A Travellerspoint blog

Our Final stop in South America - Santiago

We first stopped in Santiago on our way to Punta Arenas, where we took the bus down to Torres del Paine. Our second visit was on the way back from Torres and also to be our final stop before our flight to Auckland. To sum up our time in Santiago here is a list of what we managed to see and do in our time there.

Spent the day wondering around the city centre. For some reason they have a heap of Opticians.
Saw the Palacio de la Moneda - complete with giant Chilean flags outside. Just in case you might forget where you are.
Visited one of the many shopping malls and went shopping! Over the past few months we've worn out / got fed up with some of our stuff so thought it time to get some new things.
Ate completos!
Visited the numerous neighbourhoods in Santiago that included: Lastarria, Bellavista, Brasil, and Paris-Londres.
Had some drinks in Bellavista and were entertained by the street acts. Our favourite being a Chilean rap duo.
Ran up San Cristobal hill to the 22m statue of Virgin Mary for a great view of the city - complete with smog layer.
Spent the rest of our money on a slap up lunch and a final Pisco Sour before catching the Metro to the airport.

South America you were the best, we miss you already.
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Posted by Time Well Spent 12:51 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Trekking in Torres del Paine, Patagonia

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We arrived in the national park in Patagonia early in the afternoon each carrying a backpack with all the kit we needed for the trek including tents, stove, food and sleeping bags which came to around 15kgs each we were to carry. We only had time to spend two nights here so we set off immediately after getting off the boat at lago Pehoe. We attempted to walk the path to Galcier Grey, hoping to have enough time to get far enough to see it. After experiencing some 80km an hour winds we had to turn back to take the other path to the campsite where we'd spend our first night. Then the rain began. Torres del Painie really is a place where you experience four seasons in one day. We had sun, snow, wind, and rain and temperatures ranging between about 4 and 15 degrees. This day however did seem more like a wet, cold winters day. The rain came from above by the bucket load and sideways and I'm pretty sure it came from below too. After five hours hiking that day we arrived at the campsite where we spent what I can only describe as the coldest night of my life. Everything was soaked and there was no shelter apart from a small shed where the gas stoves were allowed to be used. Due to some trekker a few years ago who managed to burn down a few square km of the park. So we huddled in there to make something warm for dinner before retiring to our damp sleeping bags and sodden tent. The next day we nearly decided to turn back, but as it had stopped raining we committed to continue as planned. And we very glad we did.
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After an hour the sun finally made an appearance and we began to dry out. The day turned out to be a really beautiful one and we were lucky to see some of the amazing scenery. We stopped for lunch on top of one of the hills. We were unable to use the gas stoves anywhere apart from the campsites so we'd cooked up some pasta the night before and with nothhing to store it in improvised with a plastic bag. SO we tucked into a delicious lunch of 'bag pasta'. Yum...
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After 8 hours we arrived at our second campsite. A much nicer one than the previous night (by the sounds of it we were at the worse campsite in the park on one of the worse days for weather in two weeks, however there are apparently mice at the campsite but it seems the rain at least kept them away). Arriving in good time we dumped the bags in the tent and took the walk upto the mirador to see the famous dolomite towers (or "Torres" in Spanish from which the park gets its name). A tough walk that went straight up, to some strong winds and even some snow on the ground. It was all worth it as the view was spectaclar. We walked in total around 30km that day assending 400 metres. That night we had a much more pleasant evening and a dry place to sleep. It did start raining again but at least this time it had the courtesy to wait until we were in the tent, warm(ish) and dry.
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The following day was our final day, which was a mostly a downhill walk. It was 3 hours to the hotel on the edge of the park where we sat for a while but had a few hours until the shuttle buses started to take us to the main buses back to Puerta Natales, so we decided to walk the 7.5km rather than waiting for hours, and the rain had stopped again so it was a good opportunity to dry off. When we finally arrived back at the hostel we were two very happy bunnies as there was a warm shower waiting and cozy bed. Waking up warm in the morning was a treat and breakfast even more so because of these guys on the breakfast table!!
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Posted by Time Well Spent 04:35 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Pisco Elqui

Pisco Elqui is a valley a couple of hours inland from La Serena. La Serena had the sea breeze which made it feel slightly cooler but Pisco Elqui was very warm and green. We spent a few days there exploring the valley where they grow grapes to make the national drink of Chile - Pisco (grape brandy). We visited the Pisco distillery, Los NIchos, where they still process the grapes by hand and had a sampling. It's much nicer in a Pisco Sour cocktail than neat but it was good Pisco.
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The sky here was also unbelievably clear and we headed out in the evening to do some star gazing with some friends we'd met over a couple of bottles of wine in the hostel. Not only was the sky so clear but the stars looked so much closer than usual and although we weren't able to make out many of the constellations it was stunning to look at. No picture of these I'm afraid as the camera just took a picture of blackness.

Posted by Time Well Spent 07:32 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

La Serena

La Serena was 7 hours north of Valparaiso and here we spent a few days chilling out in the hostel garden with Tiger, the kitten. We also went to the market to try some of the tasty seafood. I was very happy to have my favourite dish, Ceviche, again.
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From here we also took a trip to the Damas Islas. We took the boat out to the first island, where we saw loads of birdlife and Jimmy's favourite - Penguins. Humboldt penguins to be more specific. There were sea lions and we even caught a glimpse of a sea otter and some dolphins. The boat then headed to the second island where we hoped off the boat and walked around the island, which had some beautiful beaches, before heading back to the mainland for lunch. Not too much else to say on this one. We sat around a lot and ate mostly.
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Posted by Time Well Spent 07:29 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Valparaiso and Vina del Mar

A rigorous boarder crossing bought us into Chile and our first stop of Vina del Mar. Vina del Mar is a wealthy beach town an hour and a half outside Santiago. We chose to spend a couple of nights here before moving on to the neighbouring port of Valparaiso ten minutes up the road.

On our first day in Vina we hired bicycles and cycled the length of the beaches all the way from Valparaiso to Reneca passed all the beaches in between. Ricky Martin and Rod Stewart were in town for the International music festival so there were a number of fans and photographers gathered round all the 5 star hotels on the sea front. The beaches were beautiful and closer to the port in Valparaiso there is a colony of sea lions that spend their time basking in the sun, very much like the people on the beaches.
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We moved to Valparaiso where we did the walking tour, Valparaiso is said to be the city that San Francisco was based on and as such, as you can imagine there were a number of hills! To counter this there are accesnsors or funiculars as we call them in English, these are terrifyingly old built in the early 20th Century. Here we did the walking tour around the city to learn its history as a port and we also met David Bowie! Not that one, a street dog, so named due to his different coloured eyes. He joined us for dinner our first night then we saw him again the following day on the walking tour and were formally introduced to him and his companion they call David Bowie's boyfriend.
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As this was our first stop in Chile we though we would try some of the local cuisine, this is interesting to say the least, everything is served with avocado. They have their favourite completos, a hotdog filled with guacamole, sauerkraut, salsa and generous helpings of mayo. They also have a Chorillana which is a massive pile of chips topped with egg, sausage and cheese though the size has meant we have not been brave enough to attempt one yet!

The city was beautiful and colourful with a lot of street art and brightly coloured buildings and when we weren't wandering the streets, we were relaxing on the beautiful beaches and enjoying the sunshine.
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Posted by Time Well Spent 15:15 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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