Our final few stops in Valparaiso, La Serena and Santiago before heading back home to the Long White Cloud.
11.11.2015 - 22.11.2015
We arrived in Valparaiso still not quite believing how close to finishing our trip we were. Reality is coming our way very shortly which we are choosing not to think about at this point.
I had chosen all of our hostels in advance and I had done well. Our hostel, Costa Azul was awesome. We had lovely owners, amazing breakfasts and a stunning view 24/7 over Valparaiso, the port and all the way down the coast to Vina del Mar. I spent a lot of time looking out of the window.
We had two days to explore and thought our best option was to first take a free walking tour. I would like to note if Lewis had his way he would never do a tour. He gets bored easily and scuffs his feet the whole time. Me on the other hand likes to know a little about everything and then explore happily afterwards. The tour was excellent. We started down in the port and learnt that before the Panama Canal Valparaiso was a major stop on the way to California. The port is still used but it is not the main port of Chile any longer as this was built 50km down the coast. We jumped on a trolley bus, one of the oldest forms of transport and went through the port area, a lot of the buildings seem to be run down now in this area and I understand it is now not one of the safer areas of the city.
Our Wally (guide) was great and explained that they have fire stations that are named after countries as those that ran that are usually expats from these countries. The fire stations are still run on a volunteer basis and are considered quite prestigious. There are a lot of fires in Valparaiso due to the old buildings, the wind and the terrible electricity system.
We continued on up our first Cerro (hill), Conception. We got our first look at the murals and began to see some of the more famous people for the area. While exploring around we learnt about how some of the churches have no crosses (as they were in secret at the time). We also learnt that the houses are made of corrugated iron and bright paint as this was what was used to balance the ships on the way back in the time. Our wally explained that the houses are run down as due to the World Heritage Site ranking it means that renovations and improvements have strict rules and so keeping a house in good condition is extremely pricey. It also means that houses sell for crazy amounts of money! We continued exploring and stopped at a lovely Italian mans place for an pina empanada and a free alfajore. They were both pretty good, though not amazing. We continued on seeing more and more street dogs and locals playing on the street. Our next stop was an old house in the historic port area. The house was amazing and you can see how lavish Valparaiso was for it's time.
After our tour we headed off further to explore. I wanted to see more of the Cerros and get a glimpse of more of the murals the town is famous for. We started with Cerro Poblano to see more art from a gathering in 2012. We continued up a funicular to walk along the top of the cerros and down through the famous Cerro Conception. We opted to have the traditional Valparaiso dish, Chorillana. A dish of fired potato chips covered in onion, egg and beef. We felt thoroughly sick afterwards from all of the fat. It is not something I would have again.
I went on my own running adventure on the Playa Ancha hill we were on the next day. I ran down the beautiful Gran Bretaña avenue to Plaza 21 de Mayo to look over the port. It was beautiful there.
I discovered a passageway to bottom of the hill before contemplating the mission I had before we to get home. I made it and was stoked with all of the new discoveries I had made that day. We opted to make food for our bus the next day and discovered the deliciousness of completos for lunch. A american style hotdog covered in fresh tomatoes, mashed avo and mayo. Lewis was in heaven! Completeos have become a constant for us in every town from this point.
Our next stop was another coastal city, La Serena. We arrived and after catching up with another traveller we were off to check into our hostal/BnB. Yet again I think I chose really well. Our Hostal, La Sombra del Viento was stunning and it's host Marie was lovely. We ended up cancelling our night in the Elqui Valley as it was cloudy the whole time we were there and enjoying our time at Marie's place.
Our days consisted of running and exploring the stunning old town centre. When we weren't exploring we were relaxing in the hammocks. It was bliss. The town itself was quiet and cheerful. We had no issues exploring and had more than enough options to occupy us over the few days.
We ended up spending our last day in Vicuna, a small town in the Elqui Valley. The town didn't warm to us as much as La Serena did but there were vineyards EVERYWHERE! All of them full of grapes for making Pisco. It was a beautiful sight on the way in, especially with all of the mountains around. It is unusual that the weather is so cloudy for so long in the area and this meant no star gazing yet again. Lewis and I weren't too disappointed as we know we can go down to the South Island if we really want to stargaze.
While in La Serena I was given one more mission...I was to find more completos in the city. We discovered Oriente. Oriente is a local haunt and was extremely popular. At lunchtime all the surrounding restaurants were only half full at best but Oriente was full to the brim with people waiting to get there hands on their completos. The reason is there mayonnaise is truly exceptional and this is what makes the completos. We left La Serena a little sad as it was back to the hustle and bustle of a big city. We were off to our final stop Santiago.
We were pretty impressed as soon as we had arrived, they have a decent metro system. It was a breeze to get to our AirBnB. Our AirBnB was homely and our hosts seem lovely. We spent our first day orientating ourselves and meeting another friend from our tours. We ended up taking two free walking tours on our first day.
The morning one was great and showed us through the markets and around the MASSIVE cemetery (The size of about 117 football fields). The afternoon one was more touristy and to be honest we considered leaving numerous times.
I had heard that you can't say you have been to Santiago unless you have been to Fuente Alemana, an eatery for it's completos lomitos (pork sandwich). The sandwiches were huge and although rather pricey it was worth it.
One of the main things we learnt on the tour was that the dogs here are treated pretty well. They can use the buses (apparently but we asked Sarah and she has never seen a dog on a bus), they get feed, they get vaccinated, clothed in winter and have houses in the parks. It really is a dog's life in Santiago!
We walked past a stunning carving and with some research I think it is the gift from the Tuku Iho group when they came to Santiago earlier this year.
Our time in Santiago has been spent eating ice cream, shopping and visiting the human rights museum. Our final night in Santiago we meet another friend from our tour and headed to Bocanariz for dinner. This classy wine bar didn't convert me to fall in love Chilean wine like I had with Argentinan wines. The food was sensational though and i think anything on the menu would have been delicious!
Our final day in Chile and travelling Latin America and we are a little glum. Along the way we have been so excited to get back to normality and civilisation but now that it is here it all seems a little too much. We can't wait to see our family and friends but we will miss the adventure of finding new things to learn and experience everyday.
Chile surprised us. It appears that Chile maybe an under-rated destination. We had heard it was dull and the people were mean. We never had that issue. Just like Argentina it has a European feel and is a great stop over point on your way in or out of Latin America.