Chile - a perfect South American introduction

Trip Start Apr 16, 2013
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Trip End Dec 20, 2013


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Flag of Chile  ,
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We arrived in Santiago after an 11 hour flight travelling back in time from New Zealand. A little spaced, we hopped into a minibus and headed to our hostel for a much needed rest. Santiago was an easy introduction to South America, very modern, easy to navigate and we had a fabulous hostel with English speaking hosts and lovely guests. On our first day we took a free walking tour across the city to get our bearings which was great, informing us of Chileīs history and the recent Pinochet regime, local cuisine and a mixture of old and new architecture. We had lunch in the trendy Bellavista area trying out pastelle de choclo (corn pie - not so great) and empanadas (like Cornish pasties - Jimīs favourite). That evening we drank some cervesas at the hostal with new friends, watched Chile qualify for the world cup and discovered the tardiness of South American evening meals - we got our BBQ at 11:30pm! The rest of our time in Santiago was spent wandering the streets and taking in a view of the city and the overlooking Andes from the lovely Santa Lucia park/hill/viewpoint.

Our next stop was Valparaiso, an easy 1 hour bus ride from Santiago and one of our favourite spots. It is a port town built into the hillside with a real bohemian feel - coloured houses, loads of street art and craft shops. Again, we had a lovely hostel and after checking in, rushed off to another free walking tour which showed us the highlights of the city - the fernicular railways (which were on strike when we were there!), some amazing artwork and fantastic cafes. On our first night we went for a lovely meal for our 3 year anniversary and washed it down with a bottle of Camenere vino tinto (a grape solely grown in Chile and once thought extinct). Whilst in Valparaiso we also visited la casa de Pablo Neruda - La Sebastiana. Pablo Neruda was a celebrated Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. His houses are famous for their Art Nouveau style and nautical themes. A fascinating house for a fascinating man. We also enjoyed buying some crafty souveniers, jewellery and generally testing out our very limited Spanish with the locals.

Boarding a very nice and well organised bus, after 7 hours we arrived in La Serena. We didnīt think much to the town itself but our highlight here was taking a tour out to see the Elqui Valley. The scenery is fantastic, multi coloured mountains with a lush green vinyard valley running inbetween. We drank papaya juice, stood on a huge dam, visited a pisco factory and wandered around some lovely rural towns which had such a European influence we could have been in Andalucia. 

Further up the coast, and after a 17 hour (but comfortable) bus journey we reached Iquique. Our sole reason for visiting this rather hectic beach town was to take advantage of the cheap and some of the best paragliding in the world. It was absolutely magical to run off the huge sand dune mountains overlooking the city and have 30 minutes floating around the sky. 

Our final destination in Chile was San Pedro de Atacama. On the way we really felt the altitude hit us and so spent 3 nights there aclimatising before our further ascent on to Bolivia. We loved this town set in the desert with itīs multitude of cafes. Like a little oasis! We made some great friends in our hostel and spent our time wandering the streets and eating as many empanadas as possible (Jim!) The only activities we managed were a spectacular star gazing trip. San Pedro is one of the best places to view the night sky in the world and is home to the new ALMA project which is the second biggest science project in the world and likely to discover extraterrestrial life once it is complete. Our guide told us how our ancestors read the stars and some amazing facts about the night sky before we looked through some massive telescopes at the universe! We also tested our stamina by hiring bikes and cycling, at altitude, through sand and dirt devils in the desert at about 35degrees *phew*.

We had only had 10 days in Chile and although a bit too expensive for our ever shrinking budget, it had been a perfect beginners course to travelling in South America. Fascinating landscapes, beautiful stars and creative people (Jimīs highlight was the jugglers and saxophone players that entertain pedestrians as they cross the road!) 

We went from San Pedro on to the salt flats and through Bolivia but you should already know that by now . . . 

Until next time, lots of love

Laura and Jim xx
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Comments

Mum on

Loving the street art! x

Joanie on

Hey you two lovely people,
I've been loving your travel tales and fantastic photo's and have finally got around to commenting...One word re the paragliding: 'wowwwwwww' , what a fantastic experience that must have been. Keep enjoying your trip of a lifetime and sending the wonderful updates.
Lots of Love
Joanie xx
PS, hey Birdy not even our old campervan Beeth-0ven leaks shame about your NZ camper- still looked an amazing time though!

lauraandjim
lauraandjim on

Hey Jones,

Thanks for the comment and glad you are enjoying the updates. The campervan life was truly fantastic, we loved it and new zealand.
Can´t beleive we will be home in a matter of weeks, it´s very exciting.
See you in 2014,

J&L

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