We went through the usual processing at the aeropuerto. This was carried out very efficiently by pleasant people. The only hitch was when they discovered a couple of oranges in Alison’s bag. She was given a leaflet on the dangers of such recklessly antisocial behaviour and had her fruit confiscated. She escaped a jail sentence.
We were accosted by the taxi driving mafia on the way out as predicted by Lonely planet. We gave them the slip and went outside into the now brilliant sunshine. We took note of the early spring freshness and the bus into the city centre.
Very first impressions were not favourable. A big, busy freeway negotiated at high speed by our driver. A tangled sprawl of industrial estates, run down housing and desolate playgrounds. Homeless folk encamped singly or in small tribes. Tiny, scruffy and unappealing stalls selling this, that and the next nondescript thing on decomposed verges and lots. The effect of desolation only intensified as we approached the centre.
The traffic increased in volume and speed. The streets got bigger. They were still grimy as were the buses. The graffiti was large, bold, strident, ubiquitous and for the most part hideously ugly. But now here were signs of older buildings, echoes of the colonial past, dusty big trees. We identified stations of the metro. Flea markets seemed a common occurrence.
We decided we were near enough the centre, got off the bus, sat briefly in a small park with a few homeless men and workmen and decided to walk the rest of the way to clear our flight scrambled heads. Not a good idea as it turned out. It started out well enough. We walked along a broad parkway where we got a first glimpse of the carabineri. There were two of them, one a girl. Both looked well armed and very military. They stood next to a statue of a hero of the war of independence under a truly enormous Chilean flag.
But we went off track somehow on the mighty Bernardo O’Higgins Avenue which is a main artery of the city and we drifted in a right angled meander through some of the less salubrious areas around the true centre for quite a while. We were tired, grimy and even more scrambled than we had been before. Suffice it to say that eventually we emerged close to the Santa Lucia amid a great bustle of Chileans who were well wrapped up although by this time the sun was quite high and it was warm. We took the underpass and headed for our base in Huerfanos.
Victor our host welcomed us in perfect English with all we needed to know about the apartment and the surroundings. He explained all this on a tourist map by means of dots and circles and hieroglyphics all of which proved quite incomprehensible after he left us. Nevertheless we felt welcomed.
The apartment is in a vast block of similar apartments. It is quite small but very pleasant and has all that we’ll need. It’s location is ideally central.it has a great view of Santa Lucia and the imposing Andes beyond which is pretty gobsmacking.
We rested briefly then set off to climb the Cerro Santa Lucia and take a look around.