President Kennedy Highway

We finally got to bed at about 03:00 after flying in from Panama but were up in time to enjoy breakfast.

By mid-morning we were ready to go out and take a ride on our perennial favourite, the Hop on/Hop off bus. Whenever time is limited in a place we have found this to be the best way to get a feel for the city. Generally it is good value for money although we have had a couple of wasted experiences.

To find out where the stop for the bus was we were advised to ask the Concierge, a very young man, at a desk beside the front door. He found a map and showed us where it was situated and said, “Just down the road and around the corner; about a 10min walk.” We soon learnt that, for a young man it may have been 10mins, but not for ourselves, senior citizens, for whom it turned out to be nearer 20mins. In addition, it was not around the first corner but the 2nd which was quite a bit further on. We turned the corner and wondered how far we would have to walk to find the bus stop as nothing promising seemed to be in sight. If we had just been told that it was near McDonald’s.

President Kennedy HighwayThe Pres Kennedy Highway with the bus stop below the green covered windows next to McDonald’s

By now we had made the acquaintance of a couple who were staying at the same hotel as we were and had also decided to use the bus, Peter and Christine from Holland. It turned out that they would also be on the cruise which we would be joining the next day. Between the 4 of us we decided that the bus stop was probably on the other side of the road so we climbed up and across the pedestrian bridge over the President Kennedy Highway. We kept walking and walking and then we met a gentleman who offered to show us the way, which started with climbing up and over the highway again.

We made our profuse thanks, bought our tickets and waited for the bus. On the way to the main place we wanted to visit, the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of San Cristóbal Hill, the Bicentennial Memorial Park was mentioned a number of times and said to be a must to visit. We agreed to do so on the return journey.

Spanish EmbassyThe Spanish Embassy which we passed on the way

We got off the bus, Peter and Christine stayed on board, at the stop where we were were told was the nearest to the Cable Car to get up to the statue which is visible from most of the city. What we didn’t expect was another long walk up to the cable car station. It was about half a km up a street with very little shade and then on to the cable car property.

By then we needed to visit the ablutions and were rather sorry afterwards. They were dirty and, for toilet paper, one was supposed to collect some before entering the stall but there was nothing to tell one that. Fortunately I had tissues. What I found really hard to accept in S America and Panama was the practice of placing used paper in a bin and not in the toilet. I Googled this and the most likely explanation for this is that it is a holdover from earlier days when the poor used newspapers and magazine pages which clogged the toilets.

We arrived at the cable car station after purchasing tickets at the small café and, while there we decided to get a bottle of water costing the equivalent of a dollar. We only had dollars, no Pesos so I had to pay with my Credit Card. So annoying! Once in the cable car we were treated to some really beautiful views of the city and San Cristóbal Hill, to the top of which we were going.

Fountain at cable car entrance

Fountain at the entrance to the cable car station in the background

City from cable carView across a suburb and part of the city from the cable car

Cable car up the mountainLooking out from the cable car.

When we arrived we thought that there were very few people there as it was so quiet but as we walked up to the area where the Chapel and Statue of the Virgin Mary were to be found we discovered that there were notices requesting silence and soft music played. It was very restful and refreshing at the same time. The whole area is the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception and is 85m above sea level. The statue is a number of meters above the Chapel and accessed by stairs only. The dimensions of the statue are 14 meters tall, the pedestal on which it rests, 8.3 meters and it weighs 36,610 kilograms. It really is impressive the views were excellent.

Statue of the MadonnaStatue of the Virgin Mary and seating for the amphitheatre

Below the statue was a large amphitheatre and seating was in tiers across the width of the hill. This has been used for both Celebrating Mass for large numbers and for the production of plays. On the stairs between the statue and the amphitheatre was another Cross woth the Crucified Christ and 2 women who depicted Mary, His mother, and Mary Magdelene.

Women at the CrossWomwn at the foot of the Cross

The Chapel was quite large and beautiful and, in 1987, Pope John Paul II prayed here and blessed the city. I had approached the Chapel by using the ramp and it was a real surprise and a treat. At various intervals were large crosses painted by different artists with a combination of modern and ancient scenes. At the entrance to the Chapel was a statue of the first Priest who had served there. 

Church on the mountainEntrance to the Chapel

Inside the churchInside the Chapel

We spent about an hour on the hill and then returned via the ramp so that Trevor could take photos of the crosses as he had climbed the stairs to the Chapel earlier.

Crosses on walkway2 of the Crosses

Cross beautifully paintedA beautifully painted cross

Cross on the walkwayI was very touched by this one

When we had left the bus we had been told that we could go down via the Funicular and catch a bus which would take us around the downtown area but we discovered that it was quite a long walk down and that we would have to walk back up and down the same way we had come. So we just returned to the bus stop and were grateful that this time the road was in shade as it was extremely hot. We had to wait over 20mins for the bus which meant that we had just missed one. This is the one problem with the hop on/hop off bus, especially in the non-European cities from our experiences, is a lot of time can be wasted waiting for the bus.

We had already decided to make our other stop at the Bi-Centennial Park but it took a long time to get there due to an awful traffic jam at one intersection. It seemed as if there might have been an accident down another street as there was one where everything was standing completely still. We eventually arrived at the park entrance and once again got off the bus. What we found was a real anti-climax. It was a beautifully maintained, very large park with lovely play and gym areas and some sculptures. I would imagine that a local would find it a wonderful place to have picnics, take children to play, use the gym equipment and ride around the cycle track but to just visit as we did, it was a disappointment.

long row of seatingA long and winding row of seating without any breaks in it

Seating with tablesTables and benches within the row of seating

Play area for children 8 12Play and gym area for children over 8

Picnic areaOpen area for picnics and just sitting and chatting

At one end was a very large white building which we finally discovered was the Bank of Chile, equivalent to the SA Reserve Bank. It was a truly bland and boringly designed building. In front of it, though, was a most interestingly sculpted fountain of a man and woman in outline opposite each other. Within the park there were a number of other fountains but this one was really cleverly created.

Bank of ChileThe Bank of Chile

Unusual fntnThe fountain with an outline of a man on the left and a woman on the right

We didn’t stay long before deciding to walk back to the hotel as we recognised the street in front of the park and we had a map. We crossed over and received a surprise immediately and that was to discover a branch of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and this had not been mentioned by the guide on the bus. Along the fence, outside the Organisation, were large photos of various parts of the Cosmos. This pleased Trevor considerably, especially after the let-down of the park.

2 galaxies2 galaxies

Ent to the ESOEntrance to the ESO

Yes we had a map and we could read it very well. The only problem was that there were a lot of roadworks and diversions so we had to keep checking precisely where we were. At one very large intersection there was so much construction it was impossible to tell which way to go. Thankfully we met a cyclist who spoke good English and we knew that out point of reference was MacDonald’s so he guided us down to the President Kennedy Highway and we were safely on our way again.

It had taken over half an hour to walk from the park to MacDonald’s so we decided to have supper there. Not really our place of choice but it was there and it was 17:45. We knew that we still had another 25min walk to the hotel. About the hotel, I have to thank our travel agent, Ivan of Laziwayz, for booking it for us as we had no idea what part of Santiago was safe and easy to navigate. This was in an excellent area as we heard from others, who were on the cruise ship, that they had been placed downtown and there were riots there during their stay.

One more day and we board ship.