Chilly in Chile (too easy)

Not only is that title HILARIOUS it’s also accurate. Surprisingly chilly at the moment, being near the coast and eventually in a rather vast desert it’s actually been surprisingly cold!

Another day, another continent, another language barrier to approach. Fortunately Spanish isn’t as tricky as Asian languages, couple that with the fact that the majority of countries in South America speak Spanish it leaves you only having to learn one language rather than 7 or 8.

After a super long flight, which sent me back in time 4 hours, I arrived in Santiago. Head to the hostel, crash and hopefully battle jet lag, then meet my friend Cris (who I perviously met in Mongolia and Hanoi) to catch up.

The attempt to battle jet lag did not succeed and I’ve spent the past few days waking up at 5am. That aside it was nice to walk around Santiago with Cris and sample some local beverages. The first, the terremoto, was rather bizarre. A white wine, mixed with grenadine (or creme de menthe) with a pineapple ice cream in it. Incredibly sweet, pretty strong, and consumed by everyone. That made it rather entertaining seeing youth and elderly alike taking part in this strange cocktail. Following that we went to get some Piscoladas (basically pisco and coke), some chips, and as always some conversation about politics, the world becoming more closed off and then anything to take out mind off things. The glass came practically full with very little room for coke making a rather strong drink of it.

IMG_1177The next day I spent again, waking up early, and then sleeping in the middle of the day. It worked out well this time as in the evening the hostel had organised a Mexican fiesta for a guest as it was their birthday. It was good fun (even if it didn’t start until about 11:00pm!) with lots of food, drink (exceptionally cheap wine) and even a mariachi band. A nice way to end my stay in Santiago before heading to Valparaiso, which I associate with pirates!

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So Valparaiso is SUPER hilly, full of street art and lots of little cable cars that can be used to avoid the steep winding paths. I was actually there during one of their holidays, International Workers Day, so loads of stuff was shut (except Starbucks of course) and there was some sort of gathering happening in one of the main squares. Through broken English and Spanish it seemed to be there was a protest about laws of regulation but I don’t know. Anyways something was happening and here’s a bunch of street art photos!

La Serena, not as serene as the name may suggest but definitely calmer than Santiago, and less hilly than Valparaiso. Pretty small coastal town and as with San Pedro de Atacama (which is coming up) it’s more like a base of operations to go to other places. Particularly observatories (renowned due to clear skies and altitude) and Pisco Elqui another place that employs the altitude but this time to create good grapes.

I arrived pretty late at a nice little hostel, it’s labelled as a party hostel but too my relief it wasn’t the kind of party I’ve come to associate with these places and was much more of a relaxed place. Met a few people who convinced me to come with them to Pisco Elqui to go on a tour of one of the distilleries and then that was the majority of my time there. The tour was fairly standard but as I’m not super familiar with the production of pisco it was definitely informative. Obviously you also get to try a few of their products, get a free cocktail and pretty little glass (which I couldn’t carry with me so gave away). The valley itself is super nice as you somehow escape an incredibly grey sky in La Serena to clear blue skies. The claim is that the valley has 300 days of sun and very little rain. The drastic changes in temperature from day to night along with the lack of rainfall and altitude is supposedly what gives the grapes their particularly high sugar content which is what makes this super duper pisco.  I always thought of pisco as a Peruvian spirit but it seems there is a bit of debate surrounding this as the Chileans claim it is theirs. One things for certain is that a Chilean pisco sour does not contain egg white, which is again the one I am more familiar with.

That evening I went to a local blues bar with some of the staff at the hostel and it was really good fun. The band was good (comprising of a double bass, drums, harmonica and guitarist/singer) and they even played a little Beatles tribute at the request of one of the hostel workers as they had an English audience.

San Pedro de Atacama is a drastic change in surroundings to the previous cities. It almost feels like the setting for a Tarantino film. Again the bus was full of people I had previously met it one place or another and we made our way on the 16 hour bus ride journey to SP.

All my new friends were heading to different hostels so we exchanged details etc just incase future travel plans align. I dropped my stuff off and went for a walk around the small town centre and was enjoying the relative peace and quiet (as well as the different scenery) despite the fact that it’s mostly cafes, tour group operators and money changers. Heading back to my hostel I found out another couple I had met in all 3 previous cities had just checked in. It’s not so surprising given how small the town is but there are plenty of hostels to choose from so it’s still a nice little coincidence.

Later that afternoon we went out on a tour towards the ‘lunar’ valley. It was a very alien landscape being comprised of mostly volcanic and slaty materials. Being ‘other worldly’ I think our chances of finding life on other planets are rather slim if this desolate expanse is anything to go by. Unless the planets have a thriving tourist industry of course.

Another days wandering around and I keep seeing people I’ve met one place or another in Chile. More so than anywhere else, Chile has been the country where I’ve bumped into people without planning to do so. I reckon probably because everyone is heading in a certain direction and there are more pre-established stops along the way. It’s not that crazy when you account for this but it still does give you that ‘6 degrees’ feel.

As I won’t be stationary in Chile much longer I decided to try and finish my book about Machu Picchu before I get there (I still have a fair few days) and sat in the main plaza near a little church. Being a Sunday my reading was accompanied by a chorus of children singing their adulations of god making the place seem even more quaint, despite its abundance of tourism.

Ciao for now (I can say that because they speak Spanish).

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