Lucia which is a big hill in town that has been made into a big sort of folly and reminded me of a big enchanted castle with lots of steps and secret paths leading onto patio's and fountains and little grotto's etc I had a lovely time walking around there for a few hours but was always aware of who was around me especially when i got out my camera - Emma had told me about all the men that come up to you and try to sell poetry and don't leave you alone, but i didn't have one person come up to me - i seems to only attract gays and dogs, still i had my penknife in my pocket just incase. I had decided on having a quiet evening just spending some time on my own and reflecting bla bla. But within minutes of me sitting down outside in the courtyard i had people come up and sit with me wanting to chat. Just sometimes it's nice to have some space but it wasn't looking like i was going to get any....... ended up having a really good evening though and played table tennis with a big crowd of people One of the blokes who i had told off in the night and had seen my boobs was one of the guys who was chatting to me the most and i just couldn't look him in the eye, i wish he would have just said something to make me feel less stupid but he didn't. Simon the owner came out to join us and i ended up drinking a lot of red wine with him then watched Mad Max 1 till the early hours of the morning until i could no longer see the TV so went to bed. Merlin and a few other guys wanted to come along for the walk i was doing then next morning but they had turned the whole thing into a camping expedition and wanted to borrow the van and load it up with meat and beer - it was escalating into a full blown trip, i just wanted to go for a walk?

Wednesday 3rd September 2003 Sand Pedro / Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Actually slept pretty well during the night on the bus. Our first major stop was Antofogasto on the coast. But this was still a good few hours away. The scenery was just full on desert with nothing major to look at. A couple of dunes and hills had some interesting patterns made on them but that was about it. Antofogasto is Chile second biggest city and we where given 30 minutes to stretch our legs. My traveling partner also left me at this stop. Luckily no one else caught the bus and filled his seat so I had more space to my self for the remaining four hours to San Pedro de Atacama.We left Antofogasta to a march of the local army (big guns) and carried on our way. We had another quick stop at Calama and then by 4 pm we where in San Pedro... finally.

Libby and I went to the first Hostel. It looked pretty cool so Libby checked in there and I found a Hostel/campsite just a little further down the road. The actual camping area was full with a big group of people. But the owners found me a pretty shady spot in amongst some weeds. The place was pretty nice with a cafe and best of all hot running water. The first thing I did was have a shower and then I met up Libby for a much needed beer and an omlette at a very cozy restaurant with dusty floors molded adobe seats and a huge roaring fireplace. The beer was pretty expensive though - but well worth it. After just a few glasses I was feeling pretty drunk and both Libby and I called it a day by about 9.

I dived in my tent and fell asleep straight away. But only for a couple of hours as by 11 the cold of the mountainous desert night really started to bite into me. I put on as many clothes as I could find, but is was no good. so I spent the rest of the shivering in between the odd bought of sleep.

I had made arrangement previously to go out to a national park walking for the day with Catherine and Edith, so i crawled out of my pit after having a very fitful sleep due to having a throat full of gloop and stopping breathing all night again, strange thing is i could feel my self doing it? i felt i would relax then gasp awake constantly forgetting to breathe, now how the hell can you do that? my chest felt like it was full of asbestos and my throat was full of custard...

Got up at 9am and felt like shite so had a quick shower and b'fast, i was really looking forward to getting out of the city for the day. The rest of the crowd that had wanted to come and stay camping had all pulled out due to something or other which i was relieved about but as i was about to walk out the door to catch the train i got a phone call from Catherine who had gone teaching that morning and i was going to meet. Anyway she said the weather was shit and should we do the wine tour instead, i agreed not wanting to really drink any more wine but the weather did look groggy. Edith went off and met her friend and went for another walk so i just caught the metro to the end of the line to meet up with Catherine as she said the winery was in that area. Turned out it was nowhere near that area so had to catch the metro back to the bus station and find out what other trips they had. It was quite funny cause Catherine worked at the hostel and should have known where the wine tour was as she had to give out information to people! It was now lunch time and getting a bit late to do anything, problem was the weather had turned nice and the sun was shining down so we could have done the walk after all...... Catherine suggested the cinema and i thought that was a great idea so we hopped on a bus to take up to a huge shopping mall Catherine had suggested, this had a really big cinema. The bus journey took bloody ages and took us right the other side of town miles away from the hostel, funny thing is we passed so many cinemas on the way.......... We found the darned shopping mall which was bloody huge and got ourselves a couple of tickets to watch the Johnny Depp - Pirate film. We had a little while to kill so split up and she went to have a look at clothes shops whilst i went down to get some sweets for the cinema and have a look for some camping shops to look for some boots for Toby. There were some very rich people walking around dripping in diamonds and designer outfits, the shops were all very posh which made me feel very scruffy as i had on my walking gear thinking that was what i was going to do for the day. I met up with Catherine a little later and went to watch the film which we both thought was really very good, i really really like Johny Depp specially as a pirate!

Afterwards we caught the bus back home which took over an hour, i was knackered and now feeling very rough, don't know if it is a cold or what? had something to eat then went to bed very early. Didn't sleep again due to my throat closing up all night and forgetting to breathe again.....

Thursday 4th September 2003 San Pedro / Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Had to be up by 7 for a tour. This wasn't a problem as I was freezing cold in the morning. My sleeping bag is just too thin for the desert nights. I was up by 6 and brewed myself a cup of tea, I then waited for the tour bus to pick me up which didn't arrive until 7:20 but at least the sun had been out for a few minutes and I was starting to warm up.

Our first stop of the day was the massive salt lake of Atacama. This lake is about 3,000 meters above sea level and inhabited by 3 different species of flamingo. Our guide christian was excellent and spoke in slow Spanish and then English. I was quite pleased with myself at how much of the spanish I understood. After watching the flamingos for a few minutes, Christian got out some coffee and biscuits for breakfast and we headed up further into the Andes stopping briefly at a village and then to a couple of lakes. We where now right by the Bolivian and Argentinean borders. The lakes where a stunning blue and surrounded by snow capped volcanoes. The 14 of us in the group took an hour walk along the lakes. It was starting to be a struggle to catch our breathes as we where now at an altitude of about 4,200 meters. The fresh air was just what I needed though after a few weeks in Santiago. Christian meet us at the lakes edge with some lunch. I had twice my share! and then we walked back to the first lake, before being taxied to a nearby village... Tocana. This village had a very picturesque town and more surprisingly a hidden oasis in a very steep valley. Called 'The Lost Paradise' it was pretty refreshing to walk in the shade for half an hour.

By the time we had walked through the Lost Paradise it was 6 so we headed back to San Pedro. I got a pretty early night as I had to be up at 4am for a trip north to El Tatio Geysers. I managed to bag some blankets of the campsite owners first though so hopefully I will be a bit warmer.

God what the hell is wrong with me? i now feel like a have a slight temperature and my chest is like a cheese grater....... how interesting, i'm going to look very healthy when i see Beau and Clare! Spent the morning looking very pathetic whilst sitting outside doing my diary. I had offered to help dig in the garden but just couldn't bring myself to do it. Made a mental note to call Clare and Beau in the afternoon so after lunch i went down to the telephone office and went and called them - luckily Clare answered the phone so we had a lovely little chat, she is so excited about coming over! I had asked mother to pack up a few things to give to Clare and Beau to bring over ie chocolate, hair product and marmite.... most important things in the world. Didn't do much in the afternoon but paid a quick visit to the pre columbian Museum up in town which turned out to be really good. Still missing Toby a lot so that is good news! everyone went out for the night time but i just stayed in and and an early night - people have stopped asking me if i want to go out now!

Friday 5th September 2003 San Pedro / Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Its madness - my tour to El Tatio Geysers started at 4 am. I set my alarm for 3:30 but for some reason slept through it and woke dead at 4. I just pulled my trousers and jumper on and rushed out to my pick up spot. I waited for 15 minutes in the freezing cold and was just about to give up think I had missed my tour when the minibus turned up. The drive was 2 hours so I tried to get some sleep but didn't manage any. Libby was also on the tour but she managed the front seat.

We got to the Geysers by 6:15 and it was just a field of steam, pretty impressive. what wasn't so impressive was the fact that it was about -10 and I only had a thermal t-shirt and jumper. Standing in the steam helped but I don't think the sulphur will do me much good. By 6:45 I was back in the minibus trying to warm up. Fortunately the sun was breaking over the top of the Andes by 7 so we could go back outside and have a bit of a picnic breakfast. After breakfast we had a drive around the geyser field and ended up at a supposedly thermal pool. It was pretty warm but not enough to get in for a swim. One guy did though. I just paddled up to my knees - wot a woos.

We took a different drive back to San Pedro. Via Muchacha Valley. It was a lush green valley which was full of Llamas, most of which where adorned with colourful scarf's and earrings that the farmer must have made for them. I ended up leaving my woolly hat there, so I expect a llama will have that on by now too. At the bottom of a valley we found a very small village where only 5 people lived. They must have been the farmers of the Llama's and where also trying to make a bit extra by selling us some coffee and Empanadas (Pastie type things). Managed to get back to San Pedro by 1. I spent the afternoon chilling out at the campsite and reading but arranged to meet up with Libby in the evening.

Hung around on a dusty street corner at 7:30 waiting for Libby. All of the men of the town seem to do the same thing so it was quite amusing just standing and watching them move form one street corner to another with no real purpose. Libby and I went to Cafe Export for some dinner. It was a tiny little adobe bar with loads of artwork and a solitary hairy latino sitting at one end. I ended up having a juicy steak with a Pisco Sour. The bar ended up getting pretty busy and we where entertained with a few songs from a trio of musicians that must do a quick tour of all the bars for a bit of cash. Ended up getting back to the tent by about 10. Hadn't drunk too much though so I felt the cold as I tried to sleep despite the two thick blankets I had borrowed.

I wanted to go out for the day so checked my emails in the morning then caught the train up val pariso and went up to look at the giant virgin on top of the huge hill called St Christabella. I caught the tram up to the top and had a lovely walk around but spent most of the time in the church which was beautiful and empty which was just how i wanted it. Hadn't had any time to my self for so long as the hostel was just so busy and loud so the complete piece and quiet of the church was wonderful. I sat in there for quite a while then went up to the top of the hill to look at the giant virgin then caught the tram back down the hill again and home. Had another quiet evening in as i was still feeling pretty rotten and my chest was wheezing like a trooper.

Saturday 6th September 2003 San Pedro / Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Tried to stay as long as i could in my tent, just to take advantage of the fact that I didn't need to get up early. Didn't work to well though. I was cold and stiff so was out by 8:30 and soaking up some of the sun.

Went for a walk around San Pedro and ended up at the museum. It was a very laid out but small place filled with artifacts from the area. Mainly Incan but some early relics too. The best bit was all the mummified bodies which are just engrossing to look at, the worst bit that there was no English Inturperations, although I think I could make out some of the spanish facts. After the Museum I visited the picturesque adobe church and wandered a bit further around the streets to watch the crazy desert chilean men doing there thing, which is basically not a lot except stand on various dusty street corners.

I then booked myself on the 3 o'clock tour to Moon Valley for sunset and sat and read in my campsite for a couple of hours. At 3 I met up with the rest of the group going to the valley. About 10 of us in total. The first stop was Death Valley, apparently called this as the track we where on used to be a lot thinner and animals often fell into the valley below. I started chatting to a Mother and Daughter from Santiago that where in San Pedro to visit there son who is a chief at a restaurant. We spent around 30 minutes walking around Death Valley. at the bottom was a huge sand dune which kids where boarding down. It looked like great fun although could do with a lift back to the top again. The next stop was Salt Valley which was very steep and narrow and included some more dunes and crazy erosion patterns from ancient wind rain and rivers. The rocks where full of salt crystals which apparently is pretty spectacular at night with a full moon. I also discovered that two fellow tourists where also from England, which made them the first brit's I had seen since getting to San Pedro, we had a the usual chat about traveling and then a few more dunes and caves later we were back in the minibus and heading for the crater of moon valley. Funnily enough Moon Valley looks just who you would expect the surface of the Moon to look. One side of it though is a massive sand dune which everyone climbs to get a few of the sunset. When we arrived there was no one else about but it wasn't long before coach loads of people arrived and the top of the dune got pretty crowed. The sunset wasn't too impressive as you really need a bit of cloud to light the sky up. It was a bit eary though watching all the strange shadows growing across the craters though. The best bit was running/jumping/rolling back down the dune to the minibus just like being a kid.

Got back to town by 7 and I was fair parched. So had a quick shower and went straight to a bar and looked all sad drinking on my own. I was just about to eat on my own too when a few people on the tour came in so I joined them. Ena was from spain and she seemed to be able to speak any language. there was also a couple form Switzerland and a guy from Chile (who ended up paying for half of my meal). It ended up being a very enjoyable and cheap night. Ena lives in Madrid so maybe we might meet up with her again. It was pretty cold by the time I got to the tent. Very fortunate then that I had had a few beers as I was out for the count as soon as I laid my head down.

Went out for the day with NIcole and Clive to Valperaso so i got up early and waited for the others to get up, seems they both had a heavy night! We all caught the Metro to the bus stop then caught the coach for the 2hr drive to Valpereso. We met 2 dutch girls that we had made friends with before and a German guy who they new but i didn't. He was a real sweetheart and had the bestist blue eyes i have ever seen, even had a good sense of humour for a German. The bus journey was really good and we saw lots of country side which is something we hadn't seen for a while! green grass and trees......fantastic. When we got there we all walked around for hours being shown around the place by a Chilean guy who is a friend of the German guy - all very nice but it was cold and after a little while we wanted to sit and have some beer and nosh. The rest of them all wanted fish so i just opted for some beer whilst they chowed down on some shell fish soup and some other fishy stuff. We all had a really good day and the view from the top of the hill was really good apart from it being a bit cloudy. The buildings were amazing and we spent most of the time just wandering around the tiny streets looking at the brightly coloured houses and churches - fantastic. We all decided to call it a day by about 6pm so traipsed back to the bus station. I had a great day and it was good to get out of the city but i really did want to go somewhere for some fresh air and some space but it turned out to be a smaller version of Santiago unfortunately, never mind. We didn't get back until 8ish so went to the supermarket and got some food for dinner then went back to the hostel. Everyone was getting drunk in the kitchen as it was Jesus (said as hisuz) who worked at the hostels, birthday. So it was a huge piss up then a going out round the bars thang, but i we weren't up for going out so just sat down in the lounge. Nicole went to bed and Clive ended up going out with his female friend whilst i went to bed about an hour later.

Sunday 7th September 2003 On a Bus / Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Up by 7:30 a quick cup of tea and I started packing my tent up. The dust just fell of the tent and I was out and and on the bus by 9. Another 24 hours on the road. the first 4 where pretty good as I had two seats to myself although I was right next to the loo which was stinking. At Calama we swapped busses for a less stinkier one and at Antofogasta I was joined by a tiny chilean girl. It was probably about 6 hours before we tried to talk to each other. She offered me half her dinner. We then spent the time by doing spanish word searches. It ended up being a bit of a competition to see who could find them the quickest. Surprisingly I kept beating her although I didn't have a clue what half the words meant. A good way to learn spanish though.

We probably stayed up till about 2 am, when I tried to get some kip. Not much though.

Didn't get up till 10am which is quite late but then the sods in my dorm room didn't stop packing up their backpacks and snow boarding stuff until 3.30am in the morning, then had the light on and were making a right old noise. I had made the decision to not do much for the whole day so it was a nice feeling knowing i had a day to veg. Had a lovely b'fast o porridge with some left over condensed milk then watched TV with NIcole and Clive for a couple of hours just drinking tea and chatting. Simon was outside still doing his building and had been up all night drinking and playing cards, still doing well.

Checked my emails but didn't get any - bummer. went down the shops to get some stuff for veggie soup then the rest of the gang went out down the park to watch the 30 yr celebration of the kick ass of pinochet but couldn't be assed to move off the couch.

 

Monday 8th September 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Probably got about 2 hours sleep maximum on the bus. But still didn't feel too bad as we pulled into Santiago bus terminal at 7:30. The trip back was nearly 2 hours quicker than getting to San Pedro de Atacama which was a bit of a bonus. I said goodbye to my mystery chilean women! and then caught the metro back to the Hostel. Surprisingly Sarena was already up and having breakfast. It was great to see her again but she was quite surprised to see back so soon as she had made plans to visit a winery. Sounds like a good idea. I met up with one of Sarena's new friends, Hamish, who seemed like a really nice guy until I found out he was from portsmouth area. (bloody 3rd in the premiership at the moment!) Anyway he was actually very cool considering. We where just about to leave for the winery when I checked my emails to find a message from Clare saying that they weren't going to make the flight tomorrow so could we phone them. Bugger. Sarena went into shock and we went straight out to find a phone.

The local call centre was closed so we ended up resorting to a very expensive phone card but still couldn't get through to Beau and Clare. So we left a message and met back up with Hamish and later with Catherine and headed out on a very scary journey (mad bus driver) to the Concho Y Toro winery at the foot of the Andes. We arrived just as the tour was starting at 11:30 so where straight into the wine. The winery is the biggest in the Americas and was very smart. the tour only included 3 wines to try but they where very generous portions. So we where all feeling pretty merry by the end of it. Oh the vineyards, stately homes and ancient cellars where all pretty interesting too. The tour finished by 1:30 and we where all famished so only just made it to the restaurant across the road. Lunch was very entertaining with the combination of our alcohol levels and and Catherine's endless struggle to eat her steak sand which.

A not so scary bus ride home and I was ready for bed, Hamish and catherine managed a few z's on the bus home. A shower sorted that out though and we also finally got through to Clare to find out that they have had to cancel there entire trip as Beau has been suffering from a long term illness and requires test. Poor old them they must be devastated. Sarena was very upset too and was in tears by the end of the phone call. Sarena just wanted to go straight home and help her friends, she was feeling very useless and obviously a little upset that we wouldn't be meeting up. Lots of cups of tea I think.

The evening was pretty solemn. Hamish left at 8 for a flight for New Zealand and I just vegged out in front of the TV watching 'Finding Forrester' until about 10:30 when fatigued finally got the better of me.

Woke up early and went to sit in the kitchen for some B'fast and piece and quiet which is the good thing about getting up early in the morning. Toby walked in as i was just about to dive into my porridge so we had a huge hug and i told him there were a few of us going on a wine tour that morning if he wanted to come along. Of course he did! so i gave him my porridge for some stamina then we met up with Hamish to catch the train. NIcole and Clive were supposed to come but declined as NIcole wasn't feeling so hot and Clive wanted to look after her. I went and checked my emails quickly before we went and found one from Clare saying they weren't coming and to give them a ring!!!!!! shit panic what do they mean they aren't coming, they have to...........So we ran around town for 20mins looking for phone cards and then a telephone to give them a ring but they weren't in so just left a message that we would call them later. I was completely shocked, we were supposed to be seeing them tomorrow!!

So off we truddled to the Metro to the last stop on the line, on the way we saw Catherine who we were also meeting for the wine trip. We then all caught the bus which turned out to be a marathon trip. The bus traveled to the foot of the Alpes where we disembarked to the Winery, we were dipensed with glasses and the found a croud of people who had already started the wine tour so we helped ourselves to a large glass of white and listed to the very interesting commentry on the Winery and the wine etc. The whole setting was wonderful and it was like a huge country Estate park that you would get back in the UK, very beautiful. I decided to drink as much as possible to try and make me feel better as i was feeling very confused and worried about why Beau and Clare weren't coming, maybe someone was ill?

Walked around for a couple of hours looking at the cellar and tasting the vino then went and had some lunch in a very expencive place opposite the winery - turned out to be a shit lunch so Toby and I went off to find a telephone - no answer again. We caught the bus and the train back to the hostel where i once again went and found a phone - finally got throiugh to find out it wasn't a joke and they really were coming. Seems Beau has had a long term problem that has got worse and just couldn't travel, Clare was so upset and kept saying sorry. Of course i was gutted but told her it couln't be helped and to get him sorted out and healthy again. I put the phone down and burst into tears in the street and just couldn' believe they weren't coming, we had planned so many things around this moment and had stayed in Santiago just to meet them - i was wetting my pants with excitement for that one big moment of meeting them at the airport and now it wasn't happening - i can't explain how bad i felt for them and for us..... ......we walked back to the hostel and i just couldn't bring myself to talk or do anything, all i new is that i just wanted to go home, all the heart had been taken out of traveling just like that. I new my mate needed me, she has had such a shit time of it lately, she has also found out her other sister has now got cancer, Jesus what other crap is going to be thrown her way? i just told Toby i wanted to go home the next day and didn't want to travel anymore. He was so lovely and so supportive, just like the old Toby i used to know and told me we can do whatever i think but to wait until tomorrow before making any decisions. Didn't talk to anyone for the rest of the day but sat in the garden and kept crying, i think what with the problems between Toby and I and now this i just fest very very low.

Tuesday 9th September 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Well Beau and Clare were meant to arrive today, but the bad news that poor old beau is not well has put a stop to their trip completely. I also have to ring home to find out about my family crisis. So I got up pretty early and caught the metro into town and found the cheapest call centre I could. Managed to have a good hour long conversation with Mum and listened to all the drama's back home. What a hard time she is having. It makes me feel very sad that I am not there to help at the moment. I know she would be furious if we came home though so I really have to think and sit down with Sarena to discuss our plans for onward travel. Sarena is also very upset that Beau and Clare won't be hear and depressed that we haven't been getting on so well over the last month or so.

After the phone call I finally managed to get to the top of San Cristobal Hill. It is a massive hill in the centre of santiago and is right behind the spanish school that I had been going to for 2 weeks. I caught the tram to the top and had a great view from the feet of the massive statute of Mary the immaculate conception which is very similar to the statue in Rio de Janeiro. I opted for the walk down the hill and headed to another park in town - Santa Lucia which is a smaller hill but has a very old castle type building at the top. A few photos later and it was 2pm so I headed to Burger King (sinner) and then confessed my impurities by visiting the Pre-Colombian museum. It was a really good quality museum about Inca, Myan and other ancient civilisations. It also provided information in English, which, of course I don't really need any more!!!

On the way back to the Hostel I stopped into and got a postage box and then found Sarena in the back garden. She too had spent a while talking to Clare who has also had lots of bad family news recently. Sarena and I now have to make a decision as to our plans. So we sat in the sun and discussed it for a while. The major decision was when to have our 2 years traveling party (as it will be tomorrow)! We found out that there are some other long time hostel guests leaving in the next few days so the decision has been made for tonight. Being out anytime on the 11th of September is very dodgy in Chile as there is likely to be lots of riots and demonstrations. This isn't because of the New York towers thing but it will be the 30th anniversary of Pinochets military assault that began years of murder and terror for the chileans.

In between thinking and waiting to go out for a party I caught up with my diary. Everyone started to gather in reception at 9. Gareth and Clive got there guitars out and Edith joined them on the accordion and recorder for a couple of hours of songs. By 11 we managed to get out and ended up the other side of town where a massive crowd had assembled and riot police where surrounding the plaza. We made a detour to Bellavista but on the way our 7ft Polish friend started to get picked on by a drunk 4ft chilean guy. It was all very funny as this little guy was very persistent but didn't stand a chance. I think Sarena was actually pretty tempted to put him on the floor. There was quite a group of us and we ended up taking over a complete bar for a few hours. We left at about 4 am with the suspicions that the bar owner was trying to rip us off. We all paid in too much and it was still no where near his bill so we all ended up doing a bit of a runner back to La Casa Roja the other side of Santiago.

Felt just as bad today and still felt like a wanted to go home so i went up to the phone centre and gave Clare another call to find out how she was. She sounded alot better than the previous day and started to explain to me about all the shit that has been happening to her of late - stuff i i didn't know. But she told me she was ok and that they were going to concentrate on getting Beau sorted out.

I left feeling a little better and went back to chat with Toby to sort out what we were going to do.

South America is the one place i really wanted to see out of all of our travels and it would be a shame not to see some of it now we are here, so desided to carry on with the travel plan but take it a day at a time and see how we feel.

Toby also felt confused about going home as he was worried about his mum, his family have been going through a huge crises so thats something else for him to think about.......... all these things to worry about.

Toby went out for the rest of the day looking aroud the City at all the bits he hadn't seen whilst i just moped around the hostel feeling very sorry for myself.

It was our 2yr celebration tomorrow and neither of us had the heart to do anything as we had planned for a big celebration with Clare and Beau so decided to go out just for a couple of drinks with a few others from the hostel some of whom were leaving soon. We had decided to go out the night before because of all the troubles expected on September the 11th day, it's the 30yr aniversary of Pinochet getting his arse kicked out of power and alot of the locals demonstrate and just use it as a good excuse to vandel and get tear gas thrown at them which is supposed to start on the evening of Sept 10th

There were a huge group of us who gathered for an impromtue party down in the reception area to sing along to Clive and Garath playing the guitar and Edith playing the accordian, Taggart and his lovely girlfriend were also sat with us keeping us entertained and singing along, have to say he is the nicest American person i have met and puts my faith back in the Yanks! he actually can't stand the American culture -anyway it was all very travely and good fun but kept thinking how Clare would love to be doing this........ I collected a group of people- ended up as about 15 of us in the end who caught a taxi into town to find us a bar. Definatly something brewing amongst the locals as you could feel it in the air. On the way to the bar, one of the guys who had to be over 6ft tall got jumped on by a chilean guy who must have been about 4ft tall - extremely funny to watch as the tall guy just kept walking whilst the little guy ran around him like a terrior dog. At one point he just started running up behind the tall guy and tried to kick him in the arse but i intervined and got kicked instead which made me frickin mad! We all had few drinks in a bar then just went back to the hostel.

Wednesday 10th September 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Officially travelling for 2 years today. My doesn't time fly!!!

Had a bit of a lay in due to late night drinks last night. Then a bit of a chat with Sarena who was still feeling very low about our friends Beau and Clare. Spent some time on my diary and generally doing bits and bobs but not actually achieving much. Did manage to get to the post office to send a box of stuff home. This ended up being a bit of an adventure as they where very particular about how it should all be wrapped. Waved goodbye to Clive and Nicole who headed out to Argentina. hopefully we will be hot on there heels now.

In the evening we went out to Vaccas Gordes (Fat Cow) for a juicy steak and some quality time alone. The steak was great and even Sarena enjoyed her 'more bloody than usual' steak. The wine and food made me fell pretty drowsy though and I was soon in bed making up for the previous nights lack of sleep.

Had a day of rest and moping.................... didn't want to think or do anything so just packed up the box to send home and mooched around the hostel.

Went out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary so went to a cool restaurant called the fat cow, had a fantastic steak and a lovely bottle of vino - We actually got on really well and enjoyed each others company... Toby seems to making an effort and is talking to me.

Thursday 11th September 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

September 11th. A bad day all round really. Especially for Chile as the 11th was when General Pinochet turned the military on the government and took over control of the country. This was 30 years ago (1973) and during the early years Pinochet was responsible for 1,000's of murders in the country. He has never been convicted of these and is still living in the country. Consequently the atmosphere is usually pretty charged with protest which historically tend to turn to riots.

We had been warned not to venture out in the streets to much. But everything was amazingly calm. I ventured out with Taggart (Jersey USA) to the airlines as he wanted to pick up a flight ticket for Easter Island. On the way in we walked passed capital house where only a few people had started to gather. On the way back though Taggart very kindly showed me a few of the more seedier cafes in town. Basically they are just coffees served by practically naked women to wiggly music. Couldn't really tell you if the coffee was any good but I certainly felt awake by the time we got back to Casa Roja and a rather steely look from Sarena. Bad old Taggart! Didn't stay back for long as we then heard news that some speeches and free concerts where going on in town (including Silvia Rodriguez as famous cuban folk singer) Taggart, Pablo and I went back to capital house where a huge crowd had now appeared, but still there was no sigh of any unrest at all. We only got to hear two of Silvia's songs before the politicians started spouting off. The most supported though was the leader of the communist party who was very vocal in attacking the USA and the previous presidencies as Kissinger & Nixon (who it is believed had a lot to do with Pinochets coup). Even though it was a very calm affair so we went back to Casa Roja as it didn't look like we would be experiencing the usual water cannons and tear gas.

Had a quick game of cards and then spend the rest of the night doing a bit of work for Liquid and updating my diary.

Well it's the big day for the Chile people so I decided to stay off of the streets and leave them all to it. Toby went off with Taggart to see if the could take any photos and see the demonstrations - Pinochet was a bad bastard and had killed a lot of people so the atmosphere and bad feeling were running high.

Taggart ended up taking Toby to the Coffee bars where the women wear nothing but thongs (so i hear) and wiggle around serving coffee - yeah right... Obviously made Toby feel better as he came back with a big grin on his face but he had bought me a Spanish comic for me to try and relearn my Spanish again. Taggart you are a bad influence on Mr Jones!

Spent the evening drinking a bottle of white whilst Toby went and did some work then i went to bed.

Friday 12th September 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Spent the whole day dong the diary and a bit more liquid work.

Sarena arranged to go out with Paula (her spanish teacher) in the evening... She arrived with her two friends , Rodrigo and Claude, at around 10:30 and we spent a few hours at a local bar around the back of the hostel.

Also had to say our goodbyes as we are determined to leave the hostel tomorrow and head to Argentina. It felt pretty sad to know that we will finally be leaving. Also had to say goodbye to Taggart as he had an early flight to Easter Island in the morning.

Well its our last whole day in this joint and then we are out of here! so looking forward to leaving Santiago, had a fantastic time and made some great friends though. Didn't do much in the morning but did go out to a shopping Mall in the afternoon with Taggart, Helena and Emma, turned out to be a huge ordeal though. I went looking for a new top to try and cheer me up and some lip stuff. It took frickin ages to get to the Mall and then i couldn't find a single cheap top, they were all soooo expensive. So i gave up and went and had some lunch with the rest of the gang and that turned out to be another ordeal as Taggarts chicken wasn't cooked and Helena had a huge hair in her food. I only ordered soup and it was very nice but not a lot of it, luckily Emma had got herself the 'eat as much as you want salad' so kept going back up for more and more helped by me by eating it with her. Taggart then went to look for some walking boots as he was off to Easter Island Saturday morning but i talked him out of buying some that he was nearly going to purchase because they were so expensive and the shop assistant was really crap and unhelpful, a bit like most of the shop assistants in Chile. We didn't get back home until 8pm and were all knackered, i checked my email and found out that Poula was coming over to Casa Roja for some drinkies. So i rushed around trying to make myself look half decent and was given a top by Emma - can't believe i looked for hours for one at the Mall and then got back to the hostel and got given one. We sat down with Taggart and Helena and a blokey called Peter who was also off to Easter Island and had some drinks. Poula and Rodrigo and Claudio turned up at about 10.30 and we all went out to a local bar and had a blast. The only sad thing was saying goodbye to Taggart as he was off early in the morning so we had lots of kisses and hugs then i went to bed.

 

Saturday 13th September 2003 Barrio Brazil, Santiago

Updated the web site and generally packed my stuff, Which had strewn itself all round the dorm room. Left Casa Roja at 1:30 and we walked to the bus terminal to catch a bus to Mendoza, Argentina. Managed to get a ticket booked on the last bus out at 2:30. So we hung around the bus terminal for an hour before boarding the sweltering hot bus. Sarena looked like she was about to faint. The bus claimed to have air conditioning, but there solution was to open the roof hatches which was pretty useless will the bus is stationary. It seemed to take forever to get going, but by about 4 we where heading out of Santiago and into the Andes.

The views where obviously pretty stunning, and the climb to the border was pretty massive as we switch-back'd for at least 20 km up through ski resorts to get over the top of the Andes and to the Argentine border...

Slept like a baby but it was soon time to get out of bed and pack up my bag which only took 5mins as opposed to Toby's bag packing! he had all his stuff thrown around the dorm as usual......I finished my diary then made a big salad to take on the bus with us and waited for Toby to get ready. We said our goodbyes to people but couldn't find Merlin as he was still in bed with a lady friend so didn't want to disturb the little tinker. Said a huge thanks to Simon for being such a fantastic host and promised to come back and see him again next year.- thanks mate.

We walked down to the metro which took us to the bus terminal, couldn't get a ticket from the tur-bus people so Toby went off to find another group to purchase a ticket then waited to 2.30pm to board. The bus was like an oven when we got on but i thought he would stick the air conditioning on pretty soon, but the bus didn't leave to near on 3pm and by that time i was feeling like a boiled lobster and getting pretty irate. When we did finally move he still didn't put the aircon on but just opened the roof windows which made no difference. I asked so many times but it fell on deaf ears or the air con just didn't work even though it was blazened on the side of the bus as a reason to use their transport. The journey just went on and on and on and was a pretty horrible trip due to the heat and the usual 6-7hr journey taking 9hrs for some reason. The views were wonderful though especially whist climbing the snowy mountains whilst the sun was just setting.

We hit the border and had to get out of the bus and que up to show them our passports etc which again took ages then had to go over the other side of the terminal to do the same process again. They then checked the bus for food before we could get back on and finish the journey.

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