First day in Paradise 

Our plane flight was short. An hour and half. The view on arrival was promising. Blue and calm  Let the Trek begin!

We were met by the Swim Trek guides, Kelly and Marlys, and settled into the airport outdoor seating area to await some fellow swimmers. The temperature is warm and slightly humid but less than we’ve been experiencing in Brisbane!  The ‘girlguides’ Kelly and Marlys filled us in on the plan for the day. Then we met Fernando – a local Marine Biologist who will be giving us all the naturalist details on the animal life. He’s a gem. And gorgeous to look at and listen to. Very expressive face.

Unfortunately some of the flights delivering fellow swimmers were late, but it gave us plenty of time to get to know some of the others. Alex, a sweet but whip-smart girl from London; followed by Bill, who happens to be Simon (Mr Swim Trek)’s father. Then sisters, funny friendly Lynn and Lois from New York;and Joe an Australian teacher working in Beijing. Then lovely Betty from California. By 12.30 we were more than ready to head of to meet the others, who sensibly had arrived a day early. It was lunch on the Giant tortoise farm followed by a walk through the tortoise habitat.  So over a delicious fish lunch we met Rebecca from London; Barry – smiling Canadian; Roly and Andrew – paediatrician friends from London;and Trish – a Colombian living in Atlanta. Our group is complete.

Our walk through the tortoise habitat was great. Fernando is a wealth of knowledge and after lots of questions from our group we felt we knew a little or a lot about tortoises.  Off to our hotel, we quickly checked in and headed off for our first swim.  The hotel is back from the water and has the usual number of stairs to climb to keep us fit. Our room is clean,  big and has a veranda for all our wet things. Only downside is the wifi is only down 2 flights of stairs in reception. So posting here is haphazard. We are so busy.

The first swim was at a beach nearby and we had to hurry as the beach is closed by 6pm. It’s a National Park so there is no concession given to those who want a late swim! I tried to impress with my swimming but I’m still slow! But I’m in good company. We seem to be similar speeds overall. So the trek will be great.  It’s not a competition. We are here to observe, we are told and you better believe it. There is much to see.   Dinner was great so  off to bed. Swim tomorrow. Bring it on.

Hopping around Santiago 

Whoever thought of the Hop on Hop off bus had the ‘time challenged’ and foot weary traveller in mind. 
We started the day with a sleep in. We were so tired after our long flight the previous day. So around nine we went to the lovely breakfast room and had a great omelet. 
Then it was a wander though the quiet streets. A typical Spanish trait is to party late and not get going till noon. So we had the quiet cobbled streets to ourselves. There are a few interesting styles of architecture in this city but the area we are in , Bellavista, is old style, some timber, painted brick and lots of murals on walls.  

Our first stop was Pablo Neurda’s house La Gazetta. It’s his alternate house where he could take his mistress, away from the gaze of the cities eyes. It butts up again the hill we were going to visit later. It’s painted blue and has an interesting assortment of pictures. That’s as much as we saw as we decided we didn’t have time to wander around the house itself reading the translations. 
We headed along the narrow, shaded road and went to buy tickets to the funicular. An unusually tall Santiagoan ( is that what they are called?) helped us and we bought tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus for after our visit up the hill of San Cristobel. 

The funicular was old and a little rickety but zipped up the steep rise and delivered us to a large paved area overlooking the city. Great views. Considering we were on the first funicular the area had quite a number of people. Their clothes gave them away. Lycra, worn by the fit around the world, announced them as Santiagos cyclists and runners. The hill provides the challenge. 
There were more steps to climb to reach the large white statue of the Madonna as she looked out across the city. It was a quiet peaceful area with a large outdoor altar with terraced seating for outdoor masses and then a small pretty Chapel nearby. 
We returned down the hill and got the bus. It’s commentary was very good providing us with all the details you need when in a new city. It’s also a great way to see places you wouldn’t get to on your own in just one day. We got off only once as we had visited some of the more interesting buildings the day before on our walking tour. 
Lunch got us off and we struggled to find a restaurant with people in it. Lots of nice ones but we were a little ahead of the lunch crowd. It was 12.45 so I guess most people were only waking up. We didn’t like the idea of being the only people in a restaurant. We found one that filled the bill and the stomach.  

We hopped back on for a further look at the city including a stop at a very large shopping centre before heading back toBellavista feeling very pleased that the area we Jhansi stayed in. Thank you Fi from Mahjong for the suggestion. In fact all your suggestions were great. We just needed more time. 
I’m now writing this on the plane a five hour flight to Guayaquil the first stop on our way to Galapagos. We have a quick night there before an 8 am flight tomorrow. 
We’ll be very pleased to get there.