Back to World Tour Page or Chile 1

Sunday 20th, Viņa del Mar, Chile.

After an afternoon wandering around photographing palm trees and crashing Pacific surf (Hello Pacific! Hello trees, hello sky etc.) and getting a badly sunburnt nose, realise I havn't eaten anything but a couple of pastries on the coach from Santiago, and I'm starving. In a cafe, I order a pizza and a beer. When the pizza arrives, it is less than 6 inches across. The damn thing's not much bigger than a CD! Order a second, and eat that too. Consider ordering a third, just to see what face the waiter puts on this time, but decide that is just the beer talking.

Monday 21st, Viņa del Mar, Chile.

Today dawns cold and grey. I came to the seaside hoping to do a bit of cold water Pacific diving, but after several attempts to track down an elusive dive centre, I decide I have earned enough funny looks for the day and give up. Maybe Chilenos have more sense than Brits when it comes to diving in cold, dark, murky water, and diving isn't a mainstream thing here.

I still feel like the only Gringo in town, and though I obviously stick out (no way I'm nothin' but a Gringo!) it still feels safe. My Spanish is coming along slowly - the Chilenos, however, have been amazingly patient with my remedial attempts to communicate.

9pm: Decide today is a washout, and head to bed to try and force a little more Spanish into my brain, and an early night ready to move on early in the morning.

10pm: Standing outside the gates to the Viņa del Mar international pop festival, with two gorgeous Chilean sisters, Vanessa and Makarena (no jokes. I'm sure she's heard them all) and I'm learning all sorts of useful vocabulary for dealing with ticket touts. How did this happen? I was on my way to bed!

After a swift and expert transaction by Vanessa, we are in the 'invitation only' enclosure at the front, watching Duran Duran get blown off the stage by some local talent (I've never heard so much screaming!) name of Carlos Ponce. Hope for his sake he doesn't try to break the British market without changing his name.

5am: Wind the evening up drinking pisco sour and eating palm heart pizza with the girls, and another Chileno, Roger, who we've picked up on the way. So much for my early night! Roger turns out to be a Mormon, which surprises me a bit, South America isn't wall to wall Catholic after all.

Tuesday 22nd, In a coach Santiago to Puerto Montt.

At Santiago, the landscape is on the verge of becoming very arid, with giant thistles and scrub covering the hills. Driving south, it gets slowly more and more fertile, until by sunset it has become a lush patchwork of vineyards and fields of maize, separated by rows of cypresses. Settle down to sleep after a game of bingo (good job I learnt the numbers a couple of days ago!). By dawn, the view has changed again, to gently rolling meadows dotted with tall trees rising out of early morning mist.

Wednesday 23rd, Puerto Montt, Chile.

A small city at the end of a large fijord, Puerto Montt is built (outside the city centre) mostly of wood and corrugated metal. In my rickety hostel, every floor and every wall undulates gently as though the whole place is sliding down the hill, and the entire building creaks as you walk around.

The worst part of travelling alone is eating alone, and it's tempting to resort to a scoffing lot of junk food. Tonight however, In celebration of a week on the road, treat myself to an expensive meal of superb local seafood, and the family at the next table (South African oil engineers, resident in Chile) take pity on my efforts to decode the menu, and strike up a conversation.

Thurs 24th, Puerto Montt, Chile.

A drab day in a drab town. I guess the strains of culture shock and the language learning curve are showing, but I'm not too impressed by Puerto Montt. Highlight of the day is being rowed with glacial slowness by an apparently feeble, wizened old man to an island in the bay - for a while I thought we were definitely going backwards with the tide. Second highlight is the stuffed condor collection in the town museum.

Either my pack is getting lighter, or more likely, I'm toughening up after too long as a desk jockey. Still, in pursuit of further weight reduction, rip superfluous chapters 'Argentina','Brazil','Venezuela' etc. out of my guidebook. As I'm doing this, notice a testimonial inside the back cover saying: 'Gets you off the beaten track, away from the others clutching the competitors guidebooks'. So that's why I'm not meeting anybody! My damn guidebook is leading me off the beaten track!

Off the beaten track is all very well, but a) it can be a bit lonely, and b) some places are off the beaten track for a reason, i.e. they're not very interesting!

Decide to cheat, and buy a plane ticket to Patagonia, headed for the Torres Del Paine National Park in pursuit of some beaten track.

On to Chile 3: Patagonia.

All content © COPYRIGHT Huw Porter.