It’s our last night in Chile tonight. What an amazing country!! We spent three days in Santiago, seeing three very different sides of Santiago: the outskirts of the city, the main (and very touristic) city, and the areas that the citizens love to escape to on the weekends – Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. We unfortunately didn’t get to see many of the city’s main attractions due to a prolonged strike by the public sector, which closed almost all attractions… Hence why we took a daytrip out to see the very artistic and bohemian Valparaiso, built into the rocky hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean (and Pablo Neruda’s house); and Vina del Mar, a seaside oasis. We also visited some wineries, during which Niall showed off his wine expertise to the guide and the group.
We left early the day after for La Serena, via a 7-hour bus trip. La Serena can be best described as a sleepy little seaside town, whose nightlife is terribly disappointing, even on a Friday/Saturday night. There wasn’t much to explore, except for its many churches… The best thing that came out of the city was Niall’s newfound love for “completos”, which are essentially hot dogs with avocado, tomato and mayonnaise. (The food in Chile is otherwise very boring – sandwiches, pizzas, pastas; food you can get in Australia, but with less variety… The only unique dish we’ve had are empanadas, sort of like pasties). From La Serena, we took a daytrip to Vicuna, Valle del Elqui and a couple of Pisco distilleries for some tastings. The valley is an incredibly fertile landscape, surrounded by the arid desert mountain landscape. It is an oasis offering many different local specialties beyond Pisco (a spirit distilled from grapes), such as Capao (a round and very sour fruit from a type of cactus) and many variants of Papaya. We also took a tour to the observatory, where we spent the night star gazing and looking through very sophisticated telescopes to see the moon, Jupiter, certain stars and nebulae. The valley has clear skies 300 days of the year, making it a perfect destination for star-gazing. We were lucky enough that we, too, had clear skies, as well as a near-full moon. The day after, we walked to the La Serena beach to visit the “light house” and got very lost in the city looking for a museum that was closed… before boarding an overnight bus in the evening to San Pedro de Atacama. On the way, we stopped briefly (to stretch our legs) in Calama, the town in which the Chilean miners who were trapped not so long ago are apparently based. We learnt that bus food is on par with the food on the planes of better airlines.
17 hours later, we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, in the desert known to be the driest place on Earth. After recuperating from the bus journey by means of lunch and showers, we rented bikes and conducted our own tour of nearby sites, including Pukara (ruins of an Incan fortress) and Quebrada del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), which were freaking amazing!! Highly recommended for anyone passing through this town! Today we went sandboarding in Valle de la Muerte (the “Death Valley”), which was lots of fun. I’m nearly not as daring as Niall, but I think I’m brave enough to try snowboarding next time I meet with the glorious white powder. I stacked it many times, and ended up with copious amounts of sand in my pants. My only complaint about sandboarding?? Walking up sand dunes with a board in the heat is a) tiring and b) not that fun. We then took the afternoon off to recuperate from the adrenaline rush and to prepare for our overland adventure over the next few days, before heading off to the Valle de Marte (Salt Canyon), Valle de la Luna (“Moon Valley”), Tres Marias (the “Three Marys”) and Valle de la Muerte. We watched the sunset over the Andes on the ridge above Valle de la Muerte, which was stunning, though Niall missed most of it by attempting to build a tall tower of rocks.
Tomorrow we leave for Bolivia. We’ll be moving from South America’s richest country to its poorest, so the contrast will be interesting to see. We’re doing a 4×4 overland journey to the salt flats near Uyuni in Bolivia and will be ascending from 2500m above sea level in San Pedro de Atacama to over 5000m in the space of a couple of days. Wish us luck with the altitude, crossing the border and the overland journey!!
In case we don’t post again in time, hope you all have a fantastic Christmas!!
Lots of love! xoxo