Welcome to Chile

30 Apr

I didn’t expect to start this journey starring in my own version of ‘Border Security’ but there I was in the office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Santiago Airport, facing seven different official documents bearing my name, one in triplicate. One translated as ‘Act of Denunciation and Citation’ and it had my signature on it.

As a travelling vegan I keep a stash of healthy snacks in my carry on, including on this occasion a bag of mixed nuts. The customs declaration included an item on plants and vegetables but I’d chosen to interpret that point as not pertaining to edible nuts and did not check it. Big mistake. In Chile nuts are a fruit according to the very patient officer assigned to deal with me initially.

He said I would probably get off the USD260 fine if I could argue my case to his superior. So I did. In a room of five men, only one of whom was actually dealing with my case, I calmly explained my linguistic misunderstanding and promised not to repeat the offence. Thirty minutes and seven forms later I was released with the parting warning that ‘next time I will be fined’.

Everything else in Santiago went beautifully so no hard feelings. I love flying to Santiago as you arrive at almost the same time as you leave Australia. Our studio apartment in the Providencia neighbourhood downtown was comfortable and central. We walked a block to find lunch at the Saladeria and bought an extra one of their big take away salads which was enough for two lunches next day.

A three hour siesta and we were ready to hit the streets to walk to Barrio Bellavista. We initially tried to go past the Sheraton Hotel but soon realised our error. One Direction were in town to perform the first of their two concerts last night and 500 screaming fans camped out for twelve hours to catch a glimpse of their British boy band idols. We retraced and went the other way….

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Bellavista is lovely at night with endless restaurant choices but we ate at my sentimental favourite, Como Agua Para Chocolate. Six years after my first meal there they’re still doing good numbers. The chef made me a special meal and Stuart’s flaming Easter Island fish was spectacular. Our waiter joked that when he flamed the dish the previous night he’d singed his eyebrows. No pesky health and safety concerns in Chilean restaurants.

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The return walk set us up well for a solid night’s sleep. Today we caught the metro (less than AUD1 a ticket) to wander funky Barrio Lastarria.

Coffee and croissant at the Cafe del Museo outside the Visual Arts Museum killed two birds with one stone as we took our second breakfast and culture at the same time as browsing the exhibition books and newspapers.

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A loop back via the courtyards and art museums of the downtown campus of Catholic University, the oldest and one of Chile’s most prestigious, made for a pleasant morning. Now it’s on to Lima to start the Andean Motorcycle adventure.

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Base of Santa Lucia Park, Santiago.

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