BootsnAll Travel Network

Archive for the 'Chile' Category

« Home

last day in Chile, a night at the airport and on to Peru

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

My flight to Lima was at 6:55am Wednesday morning.  (only flight available to me with this ticket) You can’t get a bus to the airport until 6:00am, so I had to choose between paying a lot of money for a taxi, and booking another night at the hostel, or, taking the last bus the night before for $4 and spending 7 hours overnight at the airport.  The latter is what I went with, fun stuff.

Before any of that happened, I had the entire day to kill in Santiago so I took the metro to the far side of town, to what were supposed to be interesting historic barrios.  I did not find them interesting, instead found the area I was walking around in to be becoming increasingly dodgy and abandoned the walk, heading back to the city centre. 

barrio brasil

I had a churrassco for lunch, wandered around the pedestrian areas for a while and stopped in at one of the “cafe con piernas”, had a coffee and headed back towards the hostel to kill the rest of the night.  I had two of by far the largest empanadas I’ve seen for dinner and then rolled myself down to the station.

cafe con piernas

By the time I had boarded the airplane around 6:15am, I was very tired, hardly sleeping in the airport.  The flight proved a great place to catch up on some of the lost sleep, nearly 4 hours long, but not before watching the stunning scenery straight after take off.  Flying North parallel to the andes with clouds in the valleys, mountains poking out of them and then watching the sun rise over those mountains was nothing short of spectacular.  Then I fell asleep.

andes at sunrise from the plane

andes at sunrise from the plane

Arrival to Peru was straightforward, I had the usual 2 forms to fill out and the additional currently popular health form because of swine flu.  I am convinced no one ever sees these and they go straight in the bin, waste of paper.  Passport with a fresh new stamp in it I met my driver from the hostel at the airport and we headed off through the, as he called it, the “loco lima drivers”.  Amazingly, I understood a fair amount of what he was saying in spanish and could carry out a decent conversation with him.  Unlike in Chile, here people don’t talk at the speed of light.

The weather in Lima was grey, bleak, on and off drizzle which is the typical winter scene apparently.  At least it’s still 20 degrees in the day.  After dropping my stuff at the hostel I ran out for some lunch and got my bearings in the area.  I’m staying in the Barranco district of Lima and after all the negative comments I’ve heard about Lima I was very pleasantly surprised by this area at least.  Very near the ocean, full of old, interesting buildings and the main plaza of the district is one block from my hostel full of bars, restaurants and cafes.

la playa




After spending the afternoon exploring the district and a power nap I went for dinner, and had some delicious Peruvian food.  I don’t remember the name, but it was rice, layered with mince in a sauce with fried plátano.  Brilliant stuff.  The dish cost $4 as well, bueno.  So after just one day in Peru I’m liking it already, just have to pay a lot more attention when crossing the road than in Chilé! 

night view

parque central at night

iglesia ermita at night

Tomorrow my Uncle flies in and we will meet up and he’ll be traveling with me for my last 5 weeks outside the US, in Peru and Colombia.  Yes I only have 5 weeks until I fly to Miami, time had really started going fast recently…

Santiago de Chile

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Second day in Santiago, I crisscrossed it a couple times on the metro, walked a lot of km and went to most of the areas frequented by tourists.  My conclusion is that there aren’t many things here in the way of attractions, not surprising from what I’d heard, but sometimes the masses get it wrong.

Central Santiago is a typical centre of a city, there’s a lot of pedestrian walkways lined with your typical banks, cafes, minimarkets and restaurants.  The main square, plaza de armas is nice enough, surrounded by old buildings and with some greenery in it.


plaza de armas

After that, I headed over to what I had been told was a good area full of restaurants and stuff happening in one of the modern districts of the city.  It is full of restaurants, I walked by tgi fridays, starbucks and ruby tuesday in the same block, felt slightly disturbed and headed in a different direction only to stumble into this alarming road.


This may as well be in any North American city, I could hardly notice a difference.  I managed to find a cafe hidden away that wasn’t serving steaks or western fast food,  had some very good empanadas and got on the subway to take me away from that district as fast as possible. It was like walking into the USA. I didn’t travel around the world to see more of the same.

Next stop was the cerro san cristobal, the large hill in the middle of the city with the big, obligatory statue of the virgin mary on top of it.  I went up for the view of the Andes and city.  Santiago is extraordinarily close to the mountains but half of the time when you are walking around the city, you look in what you know is the direction of them and cannot see anything but smog.  On top of the cerro you can see over the smog to the mountain range, which is incidentally the worst I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been.  (this is apparently because the city is in a valley and the pollution is trapped in between the mountains)

view from cerro san cristobal

view from cerro san cristobal


On the way back from the cerro, I walked through the bellavista district, home to the lively bars of the city, the bohemian district.  Since I was there at 4pm it wasn’t exactly heaving, but there were definitely some interesting looking bars and restaurants scattered throughout.


Overall it’s hard to describe this place. There’s districts that have interesting cafes, bars and shops and then there’s districts that are mini Americas. It also has much less of the interesting architecture I saw in Buenos Aires, the only comparable city I’ve seen in South America so far.

It’s really strange, I’ve been in South America for over a month and with a few exceptions it doesn’t feel like I’m traveling in South America. The buses are nicer than any I’ve used before, the roads are better than many countries I’ve been to, I have access to every modern convenience I’m used to etc etc. There are a few things that are noticeable here, the amount of street dogs is one, the poor parts of cities I’ve been through on the buses is another. In general though, highly developed and mostly modern. I have a feeling this might change a bit when I fly to Lima, Peru in 36 hours.

Vina del Mar and on to Santiago

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Since I like it a lot I decided to spend another day in Valpo, before heading to Santiago.  I wandered around a few areas I hadn’t walked through yet, this is not hard to do, the city is a maze so just walking around you inevitably come across stuff you haven’t seen before.
It was a gorgeous sunny day, so I caught a bus to the neighboring town of Vina del Mar.  Vina is like the alter ego of Valpo.  Quieter, flatter and where all the rich people in the area live.  Not nearly as much character to it, but it has the beaches.  I walked through the main square and avenues, there are only a few things to look at, it just looks like a mostly modern city.

central sq

After I reached the beach the temperature was at it’s highest for the day, plenty warm enough to lay on the beach for a while, which is exactly what I did…

homer sand art

beach in Vina del Mar looking across the bay to Valpo

Once I got back to Valparaiso I  took one of the ascensors up to near my hostel.  The easy (+ historic and cool) way to go up the steep hills, course you have to pay for these as opposed to walking, otherwise I’d have used them a bit more…

ascensor concepcion

Next morning, Sunday, I got a bus to Santiago.  I really like this traveling on Sunday mornings, the bus stations are 1/4 as busy as during the week, no chaos and far less suspicious looking people hanging around.  3rd week in a row I’ve been in transit on a Sunday!  The bus ride is through small, green mountains dotted with groves of fruit trees, olive trees and vineyards and the closer to Santiago you get, the more of the Andes you see.

view from the bus en route to Santiago

I spent the remainder of my day in Santiago, with my Chilean friend who lives there, who I met in Mendoza a couple weeks back at the hostel there.  He showed around the main areas of the city, and we ate at the really cool central fish market.  The market is unique among fish markets I’ve seen before, the buildings on the perimeter are the market places, looking just like most markets, but the large center is all nice restaurants, serving, yes, fish.

inside the central fish market

inside the central fish market

inside the central fish market

central fish market and the andes


Saturday, August 1st, 2009

I’m really getting used to these overnight buses, I slept more on this one to Valparaiso than any of the previous ones, almost as much as if I was in a typical bed!  I got in to Valparaiso at 8:30 in the morning and then embarked on the 1/2 hour walk to my hostel from the bus station (I’m trying to give up taxis at the moment).  Most of the walk is flat, through the sea level part of the city, but the last part is straight up to get into the cerro alegre where my hostel was.  Valparaíso is built around the bay and the hills start going up fast once you move away from the waterfront, very picturesque but not so much fun walking up the hills with a backpack on.


After I found the hostel and left my backpack there I took a walking tour to orient myself with the city, the price for it included a lunch at a good fish restaurant with a killer view over the city.  I can’t remember the last time I had fish, maybe fish n chips in England!  Good views, good food and a good day.  By the end of the afternoon though I was physically exhausted, the combination of hiking all day the day before, rushing to my bus, then walking around the hills of Valparaiso all of the next day!



The next day, after a good nights sleep and one of the best hostel breakfasts I’ve had I headed out and wandered all around taking loads of pictures.  The buildings here are colourful and of all sorts of different architecture.  None of the buildings are that old, considering the city was founded hundreds of years ago, because in 1906 an earthquake destroyed almost everything here.  What followed was rebuilding the city quickly, though not particularly structurally safe.  All the styles of building, and everything on top of everything else on the hills along with the colours make for some great views though!

cerro concepcion

cerro concepcion

cerro concepcion



I descended to the “plan”, the flat part of the city and went to the working area barrio puerto which has lots of cheaply priced restaurants serving fresh fish and seafood.  I had the paila marina, which was basically a seafood stew served piping hot in a stone bowl, reminding me a little of the dol-sot-bibimbap in South Korea.



After lunch I walked around “the plan” a bit more, before heading back up the hill/cliff to my hostel where I collapsed into a chair.  Later on, I went out at dusk, got a great twilight view of the harbour and then found a restaurant specializing in Chilean food for dinner.  I had the conejo con salsa de vino tinto y frambuesa with a pisco sour, the classic Chilean cocktail.  Good meal.

cerro concepcion


los tres lagos hike

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The day after my epic biking adventure I was going to get up early and catch a bus to the National park nearby for a day of hiking.  However due to the fact that I was completely exhausted, when my alarm went off, I turned it off and went back to sleep for a few more hours.  When I did venture out I didn’t get up to much, just got a badly needed haircut and wandered down to the lake with black (volcanic) sand beaches.

volcanic beach in Pucon

Since I still wanted to go hiking here, I prolonged my stay for that night and booked a night bus to Valparaiso for the next evening.  I managed to wake up at 7:00 the next day, and make it down to the bus station for the (only) morning bus to the national park.  The first thing I noticed when I got off the bus at the park was that it was significantly colder than it was in Pucon, and Pucon itself was pretty chilly.  No further motivation to start hiking needed.  With the trail to the lookout peak closed for the winter due to ice the tres lagos trail was the only option for a day hike, 17.6km round trip and it was a pretty good workout.

view of the volcano over lago Tilquilco

First walking through dense forest, scattered with bamboo, then up into a more airy forest with much larger and taller trees.  To start out with there was no snow underfoot, that soon changed to pack ice and the higher I got, just snow.

bamboo forest



To get to the 3 lakes, you have to climb up what could be mistaken for a small mountain if there weren’t other much larger mountains around it, 700-800 meters is what I had to go up anyway.  Along the way to the top there were a couple lookouts and two waterfalls.  I didn’t think about any of this before the hike (not sure why), but since it’s the middle of winter here, nearly everything is frozen once you get into the mountains.  This means that the higher you get, especially in this national park setting, the more like a untouched magical winter wonderland it looks like.  The waterfalls being surrounded by ice in a million different shapes and sizes, beautiful.


After the waterfalls, and a good deal more hiking through the snow I reached Lago Chico, the first of the 3 lakes (and as the name suggests, the smallest) and the one that was feeding the waterfalls I saw earlier.

lago chico

lago chico

After Chico, was Lago Toro, the most spectacular of the 3 for me, almost completely frozen over, surrounded by snow coated forest and on the far side of the lake, jagged, snow coated, dramatic mountains rising seemingly straight out of the lake.  I decided this was a good place to eat lunch.

lago toro

lago toro

En route to the last lake, starting the loop part of the trail you walk along Lago Toro, but significantly above the lake level, giving you practically a birds eye view of it.

lago toro

The last lake, Lago Verde was pretty uninteresting compared to the others for me, or maybe since I had to walk through the deepest snow to get to it, it was just more work.  Either way, I didn’t linger long there and headed back down the trail I came up to wait for the bus back.  Here’s a few more random photos from the day…

lago verde

lago verde


The bus arrived back in Pucon right at sunset, and it was am absolute stunner, unfortunately my camera batteries died while I was trying to take photos of it, not before I snapped this though…

sunset in Pucon

I grabbed some dinner, in the form of the least impressive empanadas I’ve had yet, and headed back to my hostel where I paid my bill and re configured my bags before leaving for the bus station.  Next stop Valparaiso.

Valdivia briefly, Pucon, and a 40km bike ride

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Instead of spend a whole day on buses and in bus stations, I decided to break up the two 3 hour bus journeys from Puerto Varas to Pucon and spend half a day and a night in Valdivia.  Valdivia is near the coast on the banks of a river, it’s not that big and the main centre is on the river front, where a few colonial buildings remain and the fish market is.  I like fish markets, but this one was nothing compared to the ones I saw in Asia, everything was already dead!


riverfront fish market

central valdivia

After walking around the whole town centre, I returned to the hostel, which got progressively colder throughout the evening.  Seriously, both of my hostels in Chile so far now have been cold when going to bed and freezing when waking up!  Wooden stoves/fireplaces may be quaint, but if they aren’t heating the place up they need an upgrade!

Next morning I left for Pucon, amidst nearly freezing temperatures and thick fog.  Fortunately the fog cleared soon after we left on the bus and the temperature rose gradually all day so by the time the bus arrived in Pucon, the sky was clear and the air not frigid.  Here is the view of Volcan Villarrica from Pucon, one of Chile’s most active volcanos (or so I’ve read).

Pucon and Villarrica Volcano

I didn’t arrive until the middle of the afternoon so it was too late to do much of anything, so I had to wait until the next morning.  I decided to rent one of the hostels mountain bikes and do the circuit recommended by the owner.  He said, “3 hours, maybe 4 if you go slow and stop a lot”.  I managed to return to the hostel (that in itself was a success!) about 5 1/2 hours later.  heh.  Having biked for around 40km, up and down the whole way.  I have not been this exhausted since I climbed half dome in Yosemite last September, I also haven’t ridden a bike anywhere near that far on anywhere near those kind of up and down hills for at least 2 years.

The view was good along the way, crossing a few rivers and getting closer to some mountains you can’t see from Pucon itself, also a different side of the Volcano.


Villarrica Volcano

At one point along the way there is a blue lagoon, and a pool feed by 3 waterfalls in different directions.

blue pool

3 waterfalls

3 waterfalls

The farthest point I got to, was Lago Caburgua, where you can start to see the major mountains in the National Park to the East.  Nice view, but getting up the last 5km (all up) to the lake sapped most of the energy reserves I had.

lago caburgua

lago caburgua

On the way back (all 18km of it) the sun hid behind a cloud, I had wind blowing directly at me and the temperature starting dropping quickly.  Not a good way to end the ride, though this is a good preparation for the inca trail which I’ll be hiking in 3 weeks!  I did have just enough energy left to go to the supermarket to buy dinner and before collapsing into a chair at the hostel, to take some pictures of the stunning sunset, one of the coolest I’ve ever seen!

Villarrica Volcano at sunset

Puerto Varas

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Puerto Varas is a small town on the edge of a lake, with two volcanos on the other side of the lake.  A hotbed of outdoor activities in the summer, somewhat subdued now.  It’s a quaint town, with a good amount of nice 19th century buildings from German colonization. 

19th century church

el centro de puerto varas

I didn’t get to see much of the volcanos though, since they were almost completely covered in clouds the whole time I was there.

looking across the lake to the volcano

I basically chose to spend a day here because it was the closest place to Osorno (where the bus from Argentina stopped) that sounded interesting.  I have noticed some differences to Argentina immediately.
Firstly, there is no change shortage!  Tienen cambio aca!  Unlike Argentina, where a 1 peso coin was seemingly worth more than gold dust due to the lake of coins and certain things (such as some local buses) requiring change, and breaking a 100 peso note (what you inevitably get out of an atm) was not an easy proposition.  Here, I have broken several 10,000 peso notes (what the atm gave me here, worth about 70 arg pesos) at various places with no problem at all.

Things seem less frantic here, and here’s a big thing, cars stop for people!  Though some of this may be because I’m in a small town in the offseason for traveling here.  Also, the empanadas are much bigger here, better value for money but the two I’ve had weren’t nearly as tasty as the Argentinean ones.  Less choices of fillings as well.

bus ride across the andes to Chile

Friday, July 24th, 2009


After the wonderful lookout hike, I decided that would be my last day in Bariloche and Argentina, and I’d leave for Chile the next morning.  This is straightforward enough except that in the evening a group of us stayed up until 4:00.  This isn’t usually a problem, but the last bus to Chile leaves around midday because they have to reach the border before it closes later in the afternoon.  My alarm also failed to go off, but I managed to have just enough time to get my stuff together, eat breakfast and get to the bus station in time.  I didn’t really want to leave Bariloche, or the great hostel I was at there but I’d done the majority of stuff I could do there without spending lots of money on ski lessons or something, and hey I was going to another country so that’s always interesting.  I was thinking, when I got on the bus to leave though, that I’m pretty sure I’ll be back to Argentina, there’s so much I haven’t seen here, in the Northern and Southern parts of the country, especially Southern Patagonia, that I have to come back in the summer some time and see that, it’s so amazing in Bariloche and by all accounts it is even more spectacular farther south.

Moving on though, after the mad rush to get the bus it was time to sit back and look out the window for the next 6 hours since most of that time is going straight through the Andes.  Here’s the view near the beginning. Keep in mind that these were all taking from the bus while it was moving so stuff might be more blurry or crooked than normal ;-)

view of Bariloche and Cerro Catedral



In between the border stations you drive through the pass, where there is a lot of snow and a totally different environment.




After you cross into Chile, you drive down out of the mountains, it then becomes a lot greener, almost like rainforest in the hills before flattening out completely to farmland.  With the odd volcano…


My bus ended in Osorno, where I had to wait for 3 hours to catch my next bus to Puerto Varas, slightly farther South.  I was unimpressed with the efficiency of the Chilean bus station, and nearly missed the bus that was 1/2 an hour late because one of the attendants told me it wasn’t my bus!  The bus itself though was nice and comparable to the Argentinean ones I’ve been on.

I arrived in Puerto Varas at 8:30pm, tired and freezing, and the place the bus let us off didn’t look like the place the guidebook said it would so I just jumped in a taxi for my hostel.  Fortunately it wasn’t very far and as soon as I got there I went out looking for dinner, which I found in the form of a delicious Churrasco, a Chilean steak sandwich with avacado, tomato and cheese among other toppings.  After that completion of an extremely long travel day I went to bed and slept for a long time.