Isolation with company

Easter Island Easter Island

This is the third unplanned detour in my trip (after Antarctica and Rurre), and my second out of South America (Easter Island is part of Oceania, though it belongs to Chile) – coming this late, it meant sacrificing a bit of my original plans (northern Peru), but after seeing an extremely cheap flight from Lima, I just had to take the opportunity. Yes, it’s cheaper, almost half the price to fly internationally to Easter Island than to fly from Chile! I even saw Chileans on my flight.

I met up with Tor and Mikkel in the airport, and we shared our experiences from the last two weeks – I had known in Rurre that they would also head to Easter Island, on the same days that I was considering at the time. (I waited to enter Peru before buying my ticket just 10 days before the flight, a risk that paid off as it was far cheaper.) Seems as though we have a very similar itinerary. Continue reading

Irony

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

I’ve had minimal problems with weather in the last few weeks – I’ve been lucky.  You’d think that I’d be fine in the driest desert in the world.  Well, turns out that there’ve been record-breaking rains and floods here.  (In the meantime, southern Chile, which usually has a lot of rain, is suffering from drought.)

The floods have subsided a little, but there are now new rivers and new bridges must be built.  Also, some attractions are not viable in rain, and it still rains here occasionally – odd for a city that usually never sees a single cloud.  As a result, many attractions here are inaccessible for tours – including Laguna Cejar, which I wanted to see: a lake like the Dead Sea in that you float because of the salinity.  When the attractions do open, the tours fill up almost immediately. Continue reading

Cama

Route 5, Chile

Spending 24 hours bussing isn’t very pleasant.  But at least it’s much cheaper than flying.  Normally, I’d go for the semi-cama class of seats (cama means bed), which is comfortable enough…if you’re going for like 12 hours.  But if you need to sleep?  Full cama is where it’s at.  After all, it’s AtaCAMA I’m going to, not Ata-semi-cama.

Well, sort of.  My first bus was 17 hours to Antofagasta, and that was full cama.  I slept for a lot of that.  But how do you kill the rest of the time? Continue reading

Sprawl

Santiago, Chile

Immediately upon arriving in Santiago, I booked my passage out again.  Second time in a row (Valparaíso was the first) – bad, I know, for a city I haven’t even seen yet, but necessary during peak season!  My next destination is San Pedro de Atacama, a 23 hour bus ride away.  Unfortunately, all direct buses were booked until Tuesday, and same for buses connecting in Calama.  Fortunately, my Amazing Race fandom came in handy, as I knew I could connect in Antofagasta.  Unfortunately again, my extremely lacking Spanish made this a very large ordeal to book.  Fortunately again, the guy at the bus company was super nice, made sure everything was clear (despite the speedy Chilean Spanish), and even walked me to the other terminal where my bus is to depart.  The whole peak season thing factors in again though – I had to settle for a higher class seating than I intended, which means paying a lot more, but hey, for a full day on a bus, it’ll be nice.

I arrived at the hostel Lihuén recommended, and then managed to meet up with Amanda (Sweden), whom I met waaaay back on my very first day in Buenos Aires!  Santiago is her home base, so she became my guide for the day.

But first – lunch.  Hadn’t eaten anything since the giant dinner in Valpo the night before at 8:30pm, and it was now 2:30pm.  Oops.  Amanda and I wandered in to Barrio Bellavista and quickly found a restaurant.  Upon her suggestion (and the kitchen running out of my first choice), I ended up with pastel de choclo, which is mashed corn, chicken, ground beef, onions, and a couple olives and raisins, all baked in a clay pot.  Delicious beyond imagination, but extremely filling – I couldn’t finish more than three quarters! Continue reading

Colour, contrast, clines

Valparaíso, Chile

Back in the big city – and this one could very well be my favourite of all time.


Valparaíso is a study in contrasts – upon arriving, it seemed gritty and run down.  El Plan, the only section of town that isn’t hilly, clearly bears the signs of decline.  I was even told explicitly to avoid some areas.  But after taking my first of many ascensor (funicular) rides to my hostel in Cerro Alegre, there is a dramatic change in scenery – and the fact alone that I had to take a funicular obviously sticks out. Continue reading

Effort

Puerto Natales, Chile

Instead of staying in Punta Arenas for a few days like I originally planned (to see some Magellanic penguins…but kind of not necessary after seeing literally a million of them in Antarctica), I jumped my hostel booking and went along with Courtney and Simon to Puerto Natales. (I assumed that I would only forfeit my $2 booking fee, but turns out I was billed the full $20 for one night. Oh well, at least I saved some time, but I’ll try not to do that again – bad for me and bad for the hostel’s business.)

It’s hard for anything to top Antarctica, that’s for sure. But I was rattled out of that mentality almost immediately during the drive to Puerto Natales – places are different. There are different things to appreciate. And that drive was beautiful – Patagonia is very flat, with lots of dry brush around. On our left were mountains in the distance, on our right was water. Plenty of animals around with so much space to themselves – sheep and ostriches on the sprawling estancias, and some possibly wild guanacos (they look like smaller llamas). Continue reading