I left the Galapagos Islands with a heavy heart nd it did not help that I had such a hectic travel schedule … taxi, boat, bus, 3 flights, taxi … I could only console myself with the fact that I know I will be back next year … and I will be meeting someone special for the next week in Chile 👍🏻😊. Otherwise I may just have stayed 😬
The first two of my three flights were delayed which resulted in me having to run through Lima airport to catch my last flight – thankfully it was the same airline so they were waiting for me (and my bag managed to make the transfer as well!). By this time, it was late night and I am not sure I have ever looked out an aircraft window and seen so many stars – including my beloved southern cross shining brightly.
The immigration and customs process in to Chile was easy and quick, helped I am sure by the fact that it was 3am in the morning and I was quickly in a cab in to the city centre and my accommodation.
After just a few hours sleep I was awake and ready for a run/walk around the city. As I went out in to the street, I walked straight in to a military parade which the city had kindly put on to welcome me 😂- I later learnt that it was for the changing of the guard at the near by presidential palace and it happens every second day!
Santiago de Chile is a big cosmopolitan city (with a population of over 7m) and it was a bit of a culture shock for me after feeling so comfortable in a town with a population of just over 12,000! It was also very cold which was yet another shock to my system! There had been times in the sweat filled days in Colombia that I had dreamed of a cooler climates – now I was there I would give anything to get back to the heat!
My run was not particularly successful as there were too many people and too many roads to cross and I managed to get lost just as my phone was dying – slight panic set in as without my maps.me app and the photo of the apartment address I would actually be lost with no clue of where I was or, more importantly, where I was staying! Thankfully I managed to find my way back just before the phone died which was a huge relief!
I just had time to have a quick shower before heading to the airport to meet my partner in crime who travelled all the way from New Zealand to spend the week with me – I should note that he only had to take 2 flights to my 3!
One of the first things I like to do in new cities is a walking tour and most of the cities I have been in recently have a ‘free’ one (based on tips only). Santiago was no exception so Saturday morning we made our way to the meeting point for the tour. Not without stopping for a coffee on the way. We decided we would try one of the many large coffee shops we had passed, unknown to us at the time, we were sampling the famous “café con piernas” or “coffee with legs”. It was not good!
It is apparently a uniquely Chilean, mainly Santiagan, tradition of large city centre coffee shops that service a combination of generally mediocre coffee and an ‘erotic’ ambience designed to promote a subtle sexual frisson between client – predominately male – and waitress – predominantly young and attractive! We stuck to Starbucks after this experience though we did take on the personas of Jose and Elena to avoid name issues with the servers! 😂
As always, the walking tour was informative, taking in the main sites and facts of the city. From the indigenous sculpture in the Plaza de Armas symbolising the breaking of land and people to the story of Salvador Allende who was a revolutionary who wanted to overtake the country not with violence, but with red wine and empanadas 😂. (He committed suicide after the presidential palace was bombed in a coup backed by the USA).
We paused for a moment outside Londres 38 (the interrogation and torture centre of Pinochet’s regime), with the names of the missing on plaques on the footpath outside before walking through one of the centre city parks admiring the rather fat street dogs in their winter coats – they are even given kennels!❤️
After the walking tour we had something to eat along with one too many pisco sours (the most famous local alcoholic drink) before walking back to the apartment for a relaxing evening, ready of our early start on Sunday.
We were picked up at 7am for our road trip Cajon del Maipo in the Andes which very much reminded me of New Zealand’s Southern Alps on steroids 👍🏻. It was a relatively slow drive up, stopping for hot chocolate and cake at a local café and to hire some cold weather gear for those who did not have enough – the guide estimated it would be -2C where we were headed.
The stunning gorge of the Río Maipo starts just outside Santiago and as we learnt, is a popular destination on weekends for Santiaguinos – it was Sunday and there were more people heading up the mountain side to the reservoir than up the Rapaki track on a public holiday at home (that is one of the many short hikes up the Port Hills in Christchurch which is always very popular).
The short hike warmed us up but it was truly bitterly cold at the top, certainly not the temperatures I have been used to but perhaps those to which I need to once more grow accustom to! Of course, it was beautiful in the sun shine.
Back down to the road and our guide had set up a small tasting table of local produce – red wine (of course we are in Chile after all), cheese, olives, bread etc. It was delicious and I had eaten far too much cheese to really enjoy the very large empanada we had at our last stop before heading back in to the city after an 11-hour day!
For our last day in Santiago we had a fairly lazy one, starting with a short walk up a small hill for a view, and ending with a trip to the other side of town to see the sunset – it actually isn’t the sunset you go for, as you can’t actually see it, but it is the beautiful colours on the mountains as the sunsets on the other side of the city. It was a little surreal as we were the only people in this rather swanky bar, at the top of a rather swanky hotel with a beautiful view.
The next day we headed off to catch the bus to the coastal city Valparaiso. I am pretty sure that all my Spanish lessons to date were leading up to buying bus tickets as I had run through that scenario many times in class! She did not ask me if I wanted a window or an aisle seat but other than that the conversation ran pretty much to script.
Valparaiso is Chile’s second largest city and it’s bohemian and colourful, maze of hills has long inspired poets and writers and now backpackers! Every blogger who has been there has raved about.
The historic quarter of this historically important port city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003, but despite this, there is still a vast contrast between the nicely refurbished buildings and areas and those that are still very run down – as you go up and down the historic (and very steep!) funiculars (or if you are brave, the stairs) it is easy to see the contrasts.
Valparaíso is also home to Chile’s legislative Congress and the headquarters of the Chilean navy and was a key stop on the way up the south American coast before the Panama Canal opened.
We had a lovely couple of days here exploring the historic city before heading back to Santiago and onward flights … for the next 6 weeks I will be hitting the road hard so it has been good to have a more relaxing laid-back week chilling in Chile.