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Chile Return to Santiago

Trains, skyscrapers and chilling

15th Feb Return to Santiago

We arrived back in Santiago quite late and again there was an issue getting us off the plane. Even though our bags were marked ‘First class priority’ they took so long unloading that the lady picking us up thought she'd missed us! Luckily we found each other and it was back to the hotel Conchita Flores, though in a much larger room. As it was late (after 11pm) and we'd eaten on the plane we only wanted an easy drink and snack. A short 5 minute walk brought us to the friendly bar, Ramblas, where we had a long beer and a cheese platter before heading to bed.

We decided to head over to the Quinta Normal area with its park, lake and museums. An easy trip on the metro, with just one change and the exit arrived directly in front of the park. It was a hot day, so it was pleasant to walk along the lake edge under the cool trees. We managed to find the Railway Museum quite easily and as it was just opening (and apparently not well known) we were the only ones there. All the engines and carriages were beautifully displayed outdoors, with information panels in Spanish and English (though as they were mostly statistics any language would do!) Museo Ferroviario www.corpdicyt.cl/mferroviario/ www.lcgb.org.uk/html/santiagomuseum.htm comprises sixteen locomotives (mainly steam, but also diesel and early electric), four carriages, one freight wagon and two stations, each accompanied by a bilingual sign with the technical characteristics and historical significance. The collection comes from the Ferrocarriles del Estado, the national Chilean railway (estab 1884). The pride of the collection is a 1909-vintage, English built, articulated rack and pinion fitted steam locomotive which for many years worked over the legendary Transandine Railway, between Los Andes in Chile and Las Cuevas, just over the border to Argentina. Another is a special carriage, dating from the early 20th C. We spent longer than expected here as we could go into quite a few carriages (I especially liked the stained glass windowed
one!) and thought the museum was a bargain at CLP$1000.

We grabbed a kiosk water and walked the 2 minutes to the Natural History Museum (El Museo Nacional de Historia Natural), which was free http://www.mnhn.cl/613/w3-channel.html.
The attendant suggested we start on the left, with the Palaeontology galleries and fossil records. The Mesozoic era vertebrates included a Carnotaurus sastrei - very nice. It was informative and well done, covering the odd animals of prehistoric Chile, such as the Giant Sloth and Macrauchenia (an extinct ungulate with a short trunk). Interesting here was the recently restored Pelagornis Chilensis, an ancient toothed bird. We continued to the Biogeography galleries, giving excellent coverage of each area of Chile, the plants, animals, peoples, geology, climate and eco-systems. Especially well done were dioramas of each area showing a typical scene, even to the insects. As we went around the quadrangle, clock-wise, we went through El Origen (palaeontology), Zona Desertica (the arid far north of the Atacama), Zona Subdesertica (between Atacama and Santiago, Transverse valleys), Zona Mediterranea (around Santiago), Zona de Transicion (the Cordillera), Zona Templada (Lakes, volcanoes and Chiloe island), Zona Austral (Patagonia/ Tierra del Fuego), Antactica Chilena (obvious! Chile claims most of the O’Higgins peninsula) and finally El Mar Chileno y Sus Islas (Pacific Ocean, Easter Island/ Juan Fernandez isles). The Chilean Antarctic Territory is 53-90°W and the South Pole-60°S, inc South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula (Tierra de O'Higgins), and adjacent Alexander Island, Charcot Island, and part of Ellsworth Land (overlapping British and Argentinian claims). It is administered by the Cabo de Hornos in Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region.
Zona Desertica- Llama, alpaca, burrowing owls, puma, ducks, flamingo, rhea, hares, iguana, conebill, cacti. Zona Subdesertica- chinchilla, degu, wine palm, cacti, bellflower, Huemel deer, coastal areas of pelican, gulls guano. Zona Mediterranea- Chilean Palm, Monkey puzzles, kodkod (guigna leopard, smallest big cat), zorzal and loica (birds). Zona de Transicion- deciduous forest, flowering plants, vampire bats. For Zona Templada and Austral see Lakes and Patagonia. We looked at the famous Plomo ice-mummy (next page) found in the Atacama, a young boy sacrificed by the Inca in Chile. He was only about 6 years old and was the first Incan mummy discovered, in 1954 on Cerro Plomo. He was buried c1450 with some ceremony, his hair put into 200 braids and his teeth gold-capped. The people of Tierra del Fuego were expertly explained and put into context. Cultural anthropology, which covered the Aymara, Mapuche, Selk'nam, Rapanui, Kaweskar and Yámana were superb in their artefacts and information. The museum has the best public collection of rongorongo in the world, as well as nice birdman carvings (below). We headed into the central hall, which contained the 17m skeleton of a Blue Whale and a huge number of insects, many giant size (prehistoric). We went back to the corridors to view the Chilean waters (A/V screen showing sea creatures in their correct size) and the displays covering the Juan Fernández Islands (the 3 volcanic islands of Robinson Crusoe, Alejandro Selkirk and Santa Clara).
The museum is the oldest natural history museum in South America, founded 1830 by French naturalist Claudio Gay, commissioned by the Chilean government. Its mandate is biology and geography of Chile. In 1889 botany, zoology, and mineralogy were added. The anthropological department shows the archaeology of Central Chile through the Inca Empire and modern/ recently extinct peoples of Chile and Easter Island.

PROVIDENCIA It was heading towards lunch, so after a walk in the Quinta park, we caught the metro over to the Barrio Providencia. As we walked towards the Costanera Tower, we found a nice cafe in a little square where we could have lunch. Kalafate, the cafe, did a great set menu including drinks and was popular with local workers (we could taste why). After lunch we continued to the Costanera shopping centre, a huge complex on 5 levels and bought our tickets to go up the Tower. Sky Costanera Tower and observatory www.skycostanera.cl is the highest in South America. At a height of 300 m, Sky Costanera has an impressive 360° view of Santiago. The lift took us to the first observatory level- all glass with free binoculars and loads of information about each area, including its history. It was then an escalator to an upper level. Sky Costanera is open 365 days a year $8.000. We came down to a different point than we had gone up, which fooled us for a moment, until we realised we were higher than before. Having grabbed a quick drink (prickly pear and wineberry) we walked back to our hotel via Santiago’s free open air sculpture park. Nestled between Mapocho Rv/ Avenida Santa María, the Sculpture Park (Parque de las Esculturas) was opened in 1982 to beautify an area damaged by a flood of the Mapocho. The park features sculptures by Chilean and international artists. The park spans from Puente Pedro de Valdivia to Puente Padre Letelier. As we wandered back towards the hotel we admired the street market, and purchased some lovely hand made lapis earrings.
We had a rest, then set out for our evening meal, kindly booked by the hotel, at La Giratorio, a famous revolving restaurant in Providencia at 8pm. To access the restaurant you first tell the ground floor doorman you have a reservation. He checks upstairs, then puts you on the lift. You are met by a hostess who double checks and escorts you on a second lift to the restaurant itself. We had a great table right by the windows, so we could watch the sunset over the city as we ate and as the room revolved. Our “menu” was an Ipad with the English menu installed and we selected into the basket; quite a neat idea to save printing loads of languages menus. Beautiful food, quite pricey of course, but ambiance was all here! http://giratorio.cl/en/

Posted by PetersF 17:37 Archived in Chile

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