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South America

Click here for some pictures of South America


South America and Central America 1962 to 1967

1962 - Move to Bogota, Colombia - From Oklahoma, fly to Mexico City, then to Guatemala, El Salvador (for 3 days), Costa Rica, Panama (rioting in the streets), then to Bogota where we lived for 4 years.

1963 - Carribean cruise: Fly from Bogota to Curacao, board Grace Lines ship. Stop in Caracas Venezuela, Aruba (windstorm), Jamaica, Nassau Bahamas, Ft. Lauderdale, then get off at New York.  Took train to Washington DC.  Thanksgiving and Christmas in Oklahoma. 

1964 - Return to Bogota in January via Central America.  In April moved to the house on the mountain. Weekend trips to Giradot. Travel to Cali, Colombia. Movies cost $.40 cents. We attended Union Church of Bogota (Apartado Aereo 52615, Bogota, D.E. Tel. [57] (01) 248-5115)

1965 - From Bogota, Colombia, flew to Caracas Venezuela, then fly to Trinidad (stayed upside-down hotel), board boat. Barbados (hotel wash away with waves), Antigua (Sugar Mills), Virgin Islands - St. Thomas,  St.Croix (rent a pink jeep), Puerto Rico (July 4, toured the city & fort), Jamaica to New York Worlds Fair on June 29,1965. Climbed up to Statue of Liberty. Adult ticket was $.80 and children under 12 were $.40. Elevator was $.10 so we climbed up the steps 10 stories to the top of the pedestal.  Then did the 12-story spiral stairway from the top of pedestal to the head of the Statue.  Then travel to Oklahoma, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and California.  We actually stayed in St.Paul MN for 3 months, before moving to Santiago, Chile.

1966 - Moved to Santiago, Chile.  From Santiago flew to Buenos Aries, Argentina. Rent a mini-van, crossed the river to Montevideo Uruguay. Drive up to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Drive up to Recife (a port in NE Brazil), Fly to Barbados then on to Charleston, South Carolina.

1967 - Moved back to the US: Fly from Santiago to Buenos Aires Argentina. Travel to San Paulo Brazil. Ship to Rio de Janeiro, Reciefe, Barbados, Jacksonville FL, Charleston SC, Savannah GA. Buy Pontiac Bonneville, move to St.Paul MN.


Tour through South America in 1997/1998

Tour South America. December 19 to January 1. We went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Iguassu Falls, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Lima, Peru. Journal of this trip follows.

This journal is a conglomeration of information for our local city guides, phamplets, and my thoughts and observations. I always had my journal with me and I appreciate everyone in the group letting me get close to the guide so I could hear and ask questions to try get things spelled correctly. I tried to write down exactly what the guides said, but (here's my disclaimer) some dates and spellings may not be correct.

Things I learned from this trip:

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Day 1&2

Friday December 19. Travel day. Arrive at airport at 5 am for my flight at 7 am to Newark. Then fly to from Newark to Rio. Long flight. 9 hours. Yuk. Arrive at airport and we're pegged as tourist immediately. We're accosted by local taxi drivers. Since we did the "land only" option, we hafta provide our own transportation. Cosmos literature said to expect to pay 60 to the hotel. They wanted $69. I had some money changed in Atlanta already and showed them that I only had 60. They took it. Finally get to bed by 1 am. Geez long day.

Sheree (our tour leader) has left us a note to meet at 9 am for touring.

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Day 3

Saturday. Sight seeing in Rio de Janeiro which means "river of January". Rio was founded in 1502 by the Portuguese. It was named that because the sailors thought the bay was the beginning of a river. The French also settled here. In 1567 it was finally established as Portuguese and the French were expelled. It was the capitol of the Portuguese empire and the capitol of Brazil. It was proclaimed independent for Portugal in 1822.

John the 6th son is Peter 1st . Peter 2nd ruled 1837-1889. He ruled from Petropolis.

Education - Cost about $500 a month for the best private high school education. The best universities are private. It's hard to get accepted to them. 1/75 get accepted to study medicine. Cost is $1500 a month for university. Public schools are free.

Our guide waited 3 years to get a telephone. He had to call once a month to find out his status. The Palace in Rio had the first telephone outside of the U.S.

Our guide went into a long dissertation about how people here are happy in general.

Brazil has never been involved in a border war except for once with Paraguay.

Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. There are about 2 million Japanese people here.

75% of the population is poor, 15% middle class, and 10% upper class.

We saw:

That night was the churrascaria dinner. Great shish kabob meal. Great salad , cow, pig, chicken and the best ribs I've ever tasted. After dinner we saw a Samba show where the young girls left little to the imagination. No sags, bags, or wrinkles. It reminded me of the show I saw in Paris except the girls were younger here (15 maybe).

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Day 4

Sunday. Went on a excursion to Petropolis. Took a road where gold mines were 2800 feet high. It was a beautiful day, a little cooler. In February is can reach 112 F (40 C)!

200 Germany families founded this city so it looks a lot like a little town in Germany.

The Imperial Palace of Petropolis was beautiful. Peter II (the second) ruled from here. It was built 1845-64. Many hydrangeas in the garden. Rosewood and mahogany floor so we wore slippers and slid our way around the palace. The music room had 2 pianos, violin, harpsichord, and a harp. There was no plumbing, and no kitchen in the palace. There was also no electricity at first so there was lots of skylights.

A portrait of Peter 2nd showed him in an orange vest of toucan throat feathers - a symbol of highest power. Queen Victoria of England granted Peter 2nd the Order of the Garter. We saw the actual garter which is worn on the right knee. We also saw many jewels. Peter 2nd's crown was made in 1841. It has 639 diamonds, 77 pearls, weighs 3.70 pounds. Gems from the 1st crown were used in the this crown. We saw his scepter given to him by queen of Spain Christina.

Peter married Dona Teresa Cristina by proxy. He was in Brazil and she was in Vienna. "PT" (Peter and Teresa) was in the ceiling of the imperial bedroom. They slept in the same bed which was usual for that time. They had 7 children, but 3 died.

The Imperial Throne room had "PII" (Peter 2nd) on the ceiling.

Princess Isabel (Peter 2nd's daughter) ruled when Peter was gone. Peter arranged to be out of the country when she signed the papers to abolish slavery. There were up to 4 million slaves in Brazil at one time. He also wanted to abolish slavery, but he wanted her to be responsible for actually doing it. One year later they threw Peter out of the country and the Army and Republicans ruled.

They would not let him back into the country. He died in France and they brought his body back here to be buried.

We also visited the Imperial Mausoleum in Petropolis where Imperado dom Pedro II and Teresa Cristina are buried. Princes Isabel is also buried there.

I took a picture of a statue on a podium outside the church of William Peter Dell? From Germany. He is the founder of Petropolis.

Outside of Petropolis is the largest casino in South America. Elevation is ~ 3000 feet here. Gambling is illegal now.

We stopped at a chocolate shop. A polish man on our tour met up with a man that he fought in the Polish army with 50 years ago. They hadn't seen each other in 25 years. He asked the shop worker who knew the man. They found him in the phone book and called him. The man walked 2 blocks to the chocolate store. Our bus was just leaving and then we saw this man talking with the worker and pointing to the bus. Sheree yelled to stop the bus in the middle of street. They had a reunion - short and sweet and emotional. I got a picture. I tried to mail it to them, but it came back with the wrong address.....

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Day 5

Monday.

Went down to Copacabana beach. Took a couple of pictures. Later, Sheree, May and I took a local bus to downtown. It was very very very hot and we were on a crowded bus for a long time. A man on the bus saw Sheree's water bottle and reached for it calling "agua, agua". Sheree hid it. He did it again later.. he was really thirsty!

I had to buy some sunglasses for $3.00 (lost mine on the first day) and Sheree had to go to the bathroom so we missed the 2 p.m. hydrofoil. We found a quaint local place to eat. It was so hot! 38 C (95 F) Took the 4 p.m. hydrofoil to island. Cost was $4.00 dollars round trip. It took 20 minutes to get there and over an hour on another boat to get back.

We took a 30 minute horse-drawn carriage ride around the island for $15.00. We had a phamplet which highlighted the place we were seeing. The driver tried to tell us about places too, but it was all in Portuguese and we couldn't understand a single word. He took us to a dead end road and started talking and pointing to some stairs. Sheree finally got out and went to see what’s up. She told us to come see too. We went up some steps and across a bridge and got a spectacular view of the island, beaches, and other islands.

After the ride, we were all running out of money. We had just enough to buy a soda and for the 60 cent bus ride home.

The boat back was a slower boat. A little boy stared at me most of the way like he's never seen Americans before. I usually get a lot of looks - pale white skin and long blonde hair is very odd for this area (continent).

The bus ride was quite a long trip. Over an hour. Sheree talked the entire way. She is pretty interesting person to talk to. Know tons of history etc. We even ended up missing our stop, circling around which added about 15 minutes to the trip. A local girl sat next to me. We tried to converse. She was from San Paulo, but was here visiting family. She was studying for the university entrance exams in January. She wanted to study marketing and advertising - that was very difficult to understand and figure that out with her broken English. Turns out she had a e-mail so I gave here my business card so she could e-mail me. She was so young and beautiful. All the people here are beautiful. The women have light brown skin - perfect coloring.

My ramblings: What a great trip so far. Some people on the trip have had some tribulations though. Rio was fabulous for a vacation town. Wouldn't want to live there. I've been putting SPF 30 sunscreen on every day. I really need it here. This couple next to me on the airplane seems so in love. My goodness. All over each other. (I saw them again leaving Iguassu. Turns out they are on their honeymoon.)

The language seems really difficult to understand. Not like Spanish which seems easier to find a common word. It's tricky getting around not knowing the language buy we're getting by. I certainly could not do it alone.

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Day 6

Tuesday. On the plane to Iguassu Falls. We had quite an adventure getting to the airport this morning. We had the "ground-only" option for the tour so we hafta do our own transportation and transfers when our schedule isn't in sync with the groups. We arranged to have a taxi at 5:45 this am. Well, no taxi. We had flag one down on the street. This taxi was metered. It got to $24 when we got the Rio airport. We gave him 30. Geez $60 from the airport to the hotel and $30 to go the other way. Go figure. There's nothing you can do about it sometimes. You're in their country and you don't speak the language, so they get you.

Fly into Iguazu, get our suitcases. Taxi to the hotel was about $10.00. It was pretty close. We got there around 11:30. The group was supposed to arrive around 2 so we decided we didn't have enough time to seek out the $36 billion dollars biggest, most expensive dam in the world . That would have been an adventure. I napped then went to the coffee shop in the hotel. The hotel staff found me with my coffee and said I had a phone call - what?!?. It was about 4 and Sheree was calling from the airport. They had just arrived and she told us to be ready to get as soon as the bus gets to the hotel. They picked us up and then we were off to the falls.

The Spanish discovered these falls in 1542. Iguazu is an Indian word meaning "Big Water" There are 275 waterfalls, 1.8 miles long and 250 feet deep. All of the falls come from the Also Parana and Iguazu River which is 1000 km long. The falls are fed by rain and other rivers (Panaha River) and not the Andes. The most spectacular falls is the Devils Throat. We saw it on our boat trip from Puerto Canoas.

70% of the falls are in Argentina. Each country is only allowed one hotel on each side. All of the falls are in a National forest park established in 1934 in Argentina and 1939 in Brazil. 55,000 hectares in Argentina and 185,000 in Brazil.

These falls are not the largest, longest, or highest in the world, but they are quite spectacular.

Largest volume of water - Niagara

Longest - in Laos. 6 km long.

Highest - Angel falls in Venezuela. 979 meters tall (1 km)

StatisticIguassuNiagaraVictoria
Km of water per second1,7006,0001,100
Height8065112

My first picture of the falls is only 20% of them. We were greeted by these cute but obnoxious little raccoon/anteater looking creatures call Coati Mundi's.

Safari on the Macuco Trail. We saw the Heart of Palm Tree. It must grow at least 15 years before you can harvest the heart. The green part at the top is the heart and is about 3 feet long and maybe 3 inches in diameter. It looked different than the palm in Florida. The palm trees are protected in the park.

Flora includes over 2000 species. There are 25 species of orchids that bloom in Sept and October. There are jaguars, ocelot, lizard, snakes, puma, tapir (eats ants) in this forest. There are over 400 bird species.

We saw a Timbauva tree. The Indians used this tree to make canoes because it's a perfect shape and it's soft inside. They used stones to shape it.

The bark has a substance which makes it useful for catching fish. When you put the bark in the water, it takes oxygen from the water and the fish come to the surface. (Guide pronounced it sub' - stance with a hard "u". It was pretty funny pronunciation at the time.)

After the safari, we took a raft trip up the Iguassu Canyon. Wow, what a ride. They gave us plastic bags for our cameras. We were in a big rubber raft with an engine. He took us right under the falls three times. What a blast. We were screaming with excitement. It was a steamy hot day so we welcomed the cool spray from the falls. We ended up getting totally soaking wet.

That night we had dinner in the hotel. Great buffet for $15.00. Every room got a bottle of wine so we tried to have a party that night. There was a girl playing piano so we sang as many Christmas Carols as we could remember. We opened a bottle of wine and had a pool and ping pong tournament. We had 4 countries represented: Canada, China, US, and Russia. Russia ended up winning.

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Day 7

Wednesday. December 24. Christmas Eve. Drive to Argentina. See the Argentine side of the falls. Oh so hot hot hot. 100% humidity and at least 95 degrees. All we saw was more water falls and there's no elevator on the Argentine side! We had walk down and back up. Oh it was so hot.

The bus took us to the airport before the group because we were on a different airline than the group (AeroArgentina) and our flight left an hour earlier. They stayed at the falls and got Filet Mignon for $3.00. Wow. Sounds great. The airport was under construction and no air-conditioning. There were 2 gates. Our flight was supposed to leave at 2:10, but we didn't board till 2:45. The groups' flight left shortly after ours. The fight to Buenos Aires was 1 hour, 50 minute flight. There is no food on domestic flights in Argentina. We got our suitcases and dragged them through the Buenos Aires airport until we found the group. That was a pretty big airport.

We didn't need to change any money for Argentina because they readily accept American money. 1 Argentine peso is exactly equal to 1 American dollar. You need the immigration paper to get out of Brazil and you need to keep the Argentine paper also to get out of Argentina.

S..y..l..via was our city guide in this city. She wasn't that good of a guide, but she sure looked good. Jack (VF salesman) loved her.

After we checked into the hotel, we walked around looking for some place to eat. Sheree, May, Pat and I ended up at a great Italian place. We had no idea what we were ordering, but we all liked what we got. After dinner we walked around some more and ended up in the Plaza de Mayo. There was a nice nativity scene there. We also saw a guy dressed as Santa Claus who was giving out candy. I took a picture us with Santa! We walked in the cathedral. It was about 9:20 and since it was Christmas Eve we stayed for the 9:30 service. As soon as we sat down I started praying and didn't stop till we got up. It was a Catholic service and all in Spanish. We couldn't understand a single word. It hit me that it reminded me of the Greek Orthodox services that I went to. I don't believe that church is something that you shouldn't enjoy. I want church to make me feel good. "How selfish" as he would say. I didn't understand the service, so I couldn't get into it. We left after a awhile. I was glad we went, but also glad to get out of there.

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Day 9

Thursday. Christmas day. City tour of Buenos Aires. What a beautiful beautiful day. We had a fantastic breakfast at the hotel. The caramel Dulce de Leche on the crepes was to die for.

This is what I got from Sylvia's talk:

Buenos Aires means "good air". It has 11 million people. Big city! The city was founded in 1580. It became the national capitol in 1880. There are 60 million cows in this country (2 cows per person). Sable is the national flower. It is a big red flower.

There are 5 subway lines. One is North-South, and four are East-West.

The rich live in the North side of town and the poor in the south.

Pink the most popular color for buildings. It comes from a mix of animal blood and materials.

There is 50 cm of humus in the soil here so it is very fertile.

Everybody drinks mate (a type of tea) here. I liked it. No caffeine, but it gives you energy like a stimulant. Yup, sure does. I got a cup one night after dinner and sure enough we were up still joking around at 1 am. Mate served different ways means:

Hot water - I like you / want you
Orange - I'm waiting for you
Sugar - I love you
Cinnamon - I miss you / thinking about you
Coffee - I forgive you
Cold water - Go away

Empanadas are meat pies.

The oven bird makes a nest like an oven.

A sales person may make $400-$800 a month. Teacher, nurse $300.

We saw:

Government house, the pink house, or the Presidential mansion. This is where Eva Peron spoke from the balcony.

Metropolitan Cathedral with the mausoleum for San Martin, patron saint of the city. He died in 1850 in France and they brought his body back. The floor is a beautiful mosaic from India. The Altar shows the trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

National Congress Building or City Hall

Monument in center: Contitucion Nacional established 1853. Independence from Spain was declared in 1816.

One day every week the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo march in a plea to find out what happened to the 30,000 people who disappeared in "The Dirty War" in the 70's and 80's.

Hotel Presidente was very nice, but small bathrooms. I had a small problem: Toilet, toothbrush, splash. Oops. I had to buy a new toothbrush. They had a bidet in all the bathrooms.

This is something I got from the book in the hotel about Tango:

The tango is a way of being and feeling. It is an internal air and a strict set of rules and conduct. The three pillars of tango: dance, music, and verse are deeply rooted in Buenos Aires. They are all magical and intertwined.

The tango is the fatal and dramatic supplement for the inhabitants of the city. It is sad, solitary, sensual and definitive. It depicts the encounters and fractures of a love affair.

It's origins come from immigrants at the turn of the century who were pining for their women back in Europe. The solitude of the conventillos (inner city slums) and the temples of solitary men constitute the literary origin of tango.

Simply stated, the tango is a sad feeling that can be danced.

After I read that about tango, I definitely did not want to go the show that night. I was just getting over being in a relationship that seemed so sad at times, I didn't want to be reminded of it.

We went out late afternoon and found a wonderful cafe on the 9th de Julio. I got some roasted chicken which was delicious. I noticed an American looking guy sitting by himself. Turns out he is a Peace Corp volunteer in Equador and he was here by himself. Both May and Mary Ellen were both in the Peace Corp so they had a lot to talk about. We arranged to meet him the next night in our hotel lobby at 7:30.

After dinner, we stayed in the hotel and watched "It's a Wonderful Life" and the Christmas movie with scrooge. It was a wonderful Christmas.

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Day 10

Friday.

Pouring rain. Bus ride to Argentine pampas. Pampas means plain or flat area. The Europeans brought the trees (cows and horses) so it's not plains any more. 1.5 hours or 112 km to Pampas in the Buenos Aires province.

Never say "ranch" here in Argentina. Say "estancia" instead. The Ramirez family owns the estancia that we visited.

"Paisano" means "country-men". They consider themselves "gouchos". At one time the gauchos were persecuted because the killed many many cows and only used the skin. They left the bones and meat to rot. What determines if you're a gaucho - what you wear, the way you live, how you live. Belt buckles that gauchos wear are made from silversmiths and can cost from $2000-$6000 dollars. In 1613 the first guitar was brought from Spain. The guitar, horse and dog are a gaucho's best friend. There is a 15 day celebration of the gaucho every November. They play games on their horses: The ring race passing a small ring the size of an earring. Duck (not futbal) is the national sport. They pass around a bowl with six handles while riding horses.

It was still pouring rain when we arrived at the estancia. Looks like we wouldn't be able to ride horses. Crud. Our driver got us close to the building where we ran inside. They usually only have about 50 people, but today there was 200. All in this one big building. All the water, beer and wine was included so I had a good time. Lunch was alright. Good salad, then some sausage thing, then chitlin's. Yuk. I put some in my mouth and tried to eat it. I chewed and chewed. It was so salty. I didn't eat any more of that. Then came a good NY strip steak and finally flank steak that Jack determined was like a brisket. Dessert was a traditional "sweet potato jelly" on top of cheese.

Then the gauchos that cooked and served the meal put on a show. Now I see why dad plays guitar like he does. Dad got his style from the gauchos so I really like the show because it reminded my of my dad.

I went to the bathroom during the meal and boy am I glad I did. One bathroom for all those women. There was another one outside but it was pouring rain which really made the trek home an an 'adventure'. That's the word our family uses for a 'nightmare'. We had a great driver so were one of the first buses to load after the show was over. We had to wait a little while for the last person to get on the bus. We were holding up the other buses. Turns out Globus was trying to get out of there before the show. We left before them. The streets were flooded so it took forever to get home. 3.5 hours. We were in some traffic jams worse than Atlanta. We saw cars under water and buses stuck. One person on the tour didn't get out at the bathroom stop so she went 12 hours without going to the bathroom. Yeow. No way I could not do that with all the beer I drank.

We got back at 7:10 and we met our friend Ken in the lobby at 7:30 and went out to dinner. That was fun. I got some Mate - an Argentinian type of tea. They said there wasn't any caffeine in it, but we sure couldn't get to sleep that night. As it often happened on this trip, we would talk for hours. We got to the point where all we had to do was say the punch line of a joke and we would laugh for an hour. Geez. We got to sleep late again.

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Day 10

Saturday. Fly to Santiago. Capitol of Chile.

I flew first class! I sat next to a woman on the Globus tour. We referred to them as "globusians". We are "cosmonians". We followed each other around S. America. Globus people paid about $1000 more for their trip so they have a better hotels. They stayed in the Sheraton in every city (except Iguasu where they stayed in the same hotel). The Sheraton seems pretty far out away from things in Buenos Aires and Rio. I liked the location of our hotels a lot better. We're not really supposed to mix the groups. We found out in Rio when we had to be on the 7 am plane that the Globus people were also using. We wanted to take a taxi to the Sheraton and ride the airport with Globus, but that's not allowed. I can't blame them. If I paid that much more I wouldn't want to know that I was getting the same service and seeing the same things as someone who paid less. We determined that in some cases, Globus would be a better option. Globus people got a lot better cabins on the Mediterranean cruise that she took.

Anyway. I was sitting in first class next to a lady on the Globus tour. We talked some until I realized that nothing seemed to please her. She seemed so negative about everything. I hate that when people find the worst thing in every situation. She asked for wine. The stewardess asked "white or red?". She responded "white". Then she even asked "dry or sweet?" The lady made a pleasant sound when she sipped the wine so I asked her if she liked it. Well, instead of saying "yes", she said "it's not bad". There's the negative spin again. She complained about every meal on the entire tour - "I haven't had a decent meal this entire trip!". She complained about some people in the group getting sick. Forget having a pleasant conversation with her.

Traveling (also living) is a state of mind. You can make up your mind to have a bad time, or you can make up your mind to have a good time.

We arrived in Santiago to a wonderful city guide, Marco. He spoke great English and we could understand him over the microphone on the bus. Gabrielle was our bus driver.

We stayed at the Hotel Galerias downtown. 12 miles from the airport which is on the west side of the city. Our hotel was in a great location - two blocks from St. Lucia and the subway stop. (Globus stayed a lot farther away from everything. Nice hotel, but you couldn't walk to anything.)

We were greeted with wonderful Pisco Sours - a drink I grew to really like. It is the national drink of Peru. Three bartenders created the Pisco Sours for the guests at Lima's famous Hotel Maury. The basic recipe is 2 oz. Pisco, 1/2 oz. Lemon juice, 1 oz. Sugar syrup. Shake over cracked ice and pour, then add several dashed of Angostura bitters. Another favorite is the Coctel de Algarrobina: Three parts pisco, one part carob syrup (algarobina) and one part condensed milk. Yummy.

Pisco Sour reminded my of margarita's, but better. I bought a bottle of Pisco for $10 dollars on our last day in Santiago and I'm drinking one right now as I type this journal. After we got our room keys some of us met at the pool on top of the hotel. Jack bought his harem drinks. Katherine ordered a Pina Colada and they're are probably searching for the recipe. I of course got Pisco Sour. That felt good to swim. There are no bidets in this hotel! We had one in every other hotel so far. Oh well.

I wrote in my journal: "It truly doesn’t get any better than this. What a wonderful trip, great food, great people. I couldn't ask for anything more. Well, I do wish the phones worked better. I haven't been able to call Ted. I do miss him. This Pisco Sour is not a weak liquor. My goodness, this is the life. I hear a lot of traffic on the street below."

I washed my hair and dried it with the blow dryer in the room. I never had to use the converter or blow dryer that I brought.

That night was the Chilean folklore evening at 9 pm. It was at the Los Adobes de Argomego restaurant. I knew it would be good when I saw a lot of locals there too. They said we could order meat, chicken, or fish. I was first to order so I asked for Salmon. Many others got it too and it was delicious! The show was nice too. I didn't realize there was so much Polenesian influence in Chile. There was a part of the show with men dressed in red and black striped ponchos - exactly like dad has. Reminded me of him again.

We got home around midnight and my roommate wasn't home yet. I was a little worried cause she went out alone. She had sat next to a local girl on the airplane who told her about some places to see in Santiago. I didn't know where she was off to. I went to bed with the light on. Boy did she have a story the next morning. The men in this city a truly gorgeous and, as she found out, not shy at all….

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Day 11

Sunday.

Sight seeing in Santiago. Interesting tid bits and facts:

This city has 5 million people, or 45% of the population of Chile which has 14 million people. It is in between the Coastal Mountain Range (no snow) and the Andes ( which still had some snow in the summer).

430 Pesos = $1.00 US dollar here so you hafta divide every number by 430 to figure the cost.

He told us not to drink the water here or you would get "Chileanitis" (diareah).

A traffic jam is called a "taco" so rush hour is "taco time."

There are two shopping malls: Parque Arauco and Also Las Condes. Each one has free shuttles.

Chile is the longest country in the world - 3000 miles long. The average width is 100 miles. There are twelve regions number 1 to 12 that go from the North to the Southern part of the country.

There a ski resorts about 45 miles from here. It's a very narrow road and it takes more than an hour to get there. He said "It's an adventure to drive there."

80% of the electricity is hydro-electricity from dam water.

Downtown is at 1700 feet above sea level. 40 miles away you can be at 11,000 feet.

They eat four meals a day here: breakfast, lunch, tea time ~ 5, and a late dinner. Tea time is also called "once". The women drink tea and the men "play once". There are eleven letters in the alcohol Aguardiente, so the men are really drinking while the women played cards. Another version of the story is that they borrowed a British tradition of a pre-lunch snack at 11 am. By the late 1800s the typical social family in Lima would celebrate the onces by serving pastries and pisco. Pisco is also a "required pour" for "Las Onces".

The top of the Andes mountain range is the dividing line between Chile and Argentina. It's very hard to define the line in Southern Chile. In 1979 they almost had a was with Argentina. Pope John Paul 2nd helped mediate the problem.

There are 33 districts in Santiago so there are 33 city halls. Each district has a mayor, then there is one Intandende appointed by the President who is over all the mayors. There is growing middle class here in the Maipu district.

The metro was built in 1975. Look for the red signs. There is one line under the main avenue east-west and two other north-south lines. It costs 170 pesos one way. Buses cost 130 pesos (60 cents).

French was a 2nd language 100 years ago. There is a lot of European influence here.

Unemployment is only 6.5%. There are no unemployment benefits. Inflation in 1992 was 12%, now it is 6% a year.

University of Chile has 22,000 students. It is not free. They pay ~ 1 million pesos ($2-3,000 dollars) a year. There is a national exam after high school. They are tested on math, Spanish, history, geography, and some specialized areas if necessary. They can get a student loan. After you graduate, you have 2 years before you have to start paying it back. People weren't paying any back, but now they are because they passed a law that says the government can't collect greater than 5 percent of their salary a month.

In 1980 a private medical system was introduced. The private system is better than the public system. Public hospitals are always full. You may need to wait a month to get a hospital bed. If you work, you can pick a private company for your health provider. You can change it each year if you want. Your employer arranges to take 12% of your paycheck to pay for you medical. Marco said that it works here, privatization is good.

I am definitely a "gringo" which is not a derogatory term. Chileans like tourists - they've been isolated for so long that they like to see other people (and money) come into their country.

The traffic is very civilized here. Not too many horns honking. There are police on every corner regulating traffic. The police wear big white leather gloves. Bus drivers get a minimum salary plus a supplement based on the number of passengers. Speed limit is 100 km (65 mph) for the whole country. In the city it's 50km. Gasoline is 240 pesos per liter.

There was a beautiful purple flower called a "bogenvillia" throughout the city.

About the flag: There is one star on the flag with signifies loneliness. Chile is the lone star at the end of the world. Red represents the blood of Indians and liberators, and white represents the snow on the Andes. Blue represent the ocean.

The national bird is the Condor.

There are three branches of power in the Chilean Republic: The President (Frei), Supreme Court is the justice, and Legislative power by the deputies and senators.

History:

Pedro de la Vadivia was the 1st conquistador and the founder of the city. In 1541 they came and built St. Lucia. There were no trees and no vegetation then. The area was all rocks and they get less than 12 inches of rain a year, but everything they plant grows well because of the fertile ground and water from the Andes. There are not many native trees. All green plants that are here were introduced from other areas.

The Spaniards came here to make money and to convert people to Catholicism. The Spaniards and Indians fought for 300 years. The Mapoche is the preferred word for the Aracanor Indians who fought. Aracanos implies Spanish dominance. The Incas could not conquer the Mapoche Indians, but the Spanish finally did.

In 1810, O"Higgens lead Chile's claim independence from Spain. The main avenue is named O"Higgins. It is 16 miles long and the name changes 4 times. It is also called and Liberator Avenue and Alameda - the original name of the avenue.

In 1818 they were finally an independent country with Chilean rulers. O"Higgins was the first president. He an Irish descendent. He founded the Military Academy and the Liberator Army with St. Martin.

The 1800's flourished because of the nitrate mines. Happened about the same time as our gold mines. There is no nitrate now so the mines have closed. But not they've discovered copper. 60% of Chilean exports were copper at one time. They have four main exports now: copper, fish, wood, and wine and fruit (cherries, grapes, apples, peaches, etc.)

Chile was under military rule 1973-1990 by President Arturo.

In 1970 Socialist President Salvador Allende was elected. He had lost two election before. In 1970 he only got one third of the votes, but he was declared President anyway by the Communists who tried to rule instead of Allende. He was supposed to rule for 4 years…

In 1973 inflation was 300%, and unemployment was 13%. Allende was friends with Castro so people thought this might be another Cuba. People had no idea what was happening. President Allende didn't want to give up, then the government house was bombed in 1973 and Allende was killed (assasinated?) in a coupe d'etat (spelling?). Pinochet entered the country. Allende followers knew they needed a change in government so sort-of supported the new military rule.

Pinochet ruled in a dictatorship with an agreement that the dictatorship would only last 3 years. He actually ruled for 17 years. He was actually good for the economy. He opened the market and introduced the concept of free markets. He diversified the economy. He didn't need to ask congress to do anything - he just did it. In '84 Pinochet created a constitution, but it contained non-democratic points - for example - that he is Commander in Chief.

In 1986 there was an attempt to assassinate Pinochet. We saw the exact spot where it happened. He had a villa in the foothills of Andes. They were travelling on the winding dirt road in three cars that looked exactly the same. There was a camper car stopped at the side of the road so they stopped to see if they needed help. People came out of the car shooting. A rocket that was fired did not go off. Pinochet was not killed. The marker said "La Comunidad de San Jose de Maipo a los Caidos en el Complimiento del deiber, 7 septiembre 1986." Killed were "Pablo Silva Pizarro, Cardenio Hernandez C., Roberto …, Miguel …, and Gerardo…

In 1990 Pinochet appointed Senators so he could rule the Senate. There was also a coalition of parties against him that year. In 1997 he is now 82 years old ( but he looks 62). In March of 1997 he will willingly retire and end his rule. He accepted his defeat. He will become one of the appointed Senators.

The people have already elected their current President who rules (with Pinochet approval of course). Pinochet will step down from President to a Senate seat so he will still be able to rule (the country) and get what he wants. Everything is still negotiated between the Central and Left political parties, but he usually wins. He essentially rules politically and the military.

Marco was very sincere when we was telling us about all this history. He said they couldn't talk about this 10 years ago. Nobody really knew what was going on.

In front of the government house is the Constitution Square where Pinochet put "the altar of the nation" with an eternal flame. Pinochet tried to claim himself the 2nd founder of the country.

We saw

Iglesia di S. Francisco (S. XVI) - The oldest colonial church in town. Build with limestone and adobe bricks. (It was about 2 blocks from our hotel.) In 1589 to 1628 when the Spaniards occupied the area, most colonial buildings disappeared because the Indians destroyed them and because of the earth quakes. The last big earthquake was in 1985. There's not many sky scrapers here.

Sacra Mentinos - A Catholic church built at a replica of Sacre Coeur (which means "church of the sacred heart" on top of Montmarte in Paris France). It really did look the same! There is a lot of European influence here.

Parque O"Higgins with a fantasyland-like place like Disney land he said.

Club Hipico is horse race track. It was built in 1870. There is racing 3 days a week from 2-9 pm. There are no casino's, but you can bet on the horses.

La Moneda, the official government palace. In 1799 the Mint and all the currency was housed here. In 1805 it opened and in 1846 the President of Chile moved in. The President lived there 100 years. Now he lives in his own house.

San Cristobal (saint of the travelers) with the statue of the Virgin Mary. This is the highest point in the city at 2200 feet. In 1904 the statue of the Virgin Mary was brought here from France. In 1908 they assembled the pieces and put the statue together. It became a park in 1925. The Indians called this place "topoway" which means "the place of God". There were 250 steps up to the statue - one step for every sin. The statue is 12 meters tall. When the statue was put together, her eyes were looking towards downtown, but the city has shifted. There were lots of people jogging and riding bikes here. Quite a work out up the hill! We drove up the hill, but there is also a Funicular.

Plaza Banquedero - had a statue with a man on a horse.

Archeological museum with pre-Colombian art that is 500 old (and earlier). This is the period before Christopher Columbus. It is pre-history, before the conquistators and when they didn't have any logs or journals. There were no cave men, instead there were many very civilized cultures including: Chavin, Huari, Inca, Tiahuanco (the oldest people here), Tolteca, Azteca, Olmeca, and Maya. There were many many tribes in each of these cultures. There were no cultures in North America. "AC" in this museum is the same as our "BC" (before Christ). AC stands for anti so Christo.

Plaza de Armas. The main square and the heart of the city. This is the central point of the country, point zero. All blocks are build around this square. (It was 5 blocks from our hotel.) This is where the city was founded. On the square was a pink building, the main post office, with "Correo Central" over the front door. The Museum of Chilean history was a beige building, city hall (which was a jail), a beautiful Catholic cathedral church built 1745-1775. A pedestrian boulevard ran through the park. There were lots and lots of people.

Maphuche River. It's an Indian word. "Maphu" means "earth" and "che" means "people". The Mapoche Indians make up 75% of the population in Santiago.

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Day 12

Monday. 75 mile bus ride to Vina del Mar which means "Valley of Paradise". Reminded me a lot of San Francisco. It was founded in 1874 as a seaside resort.

Then to Valparaiso, a city of 42 hills. I can see why this city is an inspiration to many artists and poets. It was founded in 1536 in Spanish sailors. It is the oldest city in Chile.

The first stock market and the first newspaper in the country was founded in this city.

The first tunnel on route 68 is Lo Prado tunnel at the foothills of the coastal mountain range. It is 2 miles long. The valley that we drove through in the middle of the Coastal Mountain Range is about 1000 miles long. They are about 5000 feet above sea level. It may snow on the peak once every 8 years.

Curacavi Valley means "water from a stone". They have very good irrigation because of the Andes and coastal mtn range and underground rivers. Many fruits and vegetable are grown here. Lettuce, asparagus (white and green), avocado, potato, rasberries, strawberries, lemon, peach, orange, nectarine, tomato, apple, cactus (tunas), prickly pear fruit from cactus.

Not many animals here. We saw a llama and a copper mine. It was an open cut mine not underground.

The average temperature is 20 C with a range of 14-25.

Then we went through the Zapata Tunnel (Tunel) which was less than 1 mile long. There was a change of scenery and vegetation. There were pine and eucalyptus trees. This Casablanca Valley is mostly vineyards not fruits and vegetables. They started growing white grapes here only 30 years ago. Casablanca city has 35,000 people.

In the 30's they created La Penvello Lake (Penuelas) - an artificial lake to supply Vina del Mar and Valparaiso with water. Last May it was almost empty because of El Nino.

Vina del Mar was founded in 1874, not by Spanish conquistadors, but by wealthy families who built summer homes here. The Alvarez and Vergara families had homes here. There are many Victorian houses here. The descendents of the British still live here. There are trolley buses and electric lines overhead on the streets too.

In 1906 a big earthquake destroyed 70% of this city.

Valparaiso is city of hills. There are over 46 hills. More then 86% of the people live on the hills. Vina del Mar is like an ampitheatre. There are 800,000 people here. About 400 thousand in each city. You really can't see the dividing line between the cities. 2nd most populated city in Chile (Santiago is first). There was a train that connects Santiago with these cities. The train takes an hour longer than the bus though. The bus costs about $5 dollars round trip from Santiago to here. Wow, cheap!

There are native palm trees here. They were discovered by Charles Darwin. They have a smoother trunk he said.

150 years ago this was all vineyards. It was a major seaport in the Meridian route - the Atlantic to the Pacific (when there was no Panama canal). From here to the Straits of Magellan it is 2300 km. This was the first port that sailor saw. The Panama Canal opened in 1914 and this city has never been the same since. Many cruise ships stop here.

In 1990, Pinochet moved the Parliament to Valpariaso to decentralize the government. The National Congress building was built. There are 120 deputies, 36 senators and 11 senators appointed by Pinochet. Route 68 is known as the politicians highway.

There is a big food industry here: Italians and pasta, a big paper industry. Tourism is the most important industry though. Most tourists come from Argentina. It is very very busy here in the summer. It's about a 6 hour drive to here from Argentina, and it's a 27 hour drive to the Atlantic.

Easter Island is part of Chilean territory. It is about 2000 miles to the North West of here. They donated a statue. It is named "Moai". "del ahu" is the place where it was founded or built. This is medium size statue. There are over a thousand of these statues on the island. It is made of Iowa. Rapa Nui is the name of the island. It means the navel of the body to imply the center.

Easter Island was discovered in 1700 on Easter Sunday. A movie called Rapa Nui with Kevin Costner was made there. Marco commented that it was "not so good movie, but it had good photography". Only Lan Chile flies to Easter Island and it's very expensive.

On Ave Libertad you are required to stop if there is a pedestrian in the cross walk. They are very strict about that law here.

There are many new condominiums being built here. A 2 bedroom/ 3 bath condo in a 22 story building with all the amenities is about $300,000 dollars. Not bad!

We drove through the Las Salinas area. Saw the Escuela de Armanentos (the School of Arms). There is a big oil carrier in the bay and oil storage area on the beach. All this is being torn down and condos are being built.

The water here is 50 degrees F all year round so not many people swim.

Renaca area means Long Beach. We stopped the bus and walked in the beach here. There are 20 Feniculars here. Costs 90 pesos to go up, and 70 to go down.

We drove past the Globus bus that had stopped for people to eat in a seaside cafe. Our lunch stop was at nice restaurant. I walked along the rocky beach there. It was beautiful and the weather couldn't be better - about 88 degrees. It really reminded me of Sausolito. Another person on the trip said she is going to come back here tomorrow on the bus. That would be nice, but I don't want to see something twice when we have so little time already…. What a great vacation destination.

That night we met in the hotel lobby at 6. Walk to a cafe for dinner. I got a "Choclo". A local dish with an onion soup base and meat, chicken, and a sweet corn pastry top. It was very good. After walk to St. Lucia 2 blocks from our hotel. We did all the steps to the top. Our other brother Darrell came, May and Sheree were talking the whole way, and Katherine and I wanted to take pictures. We went down a different way and lost the others.

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Day 13

Tuesday. Tour winery: Concho y Toro. "Concho" means "shell" and "toro" is "bull". Founded in 1883. It is 18 miles, 40 minutes, South East of Santiago. I toured the Mondavi winery this time last year and I have to say that this was, by far, much more spectacular and beautiful that Napa Valley in California…

We drove on the Pan-American highway which crosses the country from North the South. It starts in Alaska and ends at Puerto Mundi in Region 10 (the lake region). Santiago to Peurto Mundi is 7 hours by bus, or 14 by train.

The South East is the fastest growing area. The Maipo Valley and Maipo Canyon that we're visiting today is dominated by the Maipo River. The Maipo brand of wine is famous. 60% of the water we consume is from this river.

"Huasos" are people that live in the country. We saw the village of Nos. We're going to Pirque in the Maipo Valley.

Chile has very good weather (no rain to damage the crop and very good irrigation), good soil, and good wine makers. Wine was introduced by the Spanish people by the Catholic priests who needed it for their ceremonies to convert Indians to Christianity.

The first wine makers came from France. They are considered artists. "Anologist" or mixologists control the whole process from soil preparation to wine storage. Monasteries produced wine the same wine from the Pais grape for 300 years. They produced 3 basic types of red wine. Immigrants started coming and just recently many other varieties including Chardonnay, Riestling etc were introduced.

7 grapes were introduced from France and 2 from Germany.

It takes 3 to 4 months to make white wine and 1 to 2 years to make red. Marquis wine is the best from this winery.

The cellars were built with Adobe walls (no cement). They maintain a perfect temperature.

23 acres= 1 hectare.

They produce 55 million liters a year on 3000 hectares in Chile. They produce wine in about 400 miles of valleys in Chile. Concha y Toro employs 1400 people. They contract local workers to harvest in March.

The house on the site was built in 1875. No one lives in it any more, the family lives in Santiago. The house is now used for offices and international marketing.

We saw the best 15 year old vines. Older vines produce less grapes, but better quality. They harvest these by hand and get 8-10 bunches per vine. They did irrigate by flooding which is easy to do in this valley because it's flat here, but now they use drip irrigation. They machine harvest bigger fields.

These vines are taller than the French vineyards.

There is a rose at the end of every row for an insect indicator. An insect will attack the rose first.

They have never had the Philoxera plague here and there are no known predators. The grapes were introduced here before the plague ever showed up in Europe or California. No perishable food is allowed into the country and it strictly enforced.

I took a picture of a huge oak barrel with markings that Concha y Toro was founded in 1883. This barrel was purchased in Yugoslavia and holds 22,000 liters. It is still used to store table wine.

I also took a picture of another 225 liter barrel number 1939 that was first used in 3/97.

The huge stainless steel containers were used for their varietal wines. There is no wood taste, only fruity, fresh wines.

The French oak barrels cost $700 dollars each and are toasted inside. American oak cost $400 dollars each. They are 225 or 300 liters and used 5 to 7 years. They replace one sixth of the barrel a year. They store up to 3 million liters of wine at a time. They produce 60 million liters per year and bottle 170,000 bottles a day. They produce 55% red, and the rest white. They export to 55 countries. 60% of the wine is exported.

We saw rooms with 1500 and 4000 barrels of wine. There are about 300 bottles per barrel.

I took a picture of the room with 1500 barrels of wine. The underground room is made of sand, water and egg white and is an exact copy of the Rothchild cellars in Bordeaux. The wine spends about 1.5 years in these barrels. There is sprinkler system to control the temperature. They keep it at 14-18 centigrade and 80-85% humidity.

We saw the Casillero del Diablo cellar where 60,000 bottle of the best wine is stored. Rumor has it that the devil came out at night to protect the wine in this cellar so people don't steel it any more. It made 93/100 points in judging. In 1994 it made 91/100 points. 12 bottles of their 1988 vintage cost $2500 dollars (one million pesos).

Don Melchor is the best, about $32 dollars a bottle here at the winery. I tried Trio Chardonnay 1996. It cost 3.5 pesos = $9 dollars a bottle. It was really good. (Writers note: I just bought a bottle of Don Melchor for $26 at a liquor store here in Atlanta!)

There is also very good bread here made in adobe ovens. Pan Amasado - "Pan" means "bread" and "Amasado" is an adjective meaning kneaded and prepared by hand. A white flag outside a restaurant means they have Pan Amasado.

A bunch of us met in the lobby at 6 for a last meal. We went to a very very nice restaurant. We split an appetizer and got a dessert each. We understood Parmesian as cheese on our appetizer, then Patricia's computer translated the other word as "males". Mmmm… I wonder what that was. Well, we split our "men with cheese, but not our dessert!".

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Day 14

Wednesday

Get up for a our last omelet breakfast. Take the 11:30 shuttle to the big mall where I bought a Malachite and Lapislazuli necklace, bracelet, and earrings. Take the 3 p.m. shuttle back. Walk around a little more to find some postcards.

Sleep from about 6 to 10.

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Day 15

Thursday

The hotel changed our Taxi to the airport from midnight to 11:30 because O"Higgens was going to close at midnight for New Years. Well, we got the airport at 11:55. Cost us $17.00 dollars, not too bad. I took a picture of the Santiago Aeropuerto sign when it flashed 00:00 - Happy New Year. Our printed airplane tickets said 2:30 am and Sheree reconfirmed the time and the reservation so we thought we got there early. Turns out the plane left at 1:15. Go figure. Get to Lima about 3 am. Get our suitcase, go through customs. They had to inspect May's incense burners. Try explaining what that is to someone that speaks another language. Wait with our suitcases till 8 am to board the next flight. We had an entire row to ourselves on the airplane. We were ready to take off when we had to taxi all the way back to the airport to let a sick lady get off. Geez. I had a rough flight. I couldn't eat the nasty breakfast they served at 2 am. I ate pepto's and advil instead. Mmm. I was anxious to get home to American food. 7 hours later we get to Houston. Get the suitcase, go through customs again. There was a doggy (bark narc) sniffing everybody on the escalator. We passed. As we were waiting to get our suitcases another doggy came around. He was sniffing for food and alerted at a bag. Sure enough there was an apple in the bag. They confiscated it. Got bags, then said goodbye, and run to catch connection to Atlanta. I made it with minutes to spare. I’m glad to be home.


 

One thing I remember about this trip - Sheree (our tour director) knew a lot about history. She also lead us on "death marches" - she had so much energy and wanted to make sure we saw everything. She always had a smile on her face. She was fabulous.

One thing I noticed when I got to Houston - people are a lot bigger here in America.

You are very international when you're going to the bathroom. First you're a Russian, then you’re a European, then you're a Finnish.

We bought lots of bottle water. It's either "con gas" or "sin gas". Raymonds bottle exploded when he opened it, so it was "con gas".

What a trip. I'll never forget it.

 

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