Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Day 23: Hacienda Vira Vira to Santiago to LAX to Oakland

Day 23:  Hacienda Vira Vira to Santiago to LAX to Oakland

Weather:  Overcast and drizzling at the Hacienda; ­clear at Temuco and Santiago and foggy/overcast at LA and Oakland airports

Quote of the Day: "You already know enough. So do I. It is not the knowledge we lack..." by Sven Lindqvist, from "Exterminate All the Brutes" 

This is the quote at front of Another Day in the Death of America (reviewed below), shortened by THB. Think of it: smart guns that work like smart phones and need to be unlocked to be used, saving tens of thousands of lives a year. The one industry Steve Jobs hasn't deconstructed: the gun industry.

Department of oddities: Table Hopping at an all-inclusive. When we first arrived at the Hacienda, there was a party of 5 enjoying lunch. We thought it an odd grouping: a youngish bearded guy in an orange tee-shirt sitting at the head of the table and what turned out to be the two NY couples traveling together.  Maybe he was their personal guide; since he wasn’t in “guide” clothes he wasn’t a Hacienda employee. For our last two days orange tee was dining with a different couple, at lunch, dinner and then breakfast. In between, THB talked to him for 2 minutes while awaiting DB and our pre-dinner drinks. He said he was Scottish, a climber that had spent 2 weeks in the mountains and was now on R&R. And table-hopping at the Hacienda? Desperate for conversation with older people?  Hmmmmmm….

Nespressos and yesterday’s pastries in the room. At breakfast on the last day, THB goes really wild: softly scrambled eggs with curled sausage, slim round cut potatoes and challah toast; DB has scrambled eggs with tomato and guacamole, toast and café con leche.

Our guide of the property

The two NY'er couples, in cheesy outfits

The group of 4 NY’ers join us on a tour of the property and the small production cheesery; we are also all on the shuttle to Temuco airport and the flight to Santiago. They are heading to a blizzard, we’re hoping for 60s and breezing in E-ville.

Our flights were all on time and we caught an earlier flight from LAX to Oak-town. 

Regional airport


Observations:  THB drafted something and decided that there really weren’t that much to say in the way of insightful observations. Something about traveling with private guides and staying at all-inclusives, all the while being well taken care of, tends to cut down on the keen country-wide insights THB has been providing at the end of trips.

Disclaimer: In any case, THB can still take the slightest sliver of information, torque it under a magnifying glass and pretends that what gets stated is the truth as we all know it (insert a shouting, emphatic “Believe me…BELIEVE ME!” here). THB knows the discerning blog follower knows that a healthy portion of fiction is essential to any travel blogger. You all know that, right?  Especially with this small sliver.

1.     Food: Overall the food was fairly bland and, in Argentina, pretty repetitive. Food was better at the all-inclusives than out in the general populace (duh! and usually very good by Bay Area standards). The everyday wine was decent, we did have a few terrific wines in Mendoza. In general, THB thought Argentinian wine better than Chilean.
2.     Infrastructure: Pretty weak in the rural areas unless you are on the grounds of a nice hotel, more second world than first in general in the cities. Overall, the rural roads are under stress, the airports everywhere were in very good shape.
3.     People: Universally friendly and unselfish (well, there were a few exceptions when it came to dealing with the infrastructure; sometimes they wanted THB to help solve their problems). We may have dodged a bullet by doing Carnaval in Purmamarca the late afternoon instead of later in the evening when more alcohol would be inside the partiers.
4.     Art: While we had seen most of the installations at the Turrell Museum in Colome, it was still a revelation and well worth going days and kilometers out if the way to see. The Patricia Ready Gallery in Santiago was top flight.
5.     Weather: Weak thighs helped a lot. When we pushed back the trip 6 weeks or so, the result was snow-capped Andes. Awesome, dude!!! We did have a few days of hard rain, they tended to fall on travel days and did not hinder us on the non-travel days. And, we missed those big storms that dumped all that snow on the mountains (and missed high heat days, too). No flight delays. No flight cancellations. And, after March 2nd, it switched to low season and families with school aged kids disappeared. Nice!
6.     Nature: Several of the long days on the road were amazing: Antiplanos in San Pedro de Atacama, the drive from Salta to Colome (and Ruta 40), the drive from Purmamarca to San Pedro de Atacama. From San Pedro de Atacama, the Valley of the Moon and the Geysers excursions were terrific. The kayak/hike near the Hacienda in Pucon was something we would do in the Bay Area and think it was a special day (and in Pucon it comes with spectacular views of an active volcano).
7.     Politics: Our interaction, when talking in depth with Chilenos and Argentinians, covered two primary topics
a.     DJT: what happened in the USA? THB’s short answer: everybody everywhere is destabilized by our election, not just Americans. THB’s longer answer (abbreviated here to a short answer): Many people disadvantaged by the Great Recession have not recovered their pre-2008 status and one candidate was promising to make America Great Again and the other candidate was promising…what was she promising? Eight more years? That was enough to sway 250K votes in states like PA, MI, OH, WI. Oh, and one candidate was a TV star and the other had a hard cap in total votes that she could not exceed.
b.     Corruption is prevalent in both Chile and Argentinian and everybody knows about it whether at local or national levels. Chile seems to be making better strides economically; Argentina has had horrible setbacks since WWII and the country appears to have a strong divide: Buenos Aires and everywhere else. Their currency is deeply distrusted: big purchases (say for TVs and up) have to be in USD and the devaluations have forces the middle class into bankruptcy several times. As an example: Bank of America sells Chilean pesos, it does not sell Argentinian pesos.
c.      Neither country seemed to like the Brazilian high-income tourists much.
8.     Health: THB is feeling great, still not quite back to full 7 minute strength, definitely put on prednisone pounds on the waistline while keeping thinner thighs, need to get back on elliptical to get aerobic fitness back.  DB said our last day’s excursion was just like the good old days…we were both exhausted after a day of exercise and being out in the sun.

Book Review: Another Day in the Death of America, A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives, Gary Younge. A black British journalist living in Chicago describes the 10 children and teens killed by gunfire in one 24 hour period on an arbitrarily picked day in November 2013 (the average then was a bit less than 7 a day, or 2500 or so a year, and doesn’t count suicides, which is also a huge number), using their individual stories to paint the broader context. Of course, the answer is “it’s the guns, stupid” since being killed by gunfire is the number 2 killer in this age group behind car accidents and an only-in-America happening among Western-style democracies. Deeply depressing, illuminating, racial, and NRA controlled (the only thing Steve Jobs didn’t destabilize with a smart phone is using the many ways to unlock your phone for guns…another “obvious” way to prevent thousands of children shooting each other and themselves). Highly Recommended

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