Isn’t it funny my last blog post is the hardest to write. We flew into Sydney on Thursday night and headed straight to my parent’s house to surprise my mum on her birthday. Since then we’ve had the Easter 4 day weekend where we’ve been busy catching up with family and friends. I’ve felt like a teenager looking for any excuse to avoid that dreaded school essay… any excuse to put it off until the next day. Today I found the best excuse of all… I took my beloved Honda CBX for a ride and it’s the first time I’ve ridden a motorbike in 14 months. All went smoothly and I still absolutely love it. I was a little nervous because we’ve been on the right-hand side of the road since August last year but all went well. I can’t wait to do some riding over the next two weeks before I head back to work. You might notice that I only speak of my procrastination – Anna had all her photos done on Friday and she even posted the latest video today. Click here to check it out.
We had 5 nights in Santiago which allowed us to have a pretty relaxed ending to our trip. Unfortunately for Anna the relaxation was overshadowed by the upcoming 14 hour flight back to Sydney. Since it was our last stop we decided to splash out a little and book a nice AirBnB apartment in Bellavista. With all the intense penny pinching and careful money management of the last 14 months we decided that we could live a little in the last week.
Our first day in Santiago was very quiet indeed. After 14 months of travelling we really had started to run out of puff. I think back to those crazy days in Japan where we were up early and out the door to try and maximise our time in each city and wonder what happened to all of our energy. Maybe we’ve aged over the trip. We headed to Costanera Center which is Santiago’s largest shopping centre which also has Latin America’s tallest building at 64 storeys. Empire State building is 102 storeys so it’s real tall for Santiago, but nothing too grand. It cost $20 each to go to the observation deck so we gave it a miss. The pollution in Santiago isn’t the best so there’s always a haze anyway. One thing we noticed about the shopping centre was how many western brands there were. Not just fashion and home wares, but a whole bunch of restaurant chains from USA.
On Sunday we decided to do as the locals do and head to the park. The closest one to us was up a very steep hill so we had to catch another funicular up to the top. Since half of Santiago was heading up there we had to queue for about an hour but once we were up the top the crowds dispersed. There’s the Virgin Mary statue to visit and various gardens and ruins to explore. Once we were up there we realised that the park had a great outlook over the city and Andes mountains at about the same height as the observation deck of the tower, so we didn’t feel so bad about missing it.
We were impressed with the walking tour that we did in Valparaiso so we decided to do the tour of Santiago with the same company. The guide was really informative and took us through the main sites of downtown. The main thing we gained from the tour was an appreciation of the troubled political history of Chile and how recent the dictatorship was, only ending in 1990. It always amazes me how resilient communities are with the way they bounce back. Being in Santiago now, you wouldn’t suspect there were troubles at all.
We visited the typical sites of Santiago but really for us it was about food and wine. We had a kitchen so we cooked some nights (does pre-made pizza count as cooking?) and the other nights we tried out some of the nicer restaurants in town. Particularly some places that specialise in wines and offer “wine flights” which allowed us to try Chilean wines from different regions without having to lash out on more wine tours. We had some lovely meals accompanied by different wines. It was great to reminisce on different parts of the trip as we knew it was all coming to an end. The lonely planet guide suggested Mercado Central as a good place to eat and for photography. We had a look but it really came across as more of a tourist trap than a market, especially since more than 75% of the floor space was taken up with overpriced restaurants. The Tokyo fishmarkets are a photographers dream, not Santiago markets!
Elton John performed in Santiago while we were there but the cheapest tickets available were $200 each and they were mid-level tickets. There were plenty of seats available so I was hanging for last minute discounts but it never happened. It would’ve been a great concert to see but if the venue is half empty the atmosphere isn’t really there.
So you may have gathered that our last stop on the trip wasn’t too action packed. We knew our adventure was coming to a close so we took the opportunity to savour the last little bit before it was over. We used the apartment block gym every morning and then cooked super-cheesy scrambled eggs. It was a nice way to finish up our trip.
I don’t really know how to wrap up this post since this is the end. In two weeks I return to work and Anna will start applying for jobs tomorrow. Reality is coming very soon and we’ll be back to regular life. We have plenty to look forward to setting up a life together but that’s not for the blog. We’d like to thank you all for tuning in and checking out our travels over the last 14 months. Many thanks for all the suggestions we received from friends and a super big thank you for all the friends and family who joined us along the way. We couldn’t have travelled as long as we did without the generosity of Anna’s parents housing us for nine weeks, Anna’s brother Tom allowing us to stay with them in Milan and Calgary, and my parents paying for our time together in France. We’re eternally grateful. A special mention for Matt is in order who joined us for 6 weeks of the trip – it was great to share those experiences with him.
I’ll follow tradition and sign off the post with the local language.
Hooroo cobbers it’s been a bloody ripper of a time,
Fail of the Week
We don’t like to be late for flights, but this week we went a little too far. I read online that the best way to get to the airport is to catch the metro and then catch a shuttle bus. The article warned that sometimes the metro is crowded and you have to wait for a few to go by before you get on. There was another warning about the shuttle busses sometimes being full or having to wait a while for the connection. Well none of those applied to our trip and everything went like clockwork. We ended up at the airport 3 hours and 45 minutes before our flight so check in wasn’t even opened. Oops.
Meal of the Week
Osaka is a Japanese restaurant with a Peruvian twist which just happens to have an extensive wine menu – the perfect trifecta. The dishes were well presented and very tasty. I still find it funny that the best Japanese of the whole trip wasn’t in Japan, but was in Kitchener-Waterloo where Anna’s parents live. I think that’ll be our first meal out when we go back next (excluding Tim Horton’s at the airport of course).
Some final words regarding our travels
Over the course of the last 14 months we visited 25 countries, flew 32 times (much to Anna’s delight!) and stayed at 145 hotels/homes. Here are some of our observations from our travels:
– It pays to do some research and apply for debit/credit cards that can be used overseas without incurring any fees. Most credit cards charge at least 3% on foreign currency transactions and banks often charge $5 to use an ATM overseas (on top of the fee charged by the other bank). We had a Bankwest credit card that didn’t charge the FX fee and a Citibank account with a debit card that allowed us to draw money out anywhere in the world without extra charges. This saved us thousands of dollars over 14 months.
– Although flying is often the fastest form of transport, busses and trains are a great way to get an alternative perspective of a country. The slow old trains in Sri Lanka, the shinkansen high speed trains in Japan, the highways in the US (in our beloved BRZ) and the busses in South America all left us with experiences we would have missed out on by flying.
– Catching up with friends and family along the way is the best way to relieve tensions that build up with the challenges of travel. I’m sure we wouldn’t have survived without the support of our friends and family.