Alright, so we had been on the go for a fair old bit by this point, and had just finished up in Patagonia and basically been on the cold for 2 weeks. It was time for a kick back, a bit of R&R and some much needed admin (yes, even on this trip we have to do admin).
It was time to head to northern Chile, and more specifically, Santiago, where we would transfer over to a city called Valparaiso. To get to Santiago, we had a bit of busing and flying to do which is not overly interesting so I’ll keep it brief. Bus from Calafate to Puerto Natales, bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas, to the airport, jump on a plane to Santiago, jump on a bus to Valparaiso. All in all, a few days, and pretty straightforward travel plans for South America.
Before Valparaiso we had a few nights in Santiago at the biggest hostel we have been in so far; hostel providencia. We weren’t massive fans of this size of hostel, as it just felt too big and a bit characterless, but it was still a decent hostel to stay at (bunk beds were bloody noisy when you rolled over in bed though!).
After we’d dropped our bags, we decided to take a walk to this bar called la piojera to try their famous terremoto drink (earthquake drink). Ours was pink because it was topped with grenadine which made this drink, of sweet wine topped with pineapple ice cream, even sweeter! Apparently you can ask for the brown one and they top it off with a different liquor which balances the sweet. During our walk we walked through nice parks that sprawl through the middle of the city. After drinks we went to this Korean restaurant across the river which is known to be the poorer side of town..as we walked to the restaurant there were markets which looked like they were selling stolen goods! Anyway, dinner was a nice change to the food we had been eating the last few weeks. Kumu had a kim chi soup with tofu and pork and I had a bibim bap.
We didn’t head out until mid day the next day as we had to do laundry (we had to do this one ourselves so had to wait for it). We had kfc (first one in weeks!) for lunch and headed to the museum of human rights to learn more about what the Chilean people went through under the Pinochet regime, and the US’ involvement in it. It was incredible that this started in the 1970s and the government imposed curfews on the citizens. There were also detention centres which abused people that were against the regime. Not cool. Pinochet finally got arrested in London in early 1998 (I think). Thousands of people disappeared and the youngest victim was 13 years old. The museum showed us a whole side to Chile that we didn’t even know about. A really interesting piece of history. After the museum we did a free walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was average as he seemed to simply point out the buildings with not much history behind them, which was a shame. We tried the peach and barley drink during this walk. I was not a massive fan….
One thing he did tell us about is the concept of “cafe with legs”. Back in the day these cafes with women serving coffee whilst showing a lot of leg was filled with working class men. Nowadays this doesn’t happen as much and you can find more than men having coffees here. The women get tipped depending on how friendly they are. They do however have these dark cafes playing reggae music with women dressed in pretty much nothing serving coffee and juice (no alcohol) to men. A stray dog motego followed us on the second half of the tour. He did make us laugh because he chased and barked at walkers and cyclists, causing no harm to anyone except scaring the shit out of the person he was doing it to. We then went up a funicular to cerro San Cristobal for sunset. This is a hill that you can see pretty much the whole of the central city from. The sunset from here was lovely and cast a great long shadow over all the buildings as the sun went down. I don’t think I really captured that bit very well, but I did get a nice shot of Kumu.
We walked down the wrong way and ended up walking for 2 hours to get to our dinner spot at Bella Vista where we tried pastel de choclo. A surprisingly tasty sweet and sour pastry. On this little 2 hour walk I had to try and reassure Kumu that walking on the side of motorway was completely fine… It’s funny how you do things you would never do at home whilst travelling.
Next morning we went to the shopping centre to look for some shoes and shorts for me. After a bit of looking and seeing prices etc, I decided to hire shoes so I don’t have to carry them about for ages just for one trip. I did buy two pairs of shorts and a pair of sunnies in the end. This takes me up to 3 pairs of sunniest in my bag now!
We had lunch at a local hangout and got two italiano (avocado,tomatoes and mayo – the flag!) hot dogs. Chileans love hot dogs and this might be the German influence coming through! Then we went to La Vega market. Huge with loads of fruits etc. We bought tuna which is a cactus fruit, not the fish. We then headed to a park with some ice cream from a place (Emporio la rosa) that is rated top 25 in the world, but we didn’t see the appeal. Anyway, Kumu had the lucuma flavour which was nice! Lucuma is a local fruit found in Peru & Chile. I just went with some creamy thing (it was pretty underwhelming really) We then went to Santa Lucia hill before having the cheapest dinner to date, which was Indian food!
Next morning we jumped on the bus to Valparaiso. This was a planning stop, but we still wanted to see the city, even though we had ‘work’ to do over the 4 days. We wanted to visit Vina Del Mar, the street graffiti, and just have a general walk round the place. We have done a separate post on the graffiti of Valparaiso, as there is so much of it to see around the city. We got ourselves a nice Airbnb for this one and we booked it for 4 nights. This meant we could sprawl out, have a bit of a relax and start sorting the trip plans for the next month or so. We have decided to plan our trip in sprints as we go, and before we left, we had sorted about a month and a half of accomodation, busses and trips (or at least for some we knew what we were going to book when we got there), then throughout the trip, we take time out to plan for about the next 3 to 6 weeks ahead, again not necessarily booking things, but knowing the detail of times and places etc. We find that this keeps it fairly loose but not so loose that we don’t know what is coming up. We like to have a bit of a plan. To plan those 3 to 6 weeks, we take a few days to rattle through all the admin that needs to be done to plan and then we don’t really have to worry about it again for a few weeks. It also gives us some down time to just be lazy if we really want to! We have our ‘master plan’ on our map page, which is our main guide on where we are going to head to. I also try and update this with where we actually went when I can.
Vina del Mar was going to be a bit of a beach day for us, and a chance to see the flower clock. Does what it says on the tin really…
We hit the beach for a bit and got in some rays, as we felt a bit deprived of the nice warm sunshine of south america to date. We just kicked back for a bit and didn’t go in the water. No joke, it must have been negative 250 in that sea! Ok, it obviously wasn’t that cold, but it was too cold for me to be getting in to.
The rest of the days were mainly planning and chilling. We learnt the rules to gin rummy so this became the evening tournament. Bad news, Kumu won the Valparaiso tournament, but I’ll be coming back for another go; I’m not a quitter.
One thing we noticed was the amount of dogs that wouldn’t shut up in Valparaiso. They would be having g a chin wag across the valley ALL DAY AND NIGHT! Kumu was convinced it was them trying to get my attention as she thinks I now have some sort of bond with stray dogs. I probably do, I talk to them too much.
Next up, the Atacama desert. This is where we start to climb in altitude.
P.s we also saw a street Michael Jackson get told off by the police