Monday, April 11, 2011

Chile Changes the Clock; Beyond Lollapalooza

I like to point out the fact that, in traveling from north to south or vice versa, most visitors to the Southern Cone countries don’t face the same jet lag issues that east-west international travelers do. Of course, that depends on the traveler’s starting point, but for those on the East Coast of the United States, for instance, the time difference is only an hour with either Buenos Aires or Santiago.

Normally, there’s an hour’s difference between Buenos Aires and Santiago, which are in different time zones, but Chile goes on daylight savings while Argentina does not. Not so long ago, that started in mid-October and only went until mid-March, but this year President Sebastián Piñera’s government changed the date to April 2nd and, then, to May 7th. Daylight savings will start again on August 20th.

The government’s principal rationale has been energy savings, though it’s not clear how much turning the lights on a little later will conserve, given that Chileans will have to turn them on earlier in the morning to go to work and/or get the kids off too school (here in Santiago, it’s still nearly dark at 8 a.m.). Other professed reasons have been public safety (extra daylight discourages crime) and the simple pleasure of evening daylight for those returning home from work.

When the change finally occurs, the difference with the rest of the world will be one hour less (but there will then be an hour’s difference with Argentina), from the Peruvian border south to the Strait of Magellan (pictured above). Remote Rapa Nui (Easter Island), however, will continue to be two hours behind the mainland.

A Chilean Lollapalooza
The first weekend of this month, in Santiago’s sprawling Parque O’Higgins, an all-star lineup performed at the initial Chilean version of the Lollapalooza pop music festival. The festival brought plenty of money into the city, with nearly every available inexpensive bed occupied - according to Pablo Fernández of Barrio Brasil’s 120-bed Hostelling International facility, demand was so high that he had to raise prices to 12,000 pesos (about US$25) in dorm rooms (when I was here in November, the price was 9,000 pesos, less than US$20). Rates for private rooms rose correspondingly in a facility that usually only has about 40 or so guests. Even the new and little known CasAltura, a self-styled “boutique hostel” in a magnificently recycled downtown mansion, filled all of its 35 beds.

There were some glitches, but the sunny autumn weekend cooperated beautifully and, by most accounts, the crowds were satisfied. The second Chilean Lollapalooza will take place the first weekend of April in 2012.

Given Chile’s thriving economy, Santiago has become an ever more popular destination for high-profile international artists. U2 played here recently and, over the next couple months, Paul McCartney (May 11), John Fogerty (May 15, the first time ever in Chile, though his former Creedence Clearwater bandmates have played the Viña del Mar festival), and even Miley Cyrus (May 4) will perform in the Chilean capital.

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