Log of visit to Santiago, Chile Sept 2013

Santiago, Chile power point slides

My visit to Santiago is to attend the special Weather Modification Association meeting where I am giving two talks. I will link this with my two talks later. Our Chilean hosts are covering my airfare and hotel expenses.

The flight to Santiago was uneventful but painful. I first left a bit early because Vollie said there was major traffic congestion on I-25 owing to a number of the roads being closed because of the flood. But traffic went smoothly Sunday morning. My Delta flight went through Atlanta where I had over 3 hours layover. The flight from Atlanta to Santiago took nearly 10 hours.  I got a few hours sleep but was quite uncomfortable most of the time. Upon arrival I had to pay an exorbitant $160US fee before I went through customs. Then I took an expensive cab ride to the hotel. The hotel is nice and I am told this is the rich-peoples section of town. I have a nice view of the Andes right out my window.

After checking in I wandered about the streets a bit, and made reservations for an afternoon winery tour. I also made reservations for a tour of the Andes tomorrow. I then had lunch in the hotel restaurant, which was pretty good and will take the tour shortly.

The tour gave me a chance to get a view of Santiago and the surrounding countryside. As we progressed away from the high rent district the hotel is in, the homes depreciated. But generally not into slums but crowded single family homes,  and apartment complexes many two story units in bright colors. There were a few isolated shanty slum places but otherwise it was not bad; nothing like Brazil’s Sao Paulo or Rio where entire hill sides of shanty towns are in your face. Along the roads I spied what we call in Arizona Mexican poppies. Remember it is early spring here. The area is a valley surrounded by the coastal range on the west, the Andes to the east, and some other localized mountains north and south. It reminds me of central to southern California including Eucalyptus trees. Many trees were just leafing out and some bushes were blooming as well. I even spied a magnolia tree in bloom.

After about 45min we arrived at the Undurraga winery. I chose this tour because I had never heard of this winery, as opposed to Contra y Toros which was another choice. The grounds were very nice like many wineries I have visited. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the wine making process. The climate here is ideal for some types of wines. I actually was amazed how the wine making process has become so engineered. Almost 50% of their wines are aged in oak casks. These wines in the US would cost about $50/ bottle and here it is more like $15/bottle. At the very end was the free tasting and ranged from those aged in oak casks to more routine versions. This was done under a shed surrounded by old horse drawn carriages.

Returning to the hotel I took a short jog to stretch out my legs from the flight. There is a park that runs along a river near the hotel. The challenge is getting across busy highways getting there. Getting sleepy so going to bed early with plans to jog, breakfast, and go on a tour to the Andes.

My jog was mucho frio! It was about 4C and I was in my jogging shorts and T-shirt. I’ll have to wear my wind breaker tomorrow as I cut my jog short. The breakfast that comes with the room was quite lavish. One could easily survive on breakfast alone. But that was not to be.

I signed up for a tour in the Andes. The drive began at the Santiago altitude of 1600’MSL and rose through a narrow winding road with something like 80 switch-backs to over 9000’MSL. There was barely room for a bus and a car to pass each other and uphill going cars have right of way over downhill going vehicles. Except for the stops the drive could have taken about 1 hour. Along the way were large numbers of yellow poppies that resemble what we call in Arizona Mexican poppies.  Some cover large areas of north-facing slopes. In some places they are mingled with large cacti which resemble our Organ Pipe cactus. The cacti, also on north-facing slopes(remember this is the southern hemisphere) are quite large and extend up to over 6000’MSL.

First we stopped at a ski area town at about 7400’MSL which was “mud city” and the ski runs were closed. Why we stopped there for 30 minutes is beyond me. The next stop was a pull off where the Brazilians and others who have not seen snow were given time to play in the snow.  Then we stopped at a large ski area called something like Nevado. Its base is at about 9000’MSL. There weren’t many skiers on the slopes, probably because it was the end of the season and a week day. But it looked like a good place to see and the views of the surrounding mountains were fantastic. I took a free shuttle bus up to the area where there were numerous hotels and ski lifts. I had lunch outdoors enjoying the sunshine and a vege pizza(somewhat unique in style for me) with a glass of wine.

On the way up and then again on the way down I spied giant condors soaring in the mountains. These birds are huge with a wingspan of around 3 meters or 9 feet. Unfortunately they were not close enough for me to take pictures of them.

After hanging out longer than I wished we rushed down the mountain only for me to experience rush hour for the second day in a row.  The cars seem rather new and they are married to their cars much like Californians. Upon my return I went for a jog. Being in the mid-70’s it was much more comfortable than my morning attempt. I decided to order room service because there are so few offerings in the neighborhood and I wanted to eat light and go over tomorrows presentation.

Took a nice run in the sun over lunch break. Then I gave my first talk on aerosol impacts on orographic precipitation. I think it went well and had several questions and compliments after.

It is hard getting used to the late dinner time, especially when I skipped lunch.  I am talking about typical dinner time of 10PM!

Today, Thursday, I took a brief jog in the cold morning air, this time wearing my windbreaker! Then I attended that 2nd and last day of the conference where I gave my 2nd talk. It was at the end of the session. I think it went well. I had several questions but one was by a nut who first commented about models not being realistic but then went on and on about loss of oxygen, nuclear bomb testing, etc. The chairman finally cut him off. I responded by thanking him for his “sermon” and did comment on the need for thorough testing and evaluation of models.

After the end of the meeting Graciela Raga and Darrel Baumgardner took me to a vegetarian restaurant. We sat outside even though it was a bit on the cool side and had a nice lunch. A couple of guys played Andian type music on the street with their guitars. Then Darrel caught a cab to the airport to fly back to Mendosa and I followed Graciela taking the subway to a bus stop. We took the bus over the coastal mountains into Valparaiso taking about 2 hours.

Valparaiso isn't so upscale as Santiago but it does have lots of character. It is very San Francisco-like with views of the bay and steep coblestone windy streets and plenty of hills. The bay front is a working place with commercial ships and navy ships. Near the water front most of the buildings are in need of repair. But on the hill sides many of the old homes have been resurrected and painted in bright colors. There are also many murals on the sides of the houses.

We are staying in a B&B which has quite a bit of character. Once passing through the gated entrance, there is this long staircase up to our level rooms. The room could use a bit of heat, but otherwise serviceable. I have a nice view overlooking the bay. It is overcast here and I estimate the afternoon temperature is around 50. Wearing sport coat and windbreaker I am reasonably comfortable but my nose keeps running in the cool air.

We are supposed to meet up with friends of Graciela's for dinner at 8PM, which is really early for Chile. The restaurant was in walking distance from the B&B. There we met former students and postdocs of  Graciela. The restaurant was quite nice and I enjoyed the dinner I had of sea food and pasta.

Returning to the B&B I found an electric heater in place which Graciela had arranged for my room and hers. The room did not have any heating otherwise. I slept OK under the covers but I found it tough getting up and washing up and shaving as it still was pretty darn cold in the room. Not finding any hot water didn’t help. After getting dressed I attempted to use the WiFi but though a signal was showing I couldn’t connect.  I chickened out on going for a jog. It is too darn cold!!

Today I am supposed to go to the university, then on a tour, and somehow catch the bus back to Santiago, get a taxi to my hotel, all on my own. I am a bit apprehensive about it.  I wasn’t sure what was expected of me at Valparaiso University. But it was very informal and it was a small group.  The discussions were about their proposal they have submitted to simulate aerosol impacts on precipitation in the Santiago region. They sought my inputs but they seemed pretty committed to the direction they had proposed.  At lunch time we were shuttled down one hillside and up at least one more to an area where there was the home of a distinguished Chilean poet. Graciela and I toured a park which had bronze statues of three great Chilean poets and then walked the grounds where one of them had a home. Then we had lunch at a nice restaurant with a great view overlooking the town below and the bay. The meal was quite good. After lunch I was dropped off at the bus station. Back in Santiago I grabbed a taxi where I was dropped off at my hotel. After settling in I called Joe Golden who was at the same hotel as he had found it on line and gave me the information. The room I had was quite small but more typical of what one might expect for a downtown hotel. Joe and I went out for a walk and dinner at an Italian restaurant in the area.

First thing I did in the morning was to take  a jog with a goal of running to the top of a small mountain nearby. But all roads I tried were dead-ends so I never got there. I returned and had breakfast, and Joe and I took the subway to town central and took a tour bus around town,  So I got a full overview of the town as well as a history lesson of Chile. After our tour Joe and I went into the covered market where there are loads of stalls where fish and sea food are sold as well as vegetables and most everything else.  It is a colorful place and loaded with strong fishy smells and lots of noise. There are also many sea food restaurants and  we stopped in one where we each ordered a sea food soup which was welcome as we were quite cold in the open air market without any sun, The soup was quite good and loaded with mussels, shrimp, and bits of fish. I’ve have never had a sea food soup with so much sea food. Guitarists were singing and playing Andian music at a table near us. It all made the place something special. At one point a policeman stopped by our table and made it clear to Joe that it was not advisable to leave his camera on the floor next to him. After lunch we made our way back to the hotel and after a brief break I headed in a taxi to the airport to begin the long, and arduous process of making my way home.  

The flight back was uneventful but certainly not enjoyable. My knees ached, my neck ached, but I did get a few hours sleep in. I arrived in Denver at 0930 and made it home by about 12:30PM. After taking our cat, Azulita for a walk around the outside of the house, I went for a jog in the neighborhood. After all that sitting my legs felt like lead. It was very hard to just keep moving.
Overall it was a good trip, but a long one, but the professional rewards were rather limited.
Bill Cotton(Guillermo Algodon)