Santiago – As I said in the section about Buenos Aires cities, particularly of the capital variety, aren’t really my thing. However Santiago could be the exception that proves the rule. I really enjoyed my time here. The people as usual were lovely and very helpful. This started with very agreeable taxi ride from the bus station. Price agreed up front, lovely old guy took us directly there and actually charged less than quoted. Getting into accommodation slightly more difficult but only due to lack of Spanish on our part (this is improving but very slowly). In the following days we explored the centre of the city going up the hilly park of Santa Lucia. Travelling the tube the Quintal Normal to check the Museum of Science and Technology and the Museum of Natural History. Both of which were worth the visit, and then the last day up to the Metropolitan Park. On the funicular railway and a walk back down. Although obviously a big modern city with all the big brands in it, but they don’t seem as obvious as in other places. Initially the lack of supermarkets to do the food shop, put me off. However I quickly realised that learning to manage with how other culture operate is part of what travel is about, and reminded myself that at home the big supermarkets frequently drive me bonkers I soon got into it. I ended buying loads more Kiwis than we needed for 1000peso (£1) off a man on a bike, and then swapping US$1 that he spotted I had for 80peso, because he appeared desperate for it. You can also pick up a plastic cup of delicious freshly squeezed juice from sellers in the street for about £1, and have a quick chat with them as they do it. This gives the place the personal touch that was missing from Buenos Aires, and to be fair from most big cities in the UK.
San Pedro de Atacama – literally an oasis in the worlds driest desert. Again finding our accommodation with loads of bags and 2 young kids in tow was stressful. And having hauled the bags all the way to what looked like the last house in town, past several swanky Casa’s with swimming pools et all, only to be led into the dusty courtyard of Hostel 19A, with 5 small cabanas and a toilet block. It began to look like we could be in for a tough 6 days. However the door of the room swung open to reveal a spotlessly clean, cosy family room. The shower and toilet were equally spotless, and the family who ran it could have been more helpful. Bringing over extra towels when they saw us trail in from the desert after our first engagement with the salt flats. Although equally dusty the town itself is charming. On the first day there, after 6 weeks on the road and a pretty nourishment free bus trip, I had the best meal so far in the Café Barros! With no kitchen in the hostel, it provided an opportunity to eat out little more than we have before and each time has not been a disappointment. The activities here are equally appealing. We have floated in the 30% salt lagoons, explored the salt flats, ridden horse to ancient monuments and been to the Tatio geysers, which are higher above sea level than the highest ski lift station in Europe. The whole place is a little miracle, and if you ever find yourself in the position to I would recommend it anyone.