All posts by joff

Big Lunch and Awesome Ice Cream

Note this post covers the 7th and 8th of February 2010.

Tongoy

This morning it was announced that we would be going to the beach yet again, but this time to one a bit further away from town, in a place called Tongoy.

When we arrive, we are taken to a restaurant just a few meters away from the beach, where the entire extended family are already waiting for us (plus a few others we hadn’t met the other night, and whose relationship I have to, still remains completely unknown).

Palm heart empanada
Palm heart empanada

After the ordeal of ordering food for 20-odd people has been sorted out, it started to arrive. I had two kinds of cheese empanada, one was palm hearts (yum!) and the other was scallops. I don’t normally go much for seafood, but these were utterly delicious. I suspect everything at this restaurant had probably had been swimming in the ocean nearby no more than a few hours before we ate it.
More fresh fish, salads, ice-creams and beer followed. Very pleasent indeed.

As a huge group, we then all went in search of a beach to lie on for a good few hours. There is a smaller, prettier beach we were trying to get to, but once we arrived, we realised that about a million other people had the exact same plan as us that day, so we diverted back to the larger beach.

Tongoy Beach
Sun setting over Tongoy beach

After 3 days of laying in the sun, I’ve started to develop quite a tan by my standards, yet I am still easily the whitest guy on the beach; also it will surely all revert back to it’s usual pastiness within a week of my return home. Ah well.

A quiet day

The next day, we kept things pretty quiet. We wandered down to the markets again for a little while, picked up a couple of presents for people, stuff like that. I especially liked these spiced peanuts which are a local thing apparently; they’re pretty much just peanuts with chili powder and some other things on them.

Paulina took us to an ice cream shop, that does super sold school traditional ice cream. My cousins used to go there when they were little children and their grandmother was friends with the lady who runs it, who is still there, and still selling the exact same ice creams she’d been selling for decades. There are only ever 4 flavours available on any given day, but they’re all delicious. I had Strawberry and Cinnamon. Mmmmmmm.

It’s bit like on like Baywatch

Note this post covers the 6th of February ’10.

Internets are tricky Part 1

I always expected that it would be tricky to get decent Internet connections on this holiday, and I was not wrong. Once we’d arrived in La Serena, it was revealed that the USB dongle type Internet connection thing was inoperable; The Windows PC it was tried on, would spew forth tons of virus warnings whenever you tried to run the connection software.
I plugged it into my Mac, and installed the software, which seemed to go OK, but then the only signal I could coax out of the device was GPRS, instead of a HSPDA or UTMS signal, and thus it was slower-than-dialup slow. Not ideal. We took the device down to the Claro shop at the Mall, where it all functioned perfectly. Great.
Then magically, the next day it started working. Whoop. I managed to share it via the wireless on my laptop, so at least Fran and I could use it then. Later I replaced the virus checker on the PC, (turns out Avast was giving false positives), and all was well again.

It’s a bit like on Baywatch

Humitas
Humitas. Delicious.

After having an awesome and huge lunch consisting of Humitas and a (deliciously sweet) giant watermelon, we took the bus down to another part of the beach, where there was tons of activities going on, such as bouncy castles, beach volleyball, kiosks with Internet right on the beach, girls in small bikinis giving away free ice cream. Yep, it was alright.

Despite this beach being much less over-run with jellyfish, (and far more over-run with smoking hot South American babes) it didn’t stop some people getting into trouble. We saw at least two instances where the surf rescue helicopter flew out over the water, dropped in a scuba guy, and then fished him and another person out of the (incredibly calm and un-dangerous) surf. I think there’s a general consensus that Chileans can’t swim for shit. The fun really came when then helicopter decided it was cool to do super low passes over the beach, sending beach umbrellas in all directions…

We finished up the afternoon by having pizza and beers at a place called Huentelauquen Pizzeria, which was a restaurant where half of it was shaped like a giant Pirate Ship. No photos of that because I didn’t have my camera with me (and cameras with big lenses on them are creepy at the beach, right?) and all the photos of it I can find on the Internet are wildly out of date 🙁
The pizza was alright, the beer was better, and for the first time in about as long as I could remember I felt totally relaxed and at peace with things. I was finally On Holiday.

Good idea / Bad idea?

While in this state of relaxation, and listening to the house band belt out a rendition of “Pretty Woman” I wondered if they should make a prequel to that movie. Where it’s 2 hours of Julia Roberts doing awful things while turning tricks with sweaty old men, and Richard Gere sits in board meetings getting rich. Should I start making my pitch to Hollywood now?


Of Beaches and Birthdays

Note: This covers roughly the 5th of Feburary

Beach

After having another big sleep in (I think jetlag is still accounting for this). We get up and are fed again (Empanadas I think) and are taken down to one of the beaches near La Serena. The weather is lovely, and the beach is very nice, but because the water was unusually warm, there were hundreds of jellyfish floating around. Most were dead, but there were a couple of live ones, and one of them managed to sting one of our cousins on the back of the leg. Nothing dangerous, but enough to itch annoyingly.

Paulinas Birthday

Caaake

That night was our cousin Paulina’s 27th birthday. For celebrations there were to be drinks and nibbles at one of our other extended cousin Laura’s, house. We met a bunch of people who seemed to remember us from when we last saw them. (I might have been either 6 or 16 at the time, I don’t remember which). There were a couple of people who spoke some English, but they were quickly distracted. After several drinks (which just kept on coming), it became very hard to try and follow the multiple conversations going on at once. In the end I just gave up and started taking photos.

Santiago arrival

We get a shuttle to Cristi’s apartment from the airport through some truly chaotic and frightening traffic at high speed. The parts of Santiago we see are very beautiful, and we see a couple of the style of small street-side market that I remember from last time.

We arrive at the apartment building, and attempt to talk to the doorman to get up to the room. We spend a few hours at Cristi’s relaxing, checking internet etc, and then our Uncle Jose, Aunt Lucia and cousin Paulina arrive, and we pack into a car, at this point it’s about 10pm, and drive 5 hours north to La Serena. I’m still really blocked up with my head cold, which has become quite unpleasant by now. I sleep on and off for much of the trip, which is down a 4 lane highway. There are many trucks, often pulled over to the side of the road as the drivers sleep. There was the obligatory group of people sat in the back of a pickup truck covered only in a tarp, barreling down the motorway at 120km/h.

Woke up today finally at 2pm. What an epic sleep. Sharing a room with Fran, I feel sorry for her, because of my freight train snoring. Almost immediately after having breakfast, we wander off into town for lunch. It’s at this point I remember that in Chile, everyone has a massive lunch. I stuff my face with chicken and chips and salad until I am beyond full.

Santiago
View from Cristi's apartment in Santiago

We hang out at the house for a bit, and then Paulina’s friends turn up, who have just been at a camping festival of some sort. One of them is wearing a Metallica t-shirt and notices that Fran is wearing an Opeth one, which she had borrowed from me. Opeth then gets played on his iPhone via a small speaker. Reactions are mixed 🙂

The talkative one of the two speaks very good English. We wander into town around 8pm, and visit the squares and see some of the nice buildings. One of the them is the “lovers square” and sure enough there are several couples sitting there making out. We find a small market and caramelised Papaya is found, along with peanuts coated in some sort of herb+chili powder, which is very tasty.

After another market (one which I remember from last time) we visit the supermarket for some beer, which is very cheap. LIke $5 for a six-pack of Heineken cheap.
Come back to the house and talk in a group, mainly in English. It’s a bit embarrassing how little Spanish we are using, and Fran especially seems quite happy to prattle away in English. Will try and make a really good effort to use more Spanish tomorrow.

The journey really begins

Not quite gone yet

After the Barrytown adventure, we eventually got Fran all packed up and ready (a massive ordeal that she’d probably be upset with me over, if I detailed here), and we made our way up to Auckland to see our parents before heading off to Chile.

I had a couple of days to kill up there (Fran only had one, as she flew out the day before me), and we had a couple of free tickets we’d managed to score to St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, which was having it’s first year in Auckland. It seemed quite odd to me, as it started in Melbourne, by the people who ran the St Jerome’s bar, and actually took place in the laneways in the city. Some things to note:

  • St Jeromes itself has now shut down, because Myers wanted to use the building
  • This year’s laneway in Melbourne isn’t being held in the laneways anymore either, because of crowd problems last year, where lots of people couldn’t see the main acts, because they had been put in the very small and narrow Lt Londsdale Street
  • I am dissapointed about this, because my new apartment has a big balcony overlooking Lt Londsale Street, and I would have to got an awesome view of it for free

Laneways itself was alright, held in the plaza above the Brittomart complex in downtown Auckland, and wasn’t too crowded. We got there pretty late, and saw the 3Ds, Echo and the Bunnymen, and sat and listened to much of Florence & The Machine, who seemed quite excitable. We’d heard the Dirty Three on the radio on the way into town, and that seemed like enough for us so we went home.

Flight

Airports are funny places. I got all checked in and sorted fairly easily, after my loving parents just dropped me off at the door (after doing the long goodbye thing with Fran the day before), I got some lunch and pretty much then had to wait for my flight to board. I love the announcements that the planes are waiting for passenger so-and-so, and that EVERYONE is waiting for THEM. Even when said in a quite flat tone, it somehow manages to be completely condecending at the same time…

I wasn’t expecting much from the plane, as LAN Chile isn’t that known as a fancy airline, but this was an Airbus A340, and it was fairly new, at a guess. It had inflight entertainment units in the seat backs, which I was not expecting. All of the announcements in were repeated in English, which I was very grateful for, because it was at this point, I realised just how little Spanish I comprehended when spoken at full speed. Mental note: Watch the Destinos language DVDs at some point during the flight….

The inflight music selection was surprisingly good, from Metallica to Leonard Cohen to Gotan Project, as well as the usual chart hits. I watched “It might get loud” documentary featuring Jack White, Jimmy Page and the Edge from U2. Basically it’s where somebody put those guys all in a room, with their guitars, and they play a bit, and talk about guitars and talk about their musical backgrounds and stuff. Jimmy Page is a total gentleman, Jack White is the coolest man alive and The Edge is a total douche who still can’t play a guitar to save his douche-y life.

When the whole cabin is dark, and you turn on the reading light, it’s like you are lit up by the fire of a thousand suns. I didn’t read much during the middle segment of the flight.

Even for such a big plane, the bathrooms are tiny. I have no idea how people are supposed to fuck in those things.

Descening through 36,000 ft with massively blocked up ears from your persistent headcold isn’t much fun either.

I finally arrive in Santiago after 11 hours or so in the air, and after managing to negotiate my way through immigration and customs (even having accidentally not received and thus not filled out the immigration form), I come through to the arrivals area, and am greeted by Fran, who has spent about 30 hours in the air by this stage, and had been waiting for me for 6 hours in Santiago airport already. The news of the day is that her luggage is lost somewhere in Los Angeles airport because she was the only person on the American Airlines flight code, and everyone else was on LAN Chile.

Ah the joys…