Chile is a sliver of a country on the west coast of South America that packs a formidable variety of terrain into a small area. Think Atacama Desert in the north, the Andes that form the north –south spine and down south spectacular glaciers, lakes and lots of rain. For the visitor the choices are extensive but for something akin to a moonscape, bucket list the Atacama Desert, an awesome area with salt lakes, geysers and volcanoes all accomplished in a day. Below freezing at the geysers and a test of courage and/or stupidity to take the pool plunge, while floating in the salt lakes is restorative and the active volcanoes a reminder of the volatility of this landscape.
But of course Chile is more than the sum of its physical beauty and they are a proud bunch with a military history they always celebrate here in Canberra with an annual ‘armed forces’ event and this year the commemoration of the 86th anniversary of the creation of the Chilean Air Force. It’s the day to polish up the brass and put on the braid as it brings out the best collection of military uniforms across the board as the military attaches from the international diplomatic representatives get to strut their stuff.
They bring out the piscos too which is a formidable test of restraint because the celebration is a midday one, but the pleasure of throwing caution to the wind and changing all afternoon plans to enjoy this most delicious of drinks has been one very easy to embrace. And there was cake too!
With toasts to Chile and Australia and a short DVD of the history and the hardware of the Chilean Air Force, there was a reminder from Colonel Orlando J Franchi, the Chilean Air Attache, of the rescue of the survivors of the 1972 plane crash in the Andes and the ensuing movie demonstrating the formidable requirements of their Air Force.