December 28, 2022
Sweet Chile o’ Mine: Santiago and the Andes.
Herewith, a continuation of my late-2022 international business trip series. You’ve had Egypt (+1); you’ve had Jordan (+1); you’ve had Brazil (+0); and now – Chile (+0)!…
You guessed it – we flew to Chile from Brazil, so of course the flight wasn’t long. That’s just as well, for I’d had my fill of extended long-hauls of late (one of which lasted 38 hours door to door!). Another bonus regarding this flight: the views out the plane’s window over the Andes – oh my good-gracious-me! ->
Mountains, cliffs, valleys, glaciers – in places fading from browny-gray to bright yellow and orange (no Photoshop) ->
Some of the views – simply magical:
If you’re lucky with your (window) seat – and that normally means being on the right side (looking forward) if flying over to Santiago, then you should get a glimpse of the highest mountain of the Americas – Aconcagua. I was lucky with my window seat:
What a beaut! I couldn’t see any one at its peak. Must have been too late in the day: everyone had headed back down already…
In the next pic, if you look closely, in the middle of the valley, a little to the right, you can just make out… a few dots. Those dots are actually the base camp at the foot of the mountain, and it’s from there that rock climbers set out on their trek-then-climb up to the peak. There are apparently a further three camps en route – since it takes four days to make a full ascent (there’s no doubt a fifth day needed for the descent, if not more) ->
Several days are needed also for acclimatization on some nearby smaller mountains. But all that doesn’t really matter to me: I don’t climb mountains; I climb volcanoes! Why? How about 12 reasons why – that sufficient?!
Here’s the Aconcagua (in Argentina, btw) again, from a different angle:
The captain announces our descent, then there’s the usual recording played telling us to fasten seatbelts and turn off electronic devices. I wonder if the pilot will turn off all the electronic devices in the cockpit, but don’t dwell on the silliness…
// Before I stopped dwelling…: some folks still believe that cell phones are a hazard in planes since they operate on the same frequencies as the plane’s instrumentation does. Oh yes – I can just see that being allowed by the international aviation authorities ). Just in case: the real reason they ask you to turn off your phones is so no one starts yapping on the phone when taking off/landing, when at least some of the (many) passengers will be very nervous. On private jets there are no such restrictions on phone usage. But I dwell & digress )…
Santiago de Chile. A very nice city. Quite possibly the smartest city in the whole of South America – that sure is what many of our Latin American colleagues tell me – and here I was, and it looked to be the case. As with anywhere, some districts are a bit rough (with plenty stray dogs – something that always winds me up!), but others are really decent – especially the modern businessy districts:
The view out my hotel window:
As per, I’ll gloss over the business part of our stay in the country (meeting, discussion, agreement, photos, everyone happy, repeat (several times):). Work all done, we found we had two days before our flight home; accordingly, of course – tourism! We hired a cheap rental car (as is the norm here, even for moneyed folks: street crime is off-the-scale here, so we don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention), and off we first popped to Uspallata Pass and Christ the Redeemer of the Andes ->
The Uspallata Pass. I’d heard of its must-see marvelousness, and now I was to must-see it myself…
Must-see – indeed. Incredible views:
Multicolored mountains, sheer cliffs ->
My travel companion, K.A., was also impressed:
Back into the motor; onward!…
The Uspallata Pass is also called the Bermejo Pass and the Cumbre Pass! Aha – that must mean the place has had an interesting/checkered history; that’s often the case with places with several names, I’ve found. So let’s see… What does the internet say?… Yes – it agrees: checkered. For this is the border between Chile and Argentina: there’ve been wars and assorted other tensions and disputes here, and I think that’s why Christ the Redeemer is situated namely here – to keep the peace!
The quality of the roads here – simply splendid! Just a shame about the trash! ->
It goes like this: highway > roads > narrow lanes up in the mountains. The standard really for mountainous regions. On the narrow lanes you can get caught behind a slow-moving truck and it’ll take ages to cover much distance; still, the views more than make up for that ->
Our route for the day measured some 160km, but it took three hours to cover due to the narrow roads with hairpin-bends up in the mountains…
The Andes (town) in the Andes (mountains)! ->
The highway was a pleasure to drive on. Beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, the smoothest asphalt. Even the highway featured hairpin bends too later on…
Here the highway enters a long tunnel through the mountain, but we were taking the scenic – albeit gravel-surfaced – road ->
I counted 50 hairpin bends! ->
It looks precariously dangerous, but – surprisingly – it ain’t:
3854 meters above sea-level!
The Argentina–Chile border’s here. There are some buildings but they’re mostly long-abandoned ->
Art installation? ->
The views – simply splendid:
Curiously, there was hardly anyone around at the mountain pass; we saw less than a dozen other tourists while there for an hour, and it was a sunny Saturday afternoon!
Remember – we’re in the southern hemisphere here – where December is the first month of summer!
Purplish hues. Any geologists among you, dear readers? What minerals give that unusual shade? ->
We weren’t all that far from the America’s highest mountain, but the road to it was closed apparently…
As you can see – there’s plenty to see, trek, and snap here. Just don’t forget the high-factor sun cream as up around 4000 meters from the sea the sun’s scorchingly hot.
This looks like a shelter from the harsh weather (mostly in the winter) ->
Time to head on back down…
Though there was neither customs nor passport control at the mountain pass (“Lat-Am Schengen”, we thought:), there was later on. We had difficulty making ourselves understood since the officials spoke no English, but eventually explained that we hadn’t driven into Argentina (while we were instructed to open up our bags for inspection).
And back down the hairpin bends ->
The “Salto del Soldado” (Jump of the Soldier) canyon. We wanted a closer look, but didn’t know how to get there…
We were headed for the coast – the resort city of Viña del Mar:
…On this here fine road:
… But that’s a whole other story ).
Back soon folks!…
All the photos from Chile are here.