Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Trip to Santiago, Chile

This blog is a bit of a diary about my trip last week, mainly so I don't have to repeat myself a million times telling everyone about it. They can read this then ask if they want more detail. 
Sunday 20 October
I'm packed and ready to go. My daughter left on Friday for the Junior World Karate Championships in Santiago, Chile and I am on the way to join her so I can see her compete on the world stage. All the hours of training and the dedication come down to this week and this tournament.
I got up to Auckland and I was so lucky to see my niece and her husband and their new baby girl. What a delight! I had to wait in the check in queue for over an hour as we couldn't check in online and they waited for me and still had a happy smiling little girl there for me to cuddle. She is absolutely gorgeous and it's times like this that I wish we were a little closer so I could see them all more often.
Got on the flight to Santiago and sat on the tarmac in Auckland for 2 hours due to "maintenance issues". Managed to watch a movie in that time which was a good relaxing time for me. The flight was great. I slept for about 5 hours so was ready for the day when we landed late into Santiago. The next hiccup was that my luggage did not come on the plane! Most of the passengers did not have their luggage and so we queued for another couple of hours to give them our phone numbers, emails and where we were staying so hopefully we could get our bags. The transfer to my hotel was good, very efficient and quick. My initial impressions were of a very poor population. There were many people sleeping on the side of the road and a lot of run down areas and graffiti. I saw a lot of shacks and tents, some with horses tied up to them, all along the road side coming in to the city. 
I arrived at 6pm and it was time for food so Juliet rushed me to the Chinese next door before the curfew came into effect and, with her reasonable Spanish, ordered me a nice dinner. I learnt a bit about the protests and curfew, then met a few of the parents in the bar at the hotel. Enjoyed a cold beer after all the travel. Unpacked and got myself to bed at a reasonable time.
Monday 21 October
Caught up with some other parents at breakfast and went out to explore our surroundings. Very few shops were open and we managed to find a shop with some basic food such as biscuits and water and we queued there for a while. Due to the strikes and protests most shops were shut. The underground was not operating and there were very few people around except to buy food.
I enjoyed wandering around the shopping area. There were so many trees in the city which was lovely.  As my bag had not arrived, I needed to buy some clothes. Luckily I had one change in my backpack as shops were hard to find. Eventually found one where I could buy a couple of tops and underwear to keep me going. We ate dinner in the hotel that night as the curfew was at 6pm so no real chance to go out. 
There was a lot of discussion as to whether or not the whole tournament would actually happen, mainly due to security issues. Some of the teams went home, including Japan which was a strong contender for medals in many divisions. I think the discussion and the work that went into keeping the tournament going is best summed up in this post from Davide Benetello, the WKF Athletes Commission Chairman. It is well worth a read.
Tuesday 22 October
My bag still hadn't arrived so went out again and found a clothes shop where I managed to get a jacket and a couple of shirts. Fascinating watching the people as the day went on. All of the shops started to close about 3 and there were huge queues for the buses due to there only being one line running in the underground. I never felt unsafe in the city but we did cross the road occasionally when there was a large group of protestors heading our way.
This article explains a bit more about what was going on over this time.
Some lovely buildings and very nice people in the central area. All the shops that were open had very helpful staff, even when they didn't speak English and we didn't speak Spanish. They managed to get the message across and we helped the economy a little by spending our money in the shops that were open. 
We had a group dinner that night at the Chinese next to the hotel. The curfew had been moved until 8pm so we didn't go far. Nice to get to know some more of the parents and competitors.
Due to the unrest, we were told that only 2 people per competitor, and only the ones competing that day were allowed to go to the tournament, all due to security. At that stage we were still really not sure if we would be able to go and support the team at all unless our child was competing. The World Karate Federation also supplied buses each day from the hotel to the venue which was great, we were going to take the subway but with the unrest here WKF was very aware of keeping everyone safe. We went back to the hotel late afternoon, another beer (thirsty work in the heat) and off to bed.
Wednesday 23 October
Thought we would try and get in to the venue, see how tight the security really was and try to get in. It wasn't difficult. We went a bit after the bus, taking a Chilean version of Uber, Cabify. Great prices and really quick. Talking of quick, we couldn't work out what the speed limit was, it seemed to be "as fast as you can go in the traffic". I also wondered why they had lanes, they didn't seem to take much notice of them! Got a few photos of some suburban areas of the city.
Kata was on today at the venue. Our NZ competitors did well, getting some great results including a top 8 finish. After we got back I went shopping again because my suitcase had still not turned up. Great opportunity to get some new clothes on insurance, just wish the shops had been open!!! Went back to the same 2 shops as before and got some trousers and a dress. Once again the shops shut early and we felt it was best to head back to the hotel late afternoon. There were no issues for us at the hotel at any time, apart from the noise of protesters and the sirens going overnight but one of the other hotels was evacuated one night due to protestors.
Found the local Irish bar run by and Englishman and an Irishman (there must be a joke inn there somewhere) who have lived in Santiago for years. Great atmosphere and certainly good food and staff.
Back to the hotel before curfew and had the team meeting, just updating us all on how things had gone that day and where to for the next day.
Thursday 24 October
Another day of competition. All competitors doing really well and even got a bronze medal fight today for one of the young girls who ended up 5th which was awesome. Each day after we got back to the hotel I went for a walk around the area so at least I got to see a few sights. It was interesting to see that almost all of the residential properties had high fences around them and often bars over the windows. 
Back to the Irish bar, they started to get to know us quite well by the time we left. Due to no supermarkets being open we had to eat out a lot (what a shame) so it was nice to find a good place close to the hotel.
In all of the bars and restaurants we went to they had CNN Chile on a TV so we saw a lot of what was going on around us. We were kept informed each day and knew that we were fine where we were and just needed to be careful about going out places. I also got emails from the Safe Travel site, well worth being on that as they kept me updated each day via email and the latest info was on their site.
Friday 25 October
Good day again today. Competitors did well, a few getting through to top 16. Once again we left mid afternoon to come back to the hotel. We had nice weather, warm but not too hot. Sitting outside with a cold beer in the late afternoon was definitely the best option. Lots of traffic which is interesting because there seem to be very few car parks and certainly the houses don't have garages. You can't park on the side of the road in town so the subway or bus are the main forms of transport and with the subway out, maybe that is why there were so many traffic jams. Interesting going down a paved road each day on the bus. It's a bit like some of the Chch roads!
One of the parents introduced me to the board/card game Sequence. We have had lots of time at the hotel so we have been playing it a lot over the last few days. I'm keen to get it for home, great strategy game with quite a lot of luck as well.
I saw my one and only cat today. Not many around at all. Plenty of dogs out and about but not cats. 
Saturday 26 October
Got up and watched the rugby, it was on at 5am here so not too early. Had some interesting conversations with the Aussies, Scots and English coaches and supporters once we got to the stadium. I will say that the Scots were quite upset that we lost!! Watched our under 21 males compete, one through to top 16. Had to leave the venue early due to a protest heading that way. WKF asked all those not competing to leave as early as they could. Spent the afternoon packing then headed out to a different hotel for the final team dinner. Gorgeous views!
Sunday 27 October
Up early again for the last day of competition. Had to take my suitcase with me for my flight back home. Watched Juliet fight. She was amazing. The Russian that she lost 3-1 to went on to win 5 fights and finally lost 1-0 to the French in the semi final which meant Juliet just missed out on a repecharge. She was happy though as she was the Russians second lowest scoring fight (behind the French girl) and the only one to score on the Russian when she was up on points. Amazing effort and great to watch.
I had to leave for the airport early but as I was in the cab I got a message saying my flight was delayed by 6 hours so I went back to the venue and watched some more fights before finally going out to the airport. With the flight being that late, it meant I missed my connecting flight into Christchurch. Couldn't change my flight at all to get back any earlier so I ended up getting food vouchers for meals and a night in a Sydney hotel thanks to Qantas. I also had a spare seat next to me on the plane, very handy for stretching out. Got a few hours sleep at the hotel then had to get up early to get to the airport, only to find my flight to Christchurch had been delayed as well. Security is certainly higher in Sydney, any liquid has to be in a plastic bag and put out for scanning and I got to have a full body scan and all of the passengers and their bags were dusted for gunpowder and explosives. Finally through and onto the plane for the final flight home.
Great flight on Emirates and wonderful views. I have to say the food, staff, in-flight entertainment system and seats are superior to anything else I have been on this trip.
However, the last bit just made my whole trip hysterical. You will so not believe this. We landed in Christchurch and they first said we can get off the plane but there will be no baggage for a while due to lightning strikes so all ground staff have been instructed to stop being outside until the storm passes. I just laughed! The whole trip has been delay after delay. Then about 10 minutes later they said we couldn't even get off the plane, so I wrote more of my blog while I waited. Eventually after 30 minutes we managed to get off the plane and get through customs and finally home.  
Nice to be back but I certainly don't regret going. A real experience and one I will never forget for so many different reasons.

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