EAA #12 – Onwards to Chile
Did you think I had forgotten? More likely, I had a bit of post-inca trail blues…but then I remembered that the fun had barely begun! If you can’t remember what happened last time, check it out here…and then read on and see what Chile had in store for us.
“Last time I wrote we were returning from our epic Incan adventure, looking forward to (what we hoped) would be an easy ride over our last few days in Peru.
After an uneventful flight, we hopped in a taxi in our last Peruvian city, Lima.
Our only other experience in a capital city in South America had been La Paz, and much like La Paz, Lima was an odd sort of place. A capital South American city doing everything in its power to keep up with its bigger, more popular brother, Northern America, while still trying to hold on to some of the more traditional ways of Peruvian life. The first thing that caught my attention as we drove from the airport was the advertising billboards. Praise the lords, they had regular grocery products! Butter and pasta and muesli bars and everything a first world country girl such as myself holds dear to my heart. But even as I thought this, I spied the tray of a truck carrying three passengers, just casually driving at 60 kilometres an hour down a three lane road. We stopped at the lights, and saw men shouting their wares of chocolates, soft drinks, and biscuits while weaving through the lanes of cars. Peruvian drivers are fond of their car horns, and the near constant cacophony of beeping, tooting, honking, and general noise just for the hell of it followed us on the stop-start drive through the traffic.
We saw KFC (we hadn’t even seen a MacDonald’s in Cusco or La Paz), and what was strangely advertised as PHD – Pizza Hut Delivery. Then came the best sight I had seen in a few days – the ocean. We were finally at sea level and my lungs and heart were thanking me for it!
We arrived at our hostel in Miraflores, one of 43 districts in Lima (which is about the same size as New York City). Miraflores had been recommended to us by Victor, our Inca trail tour guide, as being a very safe district, a fact backed up by the guide books. Our hostel had unfortunately made a mistake with our booking, and so instead of being settled in a comfy 6 bed dorm, we had to settle into a 20 bed dorm with promises that we would move tomorrow. As a seasoned traveler, I honestly did not care too much how many people were in our room (our bags have locks), however the chance of being woken up by drunken people staggering into their beds at 3 in the morning is raised significantly when you have such a large group of roommates. We will just have to deal with it for now!
We bypassed the grilled bananas on the side of the road (Ryan is very wary of street food now) and settled for a couple of mini pizzas from a cafe, some cervezas from the hostel bar, and an early night for me.
The next day we dropped off our laundry ($2.50 a kg) and headed off on a city tour (free city tours that you tip for at the end are the best thing ever). We met in a park that seemed a haven for cats (with water bowls and everything) and headed into downtown Lima for a half day where we saw the changing of the guards at the presidential square (pretty funny), yet another Cathedral San Francisco (getting old) tried some more chicha (black corn drink), empanadas (meat and veg pasties of a sort) and several flavours of pisco (a South American brandy made from fermented grapes). We finished off the day in our 20 bed room (no other beds available still), after a homemade pasta dish courtesy of Ryan and the hostel kitchen – having a supermarket is a novelty that I don’t think will wear off anytime soon.
The next day was lazy – we went and had a coffee (still can’t find anything half decent), bought another suitcase (purely for souvenirs!) and went and saw X-Men Days of Futures Past at the movies – if you ignored the Spanish subtitles it was easy to forget we were so far away from home for a couple of hours, and only when I went to the bathroom afterwards and was confronted with no toilet seat did reality hit – we were still so far from home, and the homesickness which I had staved off came back. We’d been gone for 5 weeks, with another 5 to go…and as much fun as I was having, I was also missing home like crazy.
The day also marked our 6 month wedding anniversary – has it really been so long already?!? We celebrated (at least that was my excuse) by going to a restaurant that Victor had also recommended to us – Alfresco served amazing seafood, and my sea bass was absolutely divine. We finished up with frozen yogurt from Pinkberry (there are lots of different chains in the Americas) where you can choose your flavours and toppings. We also returned to our hostel to discover we had finally be moved to a 6 bed room – a perfect night!
We celebrated the next day, our last day in Peru, by going to some souvenir markets and an English pub to watch the champions league final game of Real Madrid vs, Athletico Madrid – the place was packed and I’m sure if I’d spoken more Spanish I would have had a much better idea of what everyone was going on about – it was a nail biting game none the less and hopefully a taste of the great atmosphere we will experience in two weeks time!
That night we were off to our next country – Chile. I had unfortunately developed a cold and was hating the 10.40pm 4hr flight. I think that this was the first time I have slept on a flight with no trouble at all, with strepsils, vicks vaporub, and Ryan’s shoulder to keep me company. We arrived in Santiago and got a taxi by 3am. The running joke as soon as we stepped out of the airport was ‘it’s chilly in Chile!!’.
With the foggy highway as our company, we made our way to our hostel, fell into our bunk beds fully dressed, and didn’t stir until lunchtime the next day. Needless to say, we didn’t do much when we awoke. We ventured into the city centre and were confronted by masses of people and all the shops closed – we later found out that all the museums and government buildings were opened for the day for free – and we walked right pass them, blissfully ignorant – doh! The city itself was beautiful, beautiful buildings, regal architecture and so clean compared to what we’d seen so far! We didn’t stay for long, however. The chilly and broken sleep had done nothing for my cold, and after purchasing some cold and flu tablets (a very confusing ordeal for the pharmacist, despite me pointing firmly at the very products IN A BOX ON THE COUNTER) and some groceries (from another supermarket!) we went back to the hostel for home-made Asian chicken noodle soup – it truly is good for the soul – I was feeling better already!
They following day we slept in and missed the morning walking tour – luckily, however, there was an afternoon one, so we busied ourselves walking through the city, trying (and failing) to find a nice coffee (Ryan just cannot understand the lack of it in South America). What we did find was some amazing murals, showing some of the rich culture that the Chilean people had on offer. The mural below shows the juxtaposition that the people of Chile feel between their history and roots, and the Western ways they have adopted in order to prosper.
The walking tour itself was great – we learned some fascinating history of the city, it’s changes through major right wing dictatorship (divorce only became legal 3 years ago), and some hilarious city quirks because of this history. Even today, there are what’s called ‘Coffee With Legs’ establishments – the only way that coffee was accepted as a regular beverage was by having it served by young and beautiful, scantily clad waitresses, and sometimes accompanied by little bit more, if you get my drift! Chile was full of surprises! It is definitely a world above the dirt and poverty of Peru and Bolivia, much closer to what we have at home. Yet, somehow, still distinctly South American.
We decided to take a two night sojourn to another city, just to experience a bit more of what the country has to offer, so the next morning we set off to Valparaiso. A gorgeous seaside town, famous for its many hills, funiculars, and extensive street art, Valparaiso didn’t disappoint.
We took yet another city tour – this time discovering the worst street in the city which was once the most opulent, filled with rundown mansion apartments and a half finished hotel, still occupied by the great granddaughter of the original owners (who is now a little old lady). We were followed by the street dogs who favoured our tour guide – an American girl called Shelly who had come to Chile with her husband and never looked back. Gorgeous artwork lined the streets, and the walking tour flew by. We ended the day in a micro brewery restaurant playing cards with a group of Irish, British and American girls who were working teaching English in Argentina. It’s strange, we have meet so many solo female travellers while here, but I don’t think it’s for me.
The next day was absolutely fantastic, despite it being overcast – we had a private cooking class with a lovely woman called Inés. Chilean cuisine is delicious, and being inside in the warm was even better! We started off by agreeing on our menu – a mild Chilean salsa, baked parmesan clams (I KNOW!), home made empanadas, a baked dish called pastel de choclo (baked corn pie), home made pisco sours, and fruit salad to finish. We headed to the markets to purchase all the ingredients fresh, then to Inés’ kitchen – time to get started! The next 5 hours were great – each of the sides was so simple and easy to prepare, yet tasted amazing (even the clams!).
We finished the class absolutely stuffed and completely satisfied, and the only thing we allowed ourselves later that night was some gourmet gelato, before heading to bed.
We caught the bus back to Santiago the following day, for our last day in Chile. One of those boring days, which are sometimes very much needed, of doing washing, some reading, and little else. Though it had been very whirlwind, Chile has definitely been good to us. A world away from Peru and Bolivia, cities of street art, culture, and amazing cuisine. Chile was a country I’ll never forget. Let’s see what Argentina has in store!”