Those of you familiar with my posts might already have seen my cartoon record of our trip to Chile in 1991. Well, here are some images from that same wondrous journey, from photos taken just months after the new democracy had been born. From the man moodily anticipating his bowl of chicken cazuela in a Santiago soup cafe to the gentleman posing dignified and proud before his humble Antofagasta home, the people of of this amazing country were an endless source of photogenic fascination. But of all the images here, the unfocused and shaky picture of two waitresses doing an impromptu cueca (Chile’s famous national dance) remains one my most cherished visual records from all of my many travels…




One of the most exciting aspects for me in particular regarding our adventure was that it was my first time across the Atlantic Ocean – in fact, it was my first journey into a significantly different time-zone. So, when by our third evening in Chile I still hadn’t suffered any apparent symptoms of jet-lag it made me sceptical about the whole concept. That evening, following our long bus journey from Santiago, we were spending the night in the coastal city of Antofagasta before catching our next ride to Calama the following afternoon. Dido was still sort of vegetarian in those days (she ate some fish) and often got a craving for pasta, and as luck would have it, our Lonely Planet guide recommended an Italian restaurant as being the best place in town. After almost a day on a coach eating nothing but snacks, we were both ravenous and ordered extra large portions of pasta and we must have been about half-way through our respective plates of spaghetti when I was struck by an acute attack of something known as “delayed jet-lag”. The last thing I remember was feeling as if I’d been given a sudden heavy dose of anesthetic gas. Then, the next thing I knew, I was staggering into the street with my arm over Dido’s shoulder with Bolognese sauce all over my face. According to my mortified wife, I had fainted head-first into my pasta, and the maitre d, assuming I was drunk demanded that we leave – immediately…

7 Jetlag


We had one night in Calama to kill before catching another bus to our final destination the next day, San Pedro de Atacama. Following our expensive dining fiasco of the previous evening, Dido opted for a hostel described as “modest” even by our Lonely Planet Guide. Perhaps, because it was called Residencial Splendid, we hoped that it might not be all that bad, which only goes to show that one should never be deceived by a mere name. The Splendid was utterly awful. The rooms were filthy and more like prison cells than holiday accommodation and as for the state of the bathrooms – well, I’ll leave that to the reader’s imagination. But by far the worst feature of our night at the Splendid, was the bed itself – a grubby, smelly, piece of foam rubber, suspended in a steel bed-frame, devoid of support of any kind. The picture below describes exactly what happened when we got into bed, and that our extreme discomfort was accentuated by the fact that during the night icicles formed from the light and on the metal window grates due to the freezing desert night air of Calama…

8 Residencial Splendid - in name only!


The breakfast turned out to be about as “Splendid” as the sleeping arrangements. As we took our table in the dingy breakfast room we were confronted with a pot of hot water, a jar of instant coffee and two slices of dry toast. When I asked the lady of the establishment – a stocky little woman with unkempt greasy grey hair, a cigarette stub apparently glued to her lower lip, and wearing a grease splattered pinny –  if there was any butter, she grunted in the affirmative. Then, to my amazement and horror, she went over to the neighbouring table where an elderly man in a dressing-gown was eating his breakfast and took the piece of toast from his hand, picked up his knife and scraped all the butter she could from it. She then came back to us and spread his butter scrapings onto my toast…

9 Splendid breakfast included


It’s been the best part of three decades since we visited  the copper mine at Chuquicamata in Chile, and I still can’t decide whether it was a thing of stunning aesthetic quality or a vast, hideous blemish on an otherwise almost virgin landscape.

The facts are these: It’s the second deepest man-made pit, and the largest open-cast copper mine in the world by volume.

Moreover – before anyone gets all outraged and self-righteous about my conundrum – the copper wiring powering the laptop, Mac or PC you’re currently looking at this site on comes from this very pit or another mine just like it somewhere else on the planet.

What I remember mostly from our visit (apart from the terrible air quality from the smoke stacks nearby) was the sense of overwhelming awe when we first looked over the edge of the mine. I also remember the expressions upon the faces of all the members of our little tour party at that moment as we all looked at each other in disbelieving amazement. Everyone was smiling – inanely and bemused for sure – but we were smiling.

As usual with these gallery posts, ultimately it’s the images which must do the talking and the convincing – or otherwise. Do they make you smile or make you cry.