Santiago de Chile

Holidays. Travel. Regional parties # Costumbres populares sudamericanas. América Latina

  • Enviado por: Tecno
  • Idioma: inglés
  • País: Guatemala Guatemala
  • 11 páginas
publicidad
publicidad

Colegio Lehnsen Las Ameritas

Toefl

'Santiago de chile'

Guatemala, Lunes 3 de octubre del 2005

Holidays: 1 of January : New Year. 9 of April: Good Friday. 10 of April: Saturday Santo. 11 of April: Domingo de Passover. 1 of May: Day of the Work. 21 of May: Festividad of the Naval Glorias (naval battle of Iquique). 7 of June: Corpus Christi. 28 of June: San Pedro and San Pablo. 15 of August: Festividad of Asuncio'n. 6 of September : Day of the Reconciliation. 18 of September: Day of Independence. 19 of September: Day of the Army. 12 of October: Day of the Race (Day of Columbus). 1 of November: Festividad of All the Saints. 8 of December: Festividad of the Immaculate Conception. 25 of December: Christmas. 31 of December: New Year's Eve.

12th of February

Santiago de Chile occupies arguably the most spectacular setting of any world capital. Sprawled across the fertile Santiago valley, 100km (62 miles) from the Pacific coast, the city is dominated by the full might of the Andes mountains, which loom over its eastern suburbs. Indeed, Santiago's 5.5 million residents are theoretically able (money and motivation permitting) to take a morning dip in the sea, followed by an afternoon on internationally renowned ski slopes. Santiago's status as a colonial backwater has long been consigned to history, and the economic hub is at the forefront of Latin American commerce. In this city of contrasts, glass-fronted skyscrapers tower over 18th-century churches, while indigenous women in tribal costume hawk penny snacks outside world-class restaurants and hotels. The fashionable districts of Providencia and Las Condes, where the young and affluent sip cappuccinos, seem a world away from the squalid callampas (shanty towns) situated nearby. But despite its obvious problems, Santiago enjoys one of the best standards of living on the continent and the `work hard, play hard' ethic provides the sense of a modern, thriving city. Founded on 12 February 1541 by a small band of Spanish conquistadors led by Pedro de Valdivia, who had trekked across the Andes from Peru, Santiago had an unpromising start. Within six months, Araucanian Indians destroyed the settlement and the Spaniards were besieged for two years on Cerro Santa Lucia (a hill, now a popular city park). The eventual arrival of reinforcements from Peru enabled the city to be re-founded and Santiago settled into its colonial role as a provincial capital within the Viceroyalty of Peru. After independence from Spain in 1818, Chile emerged as the most economically dynamic of the new South American republics. The growth of the country's agriculture and mining industries served to boost Santiago's status and, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the city experienced large-scale immigration from Europe. The protracted economic boom of the 1990s, nurtured by Chile's mineral wealth (particularly in copper), resulted in the demolition of much of Santiago's architectural heritage to make way for luxury apartments and offices. Nevertheless, the city retains much of its Old World charm, particularly around the Plaza de Armas, the central square first delineated by Pedro de Valdivia. Unfortunately, many visitors regard Santiago as little more than a convenient place to spend a night before heading either north or south in search of Chile's natural wonders. But to avoid Santiago is to miss out on a unique city whose residents remain surprisingly friendly, given its size and the disparities of wealth. Travellers prepared to venture beyond their hotel lobbies will be rewarded by 17th-century churches, lively markets and colourful street life, set against a dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains. The city's position halfway up Chile's 'string bean' shape ensures a comfortable Mediterranean climate, hot and dry in summer, cool and wet in winter. Santiago is renowned for its smog, which gets trapped in the natural bowl of the city, but this should not affect short-term visitors and clear skies can be expected during spring and summer.

1 st May

If you are traveling in Latin America on the first day of May, you can expect to find banks, government offices, stores, post offices and businesses closed for the day as people celebrate the Día Internacional Del Trabajo with parades, demonstrations and other symbols of solidarity with the worker. (photos) The reasons are detailed in El Mundo descansa para homenajear al trabajo and Programa Oficial XXX Fiesta Nacional Del Ternero Y Dia De La Yerra

6st June

It was Dublin, 1975. I remember it very clearly - the classroom, the teacher... and, of course, the poem. I was 13, he was a gruff Christian Brother and the poem was called (in Gaelic) 'An Long'. I can remember, as if yesterday, translating the poem from Gaelic into English, and slowly falling under its spell. That was the moment I fell in love with Valparaiso.

A ship arrived from Valparaiso
Dropped its anchor in the bay
Her name reminded me of kingdoms
Sunlit countries far away

The poem, by Irish poet Padraig de Brun, tells the story of a young man (the author) who catches sight of a Chilean ship in an Irish harbour, notices the sign on its side and starts to wonder about its place of origin - Valparaiso. The author conjures images of this faraway place and imagines an exotic life, full of possibilities, full of escape. As a 13-year-old languishing under the grey, misty skies of Ireland - and Dublin in the Seventies was not the vibrant, continental city it is now - the poem swept me away on a tide of daydreams to a place of promise, sun, heat and light. A place that didn't rain all those dark days. A place that wasn't Ireland. I never forgot that poem. The word 'Valparaiso' was so evocative, magical, rich in potential. It was years before I found out that it meant 'valley of paradise' but it didn't matter because that's exactly how it sounded to me. The Brother read those lines in Gaelic as if he himself was swollen with a sense of lost opportunity, of missed boats, of a life half-lived. Sitting there listening to him I knew that, one day, I'd go to Valparaiso. It took a while. The years passed but the dream didn't. From time to time I'd remember Valparaiso, idly scan a book about Chile, wondering when I might go. Then, three years ago, the poem began to loom a little larger in my mind. I tracked it down, read it again, and it was like reading it for the first time. With a month-long sabbatical looming - and a vague plan to learn Spanish - there was no choice. I had to go.

Come along with me she whispered
Far from cloud and mist
for you'll find beneath the Andes Mountains
An awesome city - bright as a jewel

Valparaiso. I drove in from the neighbouring town, and there it was - a semi-circle of lights ringing the bay's natural amphitheatre. The hills that run down to the harbour were carpeted in white lights, creating a magical effect. It was everything Padraig de Brun imagined. Valparaiso - birthplace, ironically, of both Augusto Pinochet and Salvador Allende; home to Pablo Neruda and the Chilean Congress and an historic old quarter (and in particular its 14 funicular railways that pull people up the terrifyingly steep hills) which is now a World Heritage Site. But beneath the magic lies a tough harbour town, eclipsed now by its flashier neighbour, Viña del Mar, and struggling still to recover from the twin blows of a massive earthquake in the Seventies and the loss of shipping revenue (much of it diverted down the Panama canal). People come for the day to ride the railways, or step off the huge cruise ships en route to Patagonia for an evening in the old quarter, but Valparaiso isn't a tourist town and I was warned off venturing too far from the centre and into the hills where locals lived in corrugated iron huts in near shanty-town conditions. Not a place, I was told, for gringos to walk alone, especially at night. But Valparaiso comes alive at night - and de Brun would surely have relished the lights of the 14 hills which make up the bay tripping down into the harbour and into the sea. Apart from a small stretch of bars and clubs by the waterfront - mostly frequented by the better-off locals and assorted gringos - Valparaiso makes few concessions to foreigners. While the natural surroundings are enchanting, the town itself is noisy, dusty and down-at-heel. I loved it. I danced and drank, talked and walked, and even learnt a little Spanish. That was a year ago, and when I left I resolved to come again and visit some new friends and new places, since Chile is a place of incredible extremes and bewildering variety. It is that oddest of countries; a thin strip sandwiched between the Andes and the Pacific, no more than 250km wide but 3,000km long. But how to choose? Should it be the dry arid plains of northern Chile where the Atacama desert and its salt lakes stretch into Bolivia? Or south to sub-arctic Patagonia which is alive with glaciers and mountains and lakes? Or myriad terrains in between from the lush Central Valley (the so-called Lake District) to the drier Elqui Valley and the beaches of northern Chile. I chose south, and Patagonia, but first I had to negotiate a slight administrative foul-up. Seized by a strong sense of paranoia as I booked into my hotel in Santiago, I decided to conceal all my documents (driving licence, passport) and sundry credit cards and cash in a safe place. I dispensed with the usual notions (under the pillow, the mattress etc) and was extremely glad to discover the perfect hiding place: an undistinguished grey rubber mat in the bath. Perfect. Unfeasibly pleased with myself, I left for the afternoon and made a mental note not to have a shower until I had retrieved my money and papers. The problem with mental notes is that they're just that - mental. And they're not notes. So I forgot. Luckily Santiago was boiling up outside and, without the benefit of adequate air-conditioning, my money and papers dried off nicely overnight in the baking hot room. However, still not entirely happy with the room's security arrangements I then proceeded to 'hide' my credit cards. By the morning (perhaps it was the pisco sours) I couldn't remember where I had hidden them. By the time I was supposed to board my flight south I had checked and rechecked every inch of my luggage and pockets. They were gone. My holiday was doomed. I had all but given up hope until, mid-flight, I suddenly thought, maybe... just maybe... gingerly took off my left shoe and there - oh joy! - were my credit cards. Game on. The flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas takes four hours. This little town is the furthest point south you can fly to and it's the starting point for exploring southern Patagonia. A windswept town that sits on the edge of the Magellan Strait, even in summer it has a whiff of bleakness running through its streets. My destination was Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, a magnet for hikers and climbers drawn, not least, to the three ethereal granite towers which give the park its name. But that was a seven-hour drive away. Meanwhile the empty roads, wild, barren landscape, low skies and stunning cloud formations were a wonderful welcome to southern Chile. Half-way to Torres del Paine is Puerto Natales, a small town surrounded by peaks and locked in by the waters of the Seno Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Sound). The fun starts just beyond Puerto Natales when the road gives way to an unpaved stone track. It's a three-hour drive on this cratered surface with the pick-up jolting and shuddering the entire journey. Empty roads, a 4x4, rugged terrain, no speed cameras. Heaven. Once you reach the national park the roads deteriorate further and if you're driving at night they are alive with llamas, leaping hares and sundry other animals, seemingly oblivious to the odd 4x4. I was warned that the drive to the hotel would be treacherous but beautiful. I was spared the treachery and, as it was night, alas, the beauty. But by morning all became clear, and there in the distance were the partly shrouded Torres del Paine, the icon of the park, their smooth towers piercing the sky. The park attracts all sorts but many of those who visit are enthusiastic walkers who will map out trails and hikes and spend weeks completing the huge number of routes. But there are other exquisite attractions, and a visit to one of the glaciers in the park is among the most thrilling. This is a five-hour trip that takes you through the icy waters on to Glacier Grey. As you approach the glacier by boat you get some sense of the awesome structure, though the best view is from the plane as you fly into or out of Punta Arenas and can see the enormous length of the many glaciers as they snake their way through the mountain and into the lakes of southern Chile. Some run (only run isn't quite the word) for close to 15km. On a day trip you'll cover only a tiny area of Glacier Grey. But given that you're wearing boots, crampons and heavy weather gear, this is no bad thing. The weather in this part of the world is unpredictable and you may have to wait days for it to clear sufficiently to make the trip. But the experience of trekking and ice climbing on one of the glaciers is worth however long it takes. It's not necessary to trek and climb to enjoy the Parque; simply driving alongside the many lakes and marvelling at the different colours is one of its greatest pleasures. Some lakes are a deep blue, some turquoise, some a muddy green, the colours varying depending on which glaciers have melted into them. And always, somewhere in the distance, will be the Torres, mostly shrouded in fog and mist but challenging you none the less to come and have a go. To climb the Torres is a full day's activity, four hours there and back, with a little stop on top. I had decided to forgo this pleasure until the last day when, goaded by the sight of the peaks clear of cloud for the first time in five days, I set off for the summit. It's close to 3,000m high and the final hour is arduous as you clamber over massive boulders until, suddenly, it reaches a plateau and there you have the most beautiful sight: Laguna Torres, a grey-green lake, nestling beneath the imperious Torres. You can rest weary limbs, tend to blisters but mostly savour the view as the three towers stand majestically above the lake, you and the entire park. The national park is rightly considered a gem in a country studded with them. From the arid north to the Patagonian south, Chile embraces pretty much all climates and terrain in between. And it seemed churlish not to sample some of the country's other delights. Leaving behind the rugged expanse of Patagonia I headed north. A two-hour flight deposited me in Puerto Montt, midway between Santiago and Patagonia, and the heart of the country's Lake District. The flight out of Punta Arenas offered a brilliant view of the Andes (sit on the right of the plane as you fly out, on the left on the way in, and grab one of the best window views from a plane anywhere in the world). As Patagonia receded we headed into Chile's Central Valley - green pastures dotted with forests and volcanic mountain ranges within which are hidden dozens of thermal springs. Chile's Lake District is divine and dotted with smart, pretty-but-busy little towns that cater to all types of active tourism. This is Chile's centre for kayaking, rafting and climbing, and all manner of shops and outlets will organise trips and adventures. Pucon is at the centre of this bustle but 20 minutes away is the slightly quieter Villarica, home to the Villarica volcano. On the flight over I was told that I couldn't leave Chile without climbing it, and so here I was. The tour guide warns off people he thinks won't reach the 3,000m summit, or will struggle with the four-hour hike through the snow-capped upper reaches before they reach the smouldering top - but a reasonably fit person should handle it. The guide set a fairly tortuous pace but the ascent was thrilling and the final arrival on the top was breathtaking. To peer over the edge into the smouldering crater then stand back and marvel at the view across the Lake District was to feel truly humbled by nature. And for those of sore limbs and unsound muscles there are countless thermal springs to luxuriate in. Many are rough and ready (and all the better for it) and crammed with elderly Chileans taking the waters, but all are in the most wonderful settings. Even the names of the lake towns caught me afresh - Valdivia, Pucon, Villarica, Temuco. They are delightful towns with very reasonable accommodation - but beware the distances involved. I seemed to spend most of my time driving for great chunks to cover just a tiny speck on my road map. Having conquered the volcano it was time to head back north, to Valparaiso where I would bid adios again to the valley of paradise. For now.

2nd September

An epic journey isn't a thing of a few days; epic doesn't really happen in a van. And yet even driving north to the Torres del Paine national park in Patagonia has something of the epic about it: the enormous, empty landscapes, occasional swirling condors and the glimpses of the extraordinary granite peaks of the Torres themselves. Like the Mordor of Tolkien's Middle Earth, these enormous rocks begin to loom larger and larger as our journey progresses: three fat dark fingers pointing vertically skywards out of the middle of a snowy mountain range. We stop every hour or so for a view, as some new and nearer vista opens up. Long before we reach the official boundary of the national park, we assume we are clearly there, not having seen a soul for hours and having already taken a three-stage internal flight down past the Andes from Santiago. Even from Puerto Natales, the town described as the gateway to the Torres del Paine, hours of motoring up deserted roads remain. We break up this drive at the Cueva del Milodon: a gigantic cave where prehistoric remains were found in 1896, briefly sparking a yeti-style surge of interest in this mylodon, a huge bear-like beast of a sloth. It whets our appetite for strange animals, and by the time we do reach the edge of the park and see something furry with a hump, everyone leaps out in excitement. "Guanaco!" We give chase, camera lenses pointing, to the poor creature, something between a llama and a deer - much to the amusement of our guide, Cris, who explains that these are as common as sheep. It's true: by day two, we're thoroughly bored of them. Even a sheep would be a change. That said, there are also rhea in abundance, which look a bit more exotic, and huge condors. We don't see a puma, although we do see some worried guanacos charging around, which according to Cris, means big cats nearby. And we nearly run over a skunk. Short of time, we barely leave the van as we try to get around the park's highlights: a blue lake, a mirror lake, waterfalls, more lakes, and viewpoints. In fact, we're pretty much in permaview mode here, because it's never less than spectacular. In this region, the ground shifts rapidly: from grassland to scrub, from scree to the granite horns and snowy peaks of the Paine range at the centre of it all. Our lodgings' immediate landscapes are comparatively benign, perhaps due to the lea of the slopes that surround them: first the Hosteria Las Torres de la Patagonia, a newish, expansive hotel; and then the Mirador del Payne, a hotel-cum-estancia that has been in the Estrada family since the 1920s. The latter has the authentic call of the wild all over it, and after a hospitable evening on red wine and the national drink, pisco sours, I summon up the bravado to promise to ride with their gauchos. The next morning, the lingering effects have me relaxed enough to get in the saddle. It's my first time on the back of a horse, and I'm thrilled to get the thing to go in the right direction and not too fast, either. We amble along on the flat to round up some sheep, with dogs in pursuit. Up ahead, I see the gaucho - all pink shirt, cravat, and beret - turn round and say something to a Chilean friend, who looks at me and laughs. Someone later translates: my horse is known as the Borracho, one that learned to go so slow that even its drunken first owner could ride comatose and arrive home safely. More able riders could do longer treks, which would beat the van for a way of speedy sightseeing. But if time, commitment and mobility are no problem, this has to be a place to see on foot: there isn't a view in the world that isn't improved by having had to work for it. Marked circuits of the park can be done in five days (see below). Yet the weather - clear and perfect though it is on our visit - is liable to change rapidly, locals warn, making these potentially arduous treks. We only manage one walk, on a crisp, sunny day, bathed in clear light and fresh air tinged with wild rosemary. The hour or three's stroll starts at a waterfall throwing up rainbows, continues through paths worn into the prickly green undergrowth, the mata espinoza. We pass a small, idyllic lagoon, where the pebbles on the shore have arranged themselves flat into natural crazy paving, to end looking over a huge lake, face on to the Torres. The dark cliffs below them echo our calls back from hundreds of metres away. Whatever the method of travel, no one should miss the Grey Glacier. From the southern approach to Lago Grey, the glacier itself is a distant part of the panorama, though even from here its huge mass is impressive. In its countless millennia of advance and retreat, it has sculpted out a magnificent scene. We arrive at one end of a wide glacial moraine, a sweeping expanse of flat shingle whose dimensions are barely evident at first glance, until you make the long walk across it and chart your slow progress. And then the lake itself: still, glittering and decorated with fabulous icebergs, from car-sized frozen chunks to mammoth blocks whose visible tips alone would tower over houses: all in bizarre shapes, honed by the winds, blue-hued, with features like peepholes or hanging branches. Occasionally we hear a crash as part of one melts away and changes position in the water. For now, there is plenty more ice waiting to break away and float across the lake to this strange gallery. A path leads up a rock face to a vantage point above. It's a clearly marked route, and with a half dozen other visitors around, almost crowded for this part of the world. Returning to the water's edge, Cris produces a bottle of ready-made pisco sour from his bag. We scoop ice straight from the lake into our cups, and drink an early-evening cocktail to this vast, incredible landscape.

12th October

October 12 (or the nearest Monday to it) is traditionally celebrated throughout the Americas as the day Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. In English speaking countries, the day is celebrated as Columbus Day or Native American Day. In Spanish speaking countries and communities, is is known as Día de la Raza, the Day of the Race. Día de la Raza is the celebration of the Hispanic heritage of Latin America and brings into it all the ethnic and cultural influences making it distinctive. It is celebrated on October 12 in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela.

1st November

November 1 is celebrated throughout the Catholic world as Día de Todos Santos, or All Saints Day, to honor all the saints, known and unknown, of the Catholic faithful. Every day of the year has its own saint or saints, but there are more saints than calendar days, and this one major holy day honors them all, including those who had died in a state of grace but had not been canonized. And, to keep things fair, November 2 is celebrated as the Day of All Souls. Día de Todos Santosis also known as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Like many other Catholic celebrations, in the New World it was grafted onto existing indigenous festivities to meld the "new" Catholicism with the "old" pagan beliefs. In countries where the Europeans eventually reduced the indigenous populations, by one means or another, the celebrations gradually lost their native meaning and became more of a traditional Catholic event. In Latin American countries where the indigenous culture is still strong, such as in Guatemala and Mexico in Central America, and in Bolivia in South America, Día de Todos Santosis an important meld of many influences. In Central America, the dead are honored by visits to the their gravesites, often with food, flowers and all family members.