A Travellerspoint blog

April 2009

Chillaxin' in Chile

sunny 77 °F

We've had a few relaxing days here in Santiago and the city has exceeded our expectations (though this could have something to do with the excellent weather).
There's not a tremendous amount to do here, but we've still tried to stay busy to avoid the effects of jet lag after our 14 hour flight from Madrid. After arriving on Thursday morning, we set out to explore the area of Providencia where we're staying - a really vibrant and livable neighborhood with restaurants, bars and shops. We also made it up San Cristobal Hill - one of the city's tallest hills - via gondola thanks to some fellow (north) Americans who had bought two too many tickets and were able to enjoy the great view from the top (only clouded by the unfortunate layer of smog over the city).
Above it all on Cerro San Cristobal

We took advantage of San Cristobal Hill again yesterday morning (it helps that its just behind our hotel) for a little run/hike. It was great until we met up with a group of 8 stray dogs who decided to join us for the descent and started fighting with each other on the way down. We couldn't shake them and finally had to jump into a cab to cover the final 200 meters to the hotel and lose them.
Yesterday afternoon was the highlight of our time here as we had the opportunity to visit La Moneda - the presidential palace. Tours are actually free and available to anyone and we were lucky enough to have a private one. At the end, we even got a gift from the state of Chile - a book of the excellent sculpture collections that are in the palace courtyards (maybe this was where our $260 in entry fees went). After the palace, we were finally able to change those crazy tickets of ours into e-tickets (we had to wait until we had 16 flights or less left), and will hopefully be problem-free for the balance of our travels.
Yes, la Moneda does mean money in Spanish and the place used to be a mint

Today we wandered through the bohemian neighborhood of Bella Vista, ending at La Chascona (the wild-haired woman) - one of Pablo Neruda's houses.
This isn't the Neruda house, but we thought it still looked neat

All in all, it's been a nice break in our trip here and in summary:
Pros: Weather, people, "livable"-feel, La Moneda
Cons: Smog, limited attractions, Those damn dogs!

In case you were itching for more, our Santiago photos are now up on MobileMe.

We don't expect to have internet in Easter Island, but Nicole will post a nice big update when we get a chance

Posted by jkirsch 18:21 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Videos Galore!

Ok... only two, but still check them out.

We wanted to share two promised videos that we've finally been able to upload - the first being a camel at Petra and the second a shot of us dunebuggying (is that a word) through the desert in Dubai.

Also, more photos are now up (Dubai & Petra) and more are in the process of uploading. Check them out on MobileMe.


Posted by jkirsch 13:48 Comments (0)

Staying connected in the air

I promised Nicole that I would limit posts on airplanes and related topics, but I thought this was one worth mentioning.
Noticed the below indicator on one of our flights on Royal Jordanian. In case you don't figure it out, its a no-phone indicator. This particular flight apparently offered inflight mobile service. Gave it a try, but unfortunately couldn't get it to work.
Probably better to avoid bothering a cabin full of people and running up those international roaming charges.

Posted by jkirsch 16:56 Archived in Jordan Comments (1)

The Good (and the bad) in Madrid

sunny 70 °F

Spent a lovely sunny afternoon in Madrid yesterday during a layover between flights and made it to two of the city's notable cultural institutions: The Museo Prado (though our tastes tend to be a bit more contemporary, it was still very impressive) and the Museo del Jamon (it's actually a chain of restaurants featuring cured pork products).

We then enjoyed a nice walk across the city before heading back to the airport, happening across the interesting scene below in the Plaza Mayor.
We weren't sure whether they were one act or two...

Unfortunately, our past tribulations with Madrid Barajas Airport once again reared their head (despite having taken pains on the trip to specifically avoid flying Iberia). Upon arriving at LAN checkin, we were told they no longer accepted paper tickets and moreover suspected the legitimacy of ours, insisting that tickets normally have computer-style printing and barcodes on them. In fairness, that's usually a pretty safe assumption.
Took 2.5 hours of waiting for them to get clearance from the head office in Chile, but we were finally cleared to travel. Another 30 minutes to get through security and we were finally on our way.
On the plus side, we had the pleasure of waking up to this gorgeous sunrise over the Andes this morning and arrived to excellent weather in Santiago (though a not-so-pleasant $130 "reciprocity" entry fee for US citizens).

Posted by jkirsch 16:24 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Another day, another desert

Or, living la vida Bedouin

sunny 85 °F
View Round the World on nhilde's travel map.

Desert-haters, beware: Jordan is not the vacation destination for you. It seems like 90% of the country is vast, dry, uninhabited - and yet, for the most part, eerily beautiful - desert.

After our adventures in Petra, we were ready for some relaxation, and Wadi Rum (one of Jordan's most picturesque deserts, located about one hour south of Petra) was just the place for it. We arrived at our camp in early afternoon. (For those of you balking at the fact that Jake and I went camping, don't worry: the tents had beds and there was indoor plumbing!) It was a cool place, made even cooler by the fact that we had the whole place to ourselves for the night. After sitting around and enjoying the views for a few hours, we had a late lunch and then headed out in Talat's jeep for an off-road tour of the region.

Our camp in Wadi Rum

Even though April is high season here, we only encountered two or three other cars during our three-hour drive, which made the experience even more special. Jake's pictures don't quite capture just how quiet, beautiful, and surreal Wadi Rum really is, but they should give you some idea:

desert4.jpg desert3.jpg
desert2.jpg desert1.jpg

In addition to enjoying the meditative beauty of the desert, we also goofed around a little with Talat and Sami (our driver). Here's a few of my favorite pictures from the day:


We ended the trip by drinking some tea and watching the sunset atop some particularly red sand dunes in the middle of nowhere.


Back at the camp, we feasted on fresh local lamb and arabic salad with Talat and Sami, and spent the rest of the night relaxing around the camp fire and looking for shooting stars. The beds in our tent were very comfortable, although we would have slept better if it weren't for the howling of the wild dogs and the incessant "shrieking" of a local camel.

Yesterday, Sami drove us through Wadi Araba (another desert!) to the Dead Sea and on to Amman.

The shores of the Dead Sea - that white stuff is salt!

After four days of Middle Eastern buffet food, we were craving something a little different, and eventually settled on the Benihana at our hotel. Teppanyaki never tasted so good!

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A few final observations on Jordan:

- Bedouin tea: The Bedouins (the local people that live in the desert in Southern Jordan) love to drink tea, and boy do they like it sweet. When Talat makes tea, he adds about two-and-a-half HANDFULS of sugar to a small pot! It tastes good, but I think I developed a few cavities and an increased risk of Type II diabetes over the past few days. Talat told us that his father drinks about forty cups of the stuff every day; he must be on a constant sugar high!

Talat making Bedouin tea

- Camels: We've learned a lot about camels during our time in Jordan (and Dubai). They are really tall, they can run almost as fast as a horse, their "bark" is one of the most obnoxious noises ever known to man, and apparently they mate sitting down (although voyeurs would struggle to witness this because camels are very shy and don't like to "be romantic" in front of an audience). I'll miss the camels...but luckily for me, Jake does a pretty decent camel impression! (PS: I wanted to post a funny camel video that we made in Petra here, but we donĀ“t have the bandwidth to upload it right now. It will be posted soon though, so look out for it!)

Posted by nhilde 20:36 Archived in Jordan Comments (1)

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