A week in Chile

The second part of our trip began as we touched down in Chile on the 7th September, five hours before we left New Zealand (we crossed the date line so we left at 5pm and arrived at 12.30pm the same day!). We had heard that Chile was one of the most expensive countries in South America so we only spent a week there, even though we really liked it. We had also heard that Santiago (the capital) was not the most exciting place to visit, although an immediate positive for us was the sense of history exuding from all the old buildings and monuments. These things are so rare in Australia and New Zealand, and you don´t realise how much they add to a place until you spend time in countries that don´t have them.

Street Art, Valparaiso Grassy Road, Valparaiso Tangle of Wires

Although I would have been interested (particularly since reading a book set in Santiago during Pinochet´s rule), we didn´t get to visit any museums as they are closed on Sunday afternoons and Mondays – which were the only days we were there. And although its true that Santiago is not a terribly charming place, it´s not the worst place to spend a few days either. Like everywhere we went in Chile it seemed very European; the shops, restaurants, cafes, people and buildings resembled those in mainland Europe. Things seem pretty modern and western on the face of it. However, we stayed in a very atmospheric, slighty musty old hotel in the centre of the city called Hotel Residencial Londres, which was like staying in an old convent (if the walls could talk!). It was almost empty which gave it an eerie quality, but the beds were really warm and comfy and it was completely unlike anywhere else we´ve stayed so far, so it really provided a cosy but atmospheric introduction to South America!


After 2 nights in Santiago we headed up to Valparaiso, a world heritage site only 2 hours northwest which is a lovely, bohemian, arty kind of city, great to hang out in for a while. It´s Chile´s “cultural capital” and has great murals everywhere (proper arty grafitti with political messages and other meanings we couldn´t decipher), music on the streets, old architecture and an artistic vibe that almost makes you want to write poetry! We stayed at the wonderful Casa Aventura, which was just lovely. We had a large bright airy room which included a good breakfast and we got lots of info from the very helpful and friendly hosts. Also the location was great, lots of lovely cafes and restaurants nearby for stting around in! I spent a very enjoyable afternoon in the Colour Cafe reading and relaxing and really, if we had all the time in the world I would have gladly stayed a week in Valparaiso.

A big highlight was visiting one of Pablo Neruda´s houses ´La Sebastiana´. Although I had never heard of him (he´s a famous Chilean poet), it didn´t matter, you visit his house just to see its eccentric design and decoration and wish you could take it all home with you! Seriously, we both loved it! It was such a magical house, full of things like stuffed birds in plastic cases from Venezula, maps of the Americas from the 1600´s and doors made out of old staircases. He also had a house in Santiago, which we would definitely have visited had we known about it, and he has another a few hours south in La Isle Negra. If you are ever in the area and are interested in houses, design, art, poetry or just pretty or unusual things, I highly recommend you visit one of his homes!

After three days in Valparaiso, we took our first sleeper bus fourteen hours south to Pucon, which is a little German-style town at the foot of the Andes with an active volcano (Villarica) looming over it. Again, we stayed in great accommodation: in ´Le Tetera´ we had the best breakfast since Indonesia and again got all the local info from the helpful owners. We spent just 2 days there, during which we did a short horse riding trip and had a night visit to some natural thermal pools to relax our sore arses afterwards! The horse riding was brilliant so we´re definitely going to more of it in the coming weeks.

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The next morning we boarded a bus to take us across the Andes into Argentina (an amazing journey!), where we are currently learning spanish and staying with a family in Bariloche. So far its working out brilliantly and the spanish is slowly improving but more about that in the next post.

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