Sunday, 6 November 2011

Adventures in Chile

As I have said before; when I am in my real job I am an IT Manager, so let me start off by saying I have just been to Santiago in Chile.........

I attended our Global IT managers conference, to explain;  this is a gathering of my companies five IT Managers (Africa, UK/Europe, Australia, North America/Canada, South America) and their respective Network Engineers in one of the regions (same as above) for a week-long conference discussing what we are currently doing and going to be doing for the coming 2 years.

For us (from South Africa) the trip from Johannesburg with a stopover in Sao Paolo to change planes took approximately 16 hours so with check-ins and transfers we looked at approximately 22 hours of travel - a fair haul in anyone’s terms with our final arrival at our apartments at about 22:00 in the evening - Exhausted.

For the following day I had planned it that we (my network engineer and I) would have a day off to do a bit of site seeing and shopping prior to the conference beginning.
Now I had been warned that Chile is a third world country…. blah blah blah - I come from South Africa;  so whatever!!!! ...... Well were we in for a shock .... third world my arse posterior….. It is FIRST WORLD at an epic level and I can say this with confidence having travelled extensively around the world; it is clean, organized, Beautiful, in a word; it WORKS!!!! OK OK OK for those of you who are not from Africa you may not understand; for me this was heaven, the streets were clean, the public transport existed and it worked (Tube trains that took us all over the place fast, efficiently and quickly……verrryyyy quickly), we could walk the streets day and night perfectly safely - we walked everywhere.

View from my Balcony
General street scene
The buildings are architectural works of art and this in a country known for its earthquakes and the statuary dotted around the streets were a pleasure to behold.


Most of our shopping was at local crafters markets,the people are incredibly friendly even if they cannot speak a word of English, makes for interesting times when trying buy things, lot of waving of hands and t.... a...l....k....i....n......g very slowly.

Crafters Market

Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobel
Followed by site-seeing of the city and then up a hill "Cerro San Cristobal" to see the Virgin Mary statue.
On coming down after the extremely hot work of site seeing we stopped at a little street pub called "Libido" to have a beer to wash the dust out of our throats before heading out to dinner.

Libido Bar in Bellavista
Libido Bar

The food was very good but for me a bit disappointing as I am not big on meat and when I say they are big into meat I mean BIG, so after a couple of meals I tried the fish, now that for me was awesome, lots and lots of Seabass later with a fair amount of salad I was, one could say very happy.

I am not going to go into a blow by blow breakdown of the conference – all very technical and for non – I.T. people very boring and not really conducive to a decent travelogue sooo ever onwards…….

On the last night of conference we headed out to a monstrously big restaurant called Los Buenos Muchachos  
Los Buenos Muchachos
for a brilliant floor show and Parrilas (barbeques or for us South African's a Braai) LOTS OF MEAT!!!!!

Then it was up and off to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar down on the coast for a bit of R&R for the delegates, this included a bus drive down with tour guide, a visit to the port city of Valparaiso ( a must for anyone traveling down that part of the world) the town was the original port for Chile of which it has been destroyed a couple of times by earthquakes  only to be resurrected again – an incredibly beautiful town that climbs up a hill from the sea and clings there precariously, we only had an hour to look around (enormously great pity) before heading off for lunch(but that just gives me more desire to visit again at my leisure and explore more thoroughly.

Pisco Sour
General Street Scene Santiago
And then it was onto Vina del Mar were we stayed for the night, but during the day we took a boat charter out into the bay with lots of food, beer, wine and the ubiquitous Pisco Sour, this is a cocktail drink that is famous in South America (we had one before meals)

Lunch at Club Union Arabe between Valparaiso & Vina del Mar

The Boat

 Prior to the boat trip two of us challenged each other to go for a swim, initially we were going to dive off the boat but a rather large potential fine from harbour authorities would have ensued so it was decided after the trip to return to the local beach and swim there, once we got there 2 other brave souls decided to join us in our impending stupidity, the water averages around 10C..... so into the water we stormed screamed like girls (it was blindingly cold), body surfed around for a couple of minutes then stormed out again, recovered and roared back in again and out, the whole episode of insanity took all of about 10 minutes followed by a bit of brain freeze headache.
So back to the hotel for hot showers and then out to dinner (notice there seemed to be a bit of a pervading theme of dinner here)

Promenade in Vina del Mar
Los Dominicos
The next day after a good walk down the promenade and then into town for more sightseeing and shopping we had to leave to return to Santiago, for a bit more shopping, this time at the Los Dominicos monastery and then - yes - you got it onto dinner.

Street Scene in Santiago
Market at Los Dominicos

Street Scene in Santiago

Street Scene in Santiago
"Green" Building in Santiago

We (my network Engineer and I) then saddled up at 3AM the next morning and left for the airport to head back home, another 26 hours plus of travelling, all was well and good when we arrived in Sao Paolo we now had a 6 hour layover ahead of us so not to be held back by a minor inconvenience such as this we proceeded through passport control and out into the city with a taxi and off to the nearest mall for lunch- sushi – damn nice, and it killed a bit of time and got us Brazil stamps in our passports (not sure if we should actually have been able to do this but we did) after lunch it was back into a taxi and peddled back to the airport, pay a port tax through passport control and then the wheels fell off….there was a technical problem with the plane that SAA was supposed to be carrying us back and we now had another 5 hours ahead of us – should have stayed at the mall DAMN!!!!

Sao Paolo from the air

Now let me at this point say I am not a big fan of SAA (South African Airlines) I call them Dung Beetle Airlines, the pilots are good don’t get me wrong most of them are ex-air force, but the air-crew are a surly unpleasant bunch who should rather stay at home and bitch and grumble than rather doing it in the air in a closed container……… I try never to fly with them but on the odd occasion I actually have to I am never surprised with their behavior – this is a subject that I could expound on at length but it will probably only make me mad again and result in a broken keyboard.

So now we are back on earth (in Africa) and into the long days of working and living before another interesting trip arises…….

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