We've been busy seeing Chile, folks. We hit San Pedro de Atacama at the end of our Bolivian salt-flats tour on December 6, and have been discovering just how incredibly diverse and long the country is (there's over 4,000km of it!). So, to update you a bit, here's a taste of our Chilean shenanigans. Oh, and by the way, if you haven't discovered it yet, you can keep track of our more detailed route under "Where We Are" at the top of our page :-)
1) Feel-good vibes in San Pedro de Atacama
This happy-go-lucky tiny town in the middle of the Atacama desert felt almost too good to be true. San Pedro itself was just a small cluster of dusty streets and hammock-filled hostels, but it's surrounded by an adventure playground of things to do. Activities on the Hagemann agenda included:
- Biking to Laguna Cejar, where it's floating-a-go-go with the high salt concentration
- Getting up early for sunrise at the boiling mud pools of the El Tatio geysers
- Spotting shooting stars in the fantastically clear skies of the Atacama desert (more on that here)
- Watching the sun go down at the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)
2) “Little Ben”? in Antofagasta
En route to more star-gazing in the desert, we dropped in at the mining town of Antofagasta where there was a hint of Britain in the form of red telephone boxes and supposedly a replica of Big Ben – hmm, some imagination needed for that, we think ;-)
3) Serene La Serena
A few days spent here – the second oldest city in Chile – provided a pleasant stopover for me to celebrate my birthday, and gave us chance to visit the distilleries of the nearby Pisco region (nicely timed!) ;-)
4) Gritty, Edgy, Bohemian Valparaíso
Built atop 42 hills looking out to the Pacific Ocean, “Valpo” has suffered hard times. What struck us most was that this once bustling port city boasted the richest street in Latin America thanks to its strategic location as a popular stopover for vessels that rounded Cape Horn. With the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal, Valpo was no longer on the shipping route, which sent it swiftly into demise. Today, it seems that the city is bouncing back, boosted by a steady flow of tourists eager to see this little lot:
...the gritty working port...
...colourful winding streets in the bohemian hills above, where corrugated iron buildings, sometimes with three floors on one side and five on the other, jostle for space
...15 rickety, wheezing ascensores (funiculars)
...and a collection of eye-catching street art, our favourite of which was by Inti – a famous Chilean street artist.
Check out this amazing video to see him in action: https://vimeo.com/83109644
Oh, and while we were there, we became Auntie K and Uncle R to R's sister :-)
5) Checking out the Capital
We were pleasantly surprised by Santiago de Chile...
- Where we did a fabulous walking tour that you can read more about here ;-)
- Where it all got rather sombre at the Human Rights Museum
- Where we found out about "coffee with legs" - Intrigued? Then check back soon.
- Where we had our hair cut in time for New Year
- Where we celebrated New Year watching the fireworks at the Entel tower with masses of glitter-hat-toting Chileans, and discovered that silly string still exists
- Where the New Year sees women buying yellow underwear at street stalls in the hope that there will be more amorous antics in the year ahead. Who wouldda thought?
6) More Playground Fun in Pucon
We went to sleep in Santiago, and one night-bus journey later, we woke up in what felt like a Swiss Alpine resort. Pucon offered jaw-dropping views of Vulcan Villarica from all over town, which popped out from behind buildings just to remind us that it was there. Pucon is another Chilean adventure playground, and we'll remember it as the place where...
- We stayed in a cozy little treehouse by the lake
- We spotted hydrangeas everywhere
- We hiked to the Salto el Claro waterfall
- We scrambled over boulders, dodged tarantulas, saw monkey (Araucaria) trees, and the first snow since February 2013 on our somewhat challenging hike to Cerro San Sebastian
...we bought a tent!
Yes, accommodation was getting tricky. Our dorm days are (mostly) behind us, and since double rooms are scarce and expensive in high season and involved far more forward planning than we wanted, we became happy campers! But with the extra camping gear, it was the end of the road for that perfectly packed backpack - remember that?
7) “Das gute Bier” in Valdivia
It was all about the German beer in Valdivia, where the Kunstmann sampler was beckoning us to try it...
8) Peaceful Puerto Varas
On the shores of Lake Llanquihue, with views of volcano Osorno and Calbuco, we glimpsed a certain style of architecture and could have sworn we were back in Germany.
9) Becoming our own porters in the Cochamó Valley
Keen to put in some trekking practice ahead of our Patagonian adventures, we embraced the great outdoors in the Cochamó Valley, touted as Chile's “Yosemite”. We donned our backpacks, complete with tent, fell in rivers (ok, maybe just me), supped our first bitter maté, met some great Israelis (yes, you, Esh & Dor), and hiked up Arco Iris for panoramic views of the valley. If that's whetted your appetite, you'll have to check back for the full low-down in another post.
10) The Church Search on Chiloé
On the mist-shrouded, folkloristic island of Chiloé, we went in search of the wooden Unesco churches, took a peek at the wooden “Palafito” houses built on stilts, and braved the hearty seafood, meat, and potato stew, curanto.
And that little lot was all before we reached Patagonia...
There'll be more on that coming soon, so stay tuned ;-)