A Bit Of Argy-Bargy

Another Friday night in Bellavista, more fun was had, with a few more anecdotes to add to the rather long list.  As per usual, it started off with some food (hamburguesas a lo pobre) and beer.  JD and I got talking to some people at the next table who suggested a club to go to.  Unfortunately, we forgot the name, and so were unable to find it. We stopped and asked a few people, but to no avail.  A couple of blokes we asked politely offered us something that’s best described as “slightly suspect” to smoke.  Clearly we declined this offer.  After learning we were from Britain, one of them, who was Argentinian, decided to start talking about the Falkland Islands, at which point I made an executive decision to disappear off, dragging JD with me, as in spite of thinking along these lines, some things are best left unsaid. Being attacked by a 40 year old stoned Argentinian guy didn’t feature especially high on my agenda.

We returned to our old haunt, En Secreto, but unfortunately, it was full, which we’d never come across before.  Apparently there was a half hour wait to get in, which wasn’t ideal.  Some of our friends were already inside, and they came out to try to persuade the bloke to let us in, but without much success.  One guy waiting outside got a bit impatient with the delay, and so decided to indulge himself in a brawl with the chat guarding the door.  Unfortunate for him, but ideal for us, and, because his attention was somewhat diverted, we seized this opportunity, and sneaked inside while his back was turned.  It worked perfectly, and we stayed for a few hours (with of course yours truly doing some singing, as per usual).  Anyway, we had a good night, and, owing to the fact that I had to meet my boss this morning, I left JD to it (at about half 3 or so), and walked the two miles back to the hotel.

Anyway, I’m now in the hostel where I’ll be staying until Monday (when I fly to Easter Island), and it’s very near to Baquedano station, so assuming that tonight will be spent in Bellavista as well, the walk back will be nice and short.

A Trip To The Mountains

Hello again everyone!  I know it’s been a while, but nothing really happened while I was in Santiago on Monday and Tuesday (I spent most of my time watching videos on YouTube and eating takeaways).

Anyway, on Wednesday I went to visit another mine owned by my employer, which is in the mountains behind Santiago.  It’s about 3600m above sea level, and is very different to my mine.  For a start, it is much much larger, and secondly, there’s no vegetation, merely lots of snow, wind, and rock.

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It was an interesting place to visit, and it was a good opportunity to see more of the business, and more mining operations, but I have to admit, I prefer working at my mine!

A Taste Of Home – Part II

Following on from Part I of this two part special, it’s time to tackle the Indian meal I had last week.  Indian restaurants are very difficult to track down in Santiago, but luckily there was one about a ten minute walk from my hotel, and so that seemed the easiest place to go.

It’s situated on Av. de 11 Septiembre, which is the same road as my hotel, but it’s much further down.  I’m by Pedro de Valdivia metro station, whereas this one is nearer Tobalaba (two stops on line one to the East).

I opted for the set menu, for about £6.00 or so.  With that you got a starter of cheese balls, with a main course of “Chicken Curry”, rice, and naan bread.  Quite what type of curry “chicken curry” was, I wasn’t certain, and I ended up having a bi lingual chat with the waiter (with me resolutely sticking to Spanish, while he opted for English). Unfortunately I also got a menu primarily in English, but fortunately it wasn’t a shambolic Google Translate job (unlike one incident I recall in a hotel in Bayeux, where the English menu offered “roofing tile” for pudding.  I still don’t know what that could have been – if you’re ever in the Bayeux area, definitely check out the tapestry)!

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Anyway, I enjoyed my chicken curry very much, although again, it’s not as good as curry in the UK!

A Taste Of Home – Part I

Last weekend, I was having some time off in Santiago, and I thought that now I’ve been in Chile for six weeks, it’d be nice to have some food from home.  Clearly, the only option was to get a Chinese and an Indian, which is exactly what I went to do.

Chile, not really having much experience in either Empire-building or Colonialism when compared to Britain’s efforts out in India and Hong Kong, has a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to foreign foods.  If you want your American fast food chains, then Santiago is full of them (McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Subway, etc. – although not that many Starbucks interestingly enough).

Anyway, yesterday was time for Chinese for lunch, so I duly went on a explore to find a restaurant.  Stumbling across one in a side street, I ventured in.

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The menu wasn’t especially diverse, and the classics that everyone has in the UK (such as sweet and sour/crispy duck) were conspicuous by their absence from the menu.  I went ahead and ordered some spring rolls, followed by “mixed rice”, and “Peking chicken”, which duly arrived nice and promptly.

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Peking chicken and mixed rice

It was nice, with a very generous helping of chicken, and at the end I was very full.  Overall, it was a solid meal, but I get the impression that foreign food here is more of a novelty, rather than something serious.  I guess it’s a bit like it must have been in the UK in the 70s.

High And Dry

The fact that you’re reading this (and I’m writing this) means that yes, there does happen to be wifi at the camp, which ironically means the facilities in my room here (which is a shipping container) are actually better than those found at the mine itself!  I did have all the backup posts lined up, but I’ve postponed some of them (I’ll publish a couple about food though soon).

So at 4:30 this morning, I got up, and headed to the airport for my flight to Calama.  I managed to get a window seat which was brilliant. First, I got to sneak another peek at dawn over the Andes, which is always nice.

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Brrrr, wouldn’t like to get lost in that!

I also flew over the Atacama, and so was able to see it from the air. It looked so desolate it was unbelievable!

The Atacama Desert from the air

The Atacama Desert from the air

Shortly after, I arrived in Calama, and disembarked the plane.  The city is at about 2200 metres of altitude, which equates to the same amount of air pressure roughly as inside the plane whilst airborne, and so there was no need for ears to be popped on the descent.

Calama Airport

Calama Airport

My boss was waiting for me outside, and soon, we were driving off to the field camp.  It was about 100 miles away from the city, and the scenery was incredible.  It was very flat, with nothing at all, just sand and rock, and a tiny bit of snow on top of the highest mountains.  We drove past San Pedro, and San Pablo volcanoes, the summits of which are about 6000 metres or so.

San Pablo and San Pedro volcano.  You can see a lava flow to the right hand side (the black horizontal bit) and a new cone developing to the front.

San Pablo and San Pedro volcanoes. You can see a lava flow to the right hand side (the black horizontal bit) and a new cone developing to the front

We kept driving, and eventually made it to the camp, at an altitude of 4100 metres.  The altitude means that the air pressure is only about 620 mbar (about 62% of that at sea level), which also means there is significantly less oxygen (and 72% blood oxygen saturation). However, for the time being at least, I feel completely fine, so I hope that doesn’t change.  It is exceptionally arid up here though, and you can physically feel your lips drying out which is interesting!  More details about the camp to follow in the next (not Santiago themed) post.

The Courage Of Your Convictions

I’m a lucky guy.  Ok, not the luckiest bloke, but I have been lucky enough to have inherited my father’s rather nifty sense of direction (if you’ll excuse some rather uncharacteristic boasting on my part)!  A few weeks ago, I decided to walk home, rather than get a taxi (as a cab is just a waste of money right?).  I didn’t know the way, but knew which way roughly was my hotel, and walked it, based solely on my thought of “I reckon that way is east”, and a very basic knowledge of the map of the Santiago metro.  Two kilometres later, I got to my hotel, without any faff/muggings/murders (an exercise I have repeated twice more since).

A similar thing happened tonight.  It was 5 in the morning, and JD and I decided to follow a group who said there was a bar open until later (as our favourite haunt – En Secreto had shut at this point).  Sadly, this turned out not to be true.  So what happened next?  We walked east, until we got to a road.  A road that was easy to follow home (Avenue de Pedro de Valdivia).  Unfortunately, we went south, rather than north, which wasn’t ideal (I needed around number 100, but we ended up at about number 3100).  At this point JD decided to ask for directions, and decided to go east, while I looked at the numbers of the buildings, and returned north (to my hotel).  In other words, I decided to trust my instinctive sense of direction (ta muchly father dearest :D).  It was at this point that we parted.  I decided to back myself (a favourite motto used within the Sedgwick Club), based solely on my sense of direction, and made it back fine (although it was a decent walk of at least two miles), augmented by solar navigation (as dawn was breaking at this point).  Turns out JD opted for a cab in the end, which was a good shout, although much more expensive (£4+ vs. £0.00) 😛 hehehe, (although to be fair, I only had the equivalent of about 50p on me at this point and hence had no real alternative)!

I have however made errors with solar navigation in Santiago in the past, as the first day I was here, I forgot that in the southern hemisphere, the sun is to the north (rather than the south) at midday, which is different to the northern hemisphere (and hence different to London), a forgotten piece of information that made me get a tad lost! Seriously, solar navigation is really helpful.  It might not be the most accurate, but it does give you a vague idea of what direction you’re going in (as long as you know roughly what the time is too), which can be invaluable!

Into The Unknown

Today is my last day at the mine (at least for the next three weeks), and I’m all packed and ready to go.  On Monday morning, bright and early, I’ll be flying to the city of Calama, from which I shall be driven for a few hours to the camp in the middle of the Atacama Desert.  It’ll be very interesting, and I’m excited, although I have no idea what to expect (apart from a lot of sun and sand).  However, today is quite quiet.  This morning, I had a mine safety induction (so that for my final two weeks, when I’m back here at the mine, I may go and visit it), which should be interesting!

I do have another free weekend in Santiago to look forward to, which will be great.  I get an extra day this time, as tomorrow is a public holiday, and so nobody is at work.  Anyway, all this week, the other geologists are at a training course in Santiago, and my boss is in the north doing some field stuff, so it’s been just me with the field assistants for a week.  I’ve enjoyed it, and haven’t spoken any English for ages.  I think I’m starting to take up Spanish a lot more, as I’ve had to stop myself writing some Spanish words when messaging my English speaking friends!