We only had a short time in Chile and looking back, if we were planning it again, I think we could have spent a few weeks there. But since we only had a few days until we were flying to New Zealand, we concentrated our time in the hip coastal city of Valparaíso and the capital, Sanitago.
We had less time that expected in São Paulo but the few days we had were enough to get a flavour of this massive city. As our flight was early into Chile, we bypassed Santiago and got the bus straight to Valparaíso from the airport. It was another few hours travel but Brazil is two hours ahead of Chile so we gained a bit of time.
The hostel in Valparaíso was one of the most expensive of the trip and a bit run down but we were only there for the night. It only had 1 shared bathroom and the owner, who was very nice, was a bit scruffy and also lived in the hostel. He gave us a few tips of what to do in the town so we headed out and walked up the winding graffiti-covered streets. The town is full of arty/hippy people which gives it a very laid back vibe. Valparaíso is such a hilly place but there are old-style funicular lifts that go up the steepest parts of the city.
From the top there was a great view of the port and city. We walked back down past roaming gangs of stray dogs and small darkened shops and bars. Every doorway looked like a little craft beer bar, music venue or alternative medicine shop. We found a craft beer bar called Altamira at the the bottom of one funicular that had great beer and stout brewed onsite and local musicians playing a few tunes and finished off the evening with a kebab in the local plaza!
The next day we went to to the house of the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda which has been turned into a museum. This time we got the local bus up the hill and were helped by the friendly locals who guessed where we were going and told us where to get off. Pablo Neruda was a Poet and later Politician & Diplomat who bought this half-built house on the hill and finished it off in his own quirky style. He was well known for holding parties in the 1960’s and had a constant stream of visitors as Neruda never liked to eat dinner alone. After admiring the view of the crystal clear sky and sea we walked back down through the local neighbourhoods and got a great coffee while seeing all the street art and murals on the winding streets.
Next stop was the capital Santiago where we booked an Airbnb in a high rise apartment block, which had a balcony with looking onto the Andes.
Santiago is a really nice, modern city spread along the river and at the base of the Chilean Andes with action packed squares, food & craft markets and friendly locals. I sampled a refreshing barley drink sold from a cart which gave an instant sugar hit. Santiago is a college city and full of life. We had dinner in the Bellavista area which is like a Dundrum Shopping Centre of bars and restaurants and we had some excellent pizza which we hadn’t had in ages.
Chile has a tragic past with the Dictator, General Pinochet, ruling the county from the 1970’s until 1990. We went to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights which gave an overview of what happened and how the county has come through it. It’s great to see the country is now free from dictatorship and is democratic. Saying this, the buildings in the main government area have a very imposing feel and there is still a big military and police presence around the city. We saw a student demonstration which seemed to be monitored very closely by a heavy police presence with a near equal protester/police ratio.
On our last day (a Sunday) we visited the National Art Gallery and some city parks. It was great to see the city centre car free for the day with most of the roads only open to cyclists and pedestrians. We had a wander through the smaller neighbourhoods and had our last few Pisco Sours before packing up again. Our flight was at 12 midnight so we organised to stay late in the apartment and got the Metro to the airport for our flight to New Zealand!
South America was amazing and I was really sad to leave it. It’s such a varied continent which has tested us at times and where the language barrier was much more prominent than I’ve experienced even in South East Asia. The variety of the landscape, activities and transport have been so wide-reaching and, for the most part, the people have been extremely warm and friendly. Next stop is New Zealand and Australia so it’s feels like we are leaving a less explored part of the globe and getting back to the first world and onto a well trodden path – but South America has been fun!This entry was posted in South America