Feeling the Heat in Chile
As much as we would have loved to see Bolivia, flight/time/money-wise, it made more sense to fly down to Santiago, Chile to start the next part of our adventure.
We arrived into Santiago at 4 in the morning, and the hostel we were staying at was kind enough to let us get some sleep on the couch before we could check in to our room. Surprisingly, we accomplished a lot after just a few hours of sleep! We ate a delicious breakfast at a very Vancouver vegan restaurant, and then continued to peruse around the trendy neighbourhood we were staying in, called Barrio Italia. The streets were lined with designer furniture stores, coffee and ice cream shops, boutique clothing stores, etc. Basically a more upscale version of Main Street in Vancouver. We found ourselves wondering why Calgary didn’t have anything like this! The way the streets were designed, there was one main opening to the street with a long corridor that lead to a number of other stores along the way, and usually an indoor/outdoor cafe at the back. It was such an interesting use of space and design, and we eagerly browsed through the endless corridors to satisfy our curiosity. Santiago felt like a European city; beautiful French architecture, lots of parks and monuments, and many outdoor patios and cafes and boutique shops lining pedestrian-only streets.
That first afternoon we took a walking tour of Santiago. We have taken these free walking tours in a number of cities in South America. Basically you show up, and an English speaking guide takes you and a group of 10-20 other tourists around the city, providing lots of history and context, and pointing out the main things to do and see. We have found these walking tours to be quite interesting, and a good way to get our bearings when we arrive in a city. Most of the tour guides have a University degree in history and are working towards a masters or some other career in tourism, and they are a great resource!
The tour ended near San Cristobal Park, and so we figured since we were there we might as well check it out. The line-up for the cable car was about 45 minutes, so we decided to walk up instead. It was after 6 PM but the sun was still beating down. We watched as tons of local cyclists decked out in spandex powered by us. What a way to spend a Friday night! At the top we took in a view of the whole city. For dinner we tried some typical Chilean food.
The next few days we stayed in the downtown area. Our Airbnb was right around the corner from the Pre-Colombian Art Museum, which is a beautifully designed building. We spent one morning roaming around their art exhibits and imagining the daily life of people who lived in the Pre-Columbian era.
One full day was spent at the mall buying camping gear for the next part of our journey. It was hard to bite the bullet and buy gear when we have a full set of perfectly good quality camping equipment at home...but we really wanted to be able to experience Patagonia to the fullest. We are hoping we can sell our gear to fellow travellers once we are done, although I can already tell Devon has dreams of bringing the tent back to Canada with us...that would be the third tent he owns...we might need to stage an intervention. To give you an idea, within 10 minutes of when we got home from the mall, Devon had set up the sleeping bags, mats, and tent, and let me tell you, it was like seeing a kid on Christmas morning. In the end I think it will be worth the time, effort and money - we will keep you posted!