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A Traveler's Notes to Chile
Bob Bradshaw

My first-born joined me, courtesy of her husband's employer, a Canadian Bank, from The Dominican Republic where she resides with her husband and their three school-aged children. There followed an exceptional, albeit far too short, holiday, in which a father and daughter delight in their learning about and enjoyment of what must be undoubtedly, one of the world's most exciting countries.

Sliding softly through the starlit heavens, night falls away to a distant grayish-yellow line below the wispy clouds, rapidly brightening into more welcoming orange hues of a new dawn. A long night has passed - a third of a day; the clock barely acknowledging the distance traveled; gained two hours from Mexico City, but taken four times as long in so doing. The horizon brightens to a line of soft pink-crested mountain caps opening the curtains to Chile's vast linear stage. A tapestry of contrasts ranging from the Tropic of Capricorn to the South Pole provides every vestige of the earth's wondrous contours and climates; arid desert to permanently frozen tundra, all in one spectacular country.

One becomes aware of a new sensation, a certain sense that something has changed; no - nothing is wrong - we are just the other way around, - upside - down. Gliding downwards into a rich green valley bracketed by mountains, lofty and snow capped to the east, more squat and rounder to the west, one is captured by the contrasts of countryside. The striking skyline of a modern metropolis emerges from a carpet of vineyards. Santiago waits.

Admittedly, Chile is not that easy to get to - much more difficult to leave. For some obscure reason, North Americans, along with a handful of other Nationals, are subject to a usurious arrivals tax. No matter the cause, it succeeds in frustrating visitors; falling hard on the heels of the country's welcoming vistas and serves as a blunt wake up call; "$55US, please and thank you."

Driving into Santiago, one is reminded of a suburban Copenhagen - Graz - Hamburg. Those somewhat sterile homes; neatly organized, with their low hung tiled roofs, architecturally barren, everything in its proper place, secure and orderly. HOLD ON! Aren't we in a Latin American domain; - where's the garbage - where are the tin shacks - what did they do with the howling mongrels - what happened to the pot holes - where are the tattered bill boards encouraging all to light up with The Marlboro Man? Nada - what a pleasure.

Apprehension - could this be too good to be true; alas, correct. Sadly, Santiago suffers, along with almost all the world's other big cities from that deadly concoction conjured up by the late Mr. Ford and his Arab colleagues - smog! However, at least for this first-time visitor, haze happens. If this is the only blight worth bothering over - pass. Thankfully, Chile's vineyards have managed to escape the dreaded phylloxerea; commercially at least, a very acceptable offset. Salud!

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