Chile – land of clean cities full of friendly people with small feet.

13 March, 2008

We arrived in Santiago at 4am in the morning, not a time I am generally at my best, and were whisked straight off to our hotel to catch up on some sleep.

Now the hotels that we stay in on our adventures are divided into two distinct groups – the ones that Caths work pays for, and the ones we pay for, the difference between them is usually three stars – Caths work pays for five stars, we pay for two stars, but we have always used tripadvisor to pick our hotels, and they have never let us down. For anyone who hasn’t used trip advisor, you simply type in your destination and you get the local accommodation options ranked from best to worst based on independent reviews by fellow travellers. Hopefully now we are repaying the goodness of tripadvisor by adding a few hotel reviews of our own!

So our hotel for Santiago was the Ritz Carlton (so yep, Caths work was paying) and it has set a new benchmark for the most amazing hotel we have ever stayed in! Ignoring the obvious things like the opulent luxury and the 1,000,000 staff members at your beck and call, by the far the best thing for us was, upon returning from an evening jog (yes we are still running – when local footpaths allow it) we were met outside the hotel by one of the concierge staff and given a chilled bottle of water and a towel to dry off – now that’s my kind of luxury!

So enough about my rehydration issues, what about Santiago??? – well I can tell you it’s the most “European” city we have visited, clean – like really clean, virtually beggar free (only London levels of begging), no homeless people living under any of the motorway underpasses (normal in Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico), virtually silent (the ever present honking horn is almost nonexistent in Santiago) , the taxis have meters (and they actually use them)– but most amazingly for us, in Santiago drivers stop at Zebra crossings – holy goats beard batman, this is the first place we have seen this in Latin America and when it happened we honestly thought the bloke was just slowing down to ensure he drove over us properly! So big thumbs up for Santiago, in fact people say its the most boring city in Latin America because its so well organised.

Now the stark difference between Santiago and the rest of Latin America begged the question of how Chile has managed to achieve such an organised and orderly city when the rest of Latin America is still just working on it? So we asked a local, in fact we asked several locals, and they all told us the same answer, something along the lines of “our country is modern and organised thanks to the efforts of Augusto Pinochet” now I don’t pretend to know much about Chilean politics, but from what I could recall, he ran the country from 1973 to 1990 and was responsible for massive human rights violations and “disappearing” 1,000s of people, which I of course pointed out to the Chileans, they agreed, not disputing these facts at all, but they did point out that on a LADS (Latin American Dictator Scale) he didn’t kill that many people compared to the other Dictators, and he did turn the country economy around and make it the modern state it is today.

So here is my roughly researched LADS table of Latin American Dictators and their death counts:

The LADS table:

Country

Dictator

Murders

Argentina

Jorge Rafael Videla

30,000

Chile

Augusto Pinochet

2,279

Bolivia

Luis García Meza Tejada

500

Brazil

General Humberto Branco

339

Mr Pinochet is such a “poor” murderer he barely makes it onto the table of largest murders of the 20th century, only just slipping in at second to last:

http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/dictat.html

I think that our time in Latin America has taught us many things, but one of the most important things it has taught us is perspective – our ideas on “normal” “safe” “friendly” “rich” “poor” even “good” and “bad” are all being challenged in many ways – which is I suppose the best thing about travel!

So enough about politics, what about shoes I hear you ask… well we both tried to buy some new shoes in Chile as things are much cheaper here than they are in Brazil (or anywhere else we have been over here), but unfortunately for us, it appears Chileans are rather small footed (and you know what they say about people with small feet don’t you) , so neither Cath or I have giant feet, however neither of us could find any shoe shops that stocked shoes big enough for us!

So that’s it we are heading to Buenos Aires tonight in the hope of finding new shoes, good steaks and a tango show or two!

See ya

g