Tis one of the bizarre facts of living on a round planet, with a median line set in London, that even though the flight lasted for 11 hours, we actually landed in Chile 6 hours before we left New Zealand. We got 18 hours younger, which is nice.
Santiago is a splendid old Spanish colonial city, although we didn't get to spend too much time there. Wide boulevards, dozens of wandering minstrals plucking at guitars, great cafe's, and beautiful women, all in the shadow of the nearby Andes. It could almost be one of the more scenic locations in the world, were it not for the constant layer of haze/smog that hung over the city obscuring any clear view of the mountains.
It also meant our first ever time in Spanish speak-land, and I must confess that our Spanish ipod tutorials never really got further than "Tenemos los asientos quatro A y quatro B" (we have seats 4a and 4b), which you will surely recognise as being of fairly limited use. The first thing you do need to learn in South America is how to ask if the hotel has hot water ... "agua caliente?" ... to which the answer is always a slightly dishonest "Si". Oh well, cest la vie, as they say in that other European language.
We didn't linger long in Santiago. We both prefer the smaller villages and towns to the big cities which I think are usually best explored when one knows someone living in that city. Otherwise, you really are just following the Lonely Planet guide on which restaurant, club, sight to visit, and feels all a bit tedious and exhausting.
Accordingly, we booked a bus ticket for the 7 hour bus trip to La Serena, north of Santiago. Chile has some of the best star-gazing in the world and Fuzz is an affirmed star junkie. La Serena has one of the few public-access observatories in Chile, so we thought this would be a good stop.