Chile (pronounced Chill aye), is the first stop in my South American adventure.
South America is all about lines… long lines, of people, at immigration. If you’re Australian, before entering into Chile, be prepared to fork out $117USD. Yep, a moderate, below the belt love tap, applicable only to Australians, however, payment must be made in US dollars. Rude.
An Uber takes me to my hostel. I choose the third level bunk bed, bc I can handle the altitude. Wearing a lot of layers… Blood noses, cold sweats and even colder temperatures. Why did I choose to leave Australian winter and travel to an even colder climate?!
Recent snowfall has closed Caja Del Maipo and Emblase El Yeso so I’m looking for alternative attractions to visit.
Situated behind my hostel (La Chimba) is Cerro San Cristóbal Hill. At the highest point, stands a 22 metre statue of Virgin Mary looking out over Santiago City.
The top can be reached via road, hike or cable car. I choose the hike. The views are obstructed by pollution. Smog cover gives way periodically to reveal mountain ranges with white chocolate tentacles, dripping down their sides. Wow!
9/07/19 Up early, I opt to run the Cerro San Cristóbal trail from yesterday. Pitch black at 6:30am, sunrise isn’t til 7:45am so hopefully the view will be clearer than yesterday’s. The gates to the church and monument at the top are closed… some fence scalling later, cut to, standing at the base of the Virgin Mary statue, smog continues to obscure views of Santiago City. Walking down past a security office, a dog and guard approach. “Salida”, I say, pointing to the gate/ fence I’d jumped to get in… “si”, the guard replies. Off I go, back over the fence n down the hill.
At 10am, I join a walking tour of Santiago City. A local stray dog resembling hairy maclary follows the group, chasing cars and keeping us company. Stray dogs here can live better lives than the homeless and Chilean people. In Chile, stray dogs get free vet care, vaccinations, locals dress them in coats for additional warmth, feed and befriend them. No mangey, malnourished dogs to be seen.
Trawling the local markets, I spot a rare fruit. Pepino! Immediately, I’m taken back to my childhood, memories of mum introducing the pepino bush in the garden. I purchase a few for the road and sample a local snack, Sopaipillas (Pumpkin flat scones) accompanied by a supped up picco de Gallo salsa and a pollo empanada. Yum!
Santiago is divided by the nice old colonial side and La Chimba or, “the other side” (where the lower socio economic demographic of the population resides according to the tour guide). At a road crossing, a local warns us to wear our bags on our chest as we transition into La Chimba. This is my part of town, petty crime and never ending street art (I’m still Lena from La Chimba).
On the Metro, a guy sets up a speaker, a microphone and begins to rap to Snoop Dogg in Espaniole… vibing this place.
Last stop on the walking tour is the Cemetery where we receive a condensed but thorough lesson in Chilean political history and the impacts of socialism under the previous dictatorship.
Chileans believe you die twice. The first death; when you lose your life, the second death; the day you’re forgotten. Heavy. Death is celebrated more liberally and ritually here.I meet a couple of girls on the walking tour, Kim (Aus) and Ida (UK). We meet back up later for a few drinks. Mojito’s here are not the best, but the Pisco and Amoretto Sours are delicious.
10/07/19 – So, I’m hung, at Santiago airport. Playing beer pong n shit talking at the hostel last night made this morning… sour… like the Piscos n amarettos consumed in the hours prior to flying out. Miraculously I’ve checked in for my flight to Buenos Aires and am borderline conscious. A pattern is developing, where my knee jerk reaction to catching international flights is to get absolutely white girled the night before, creating somewhat of an “obstacle course” for myself the next day… will she make it, won’t she make it, will she throw up, will she wear socks with her sketchers? Spoiler, she makes it, and she throws up.
What’s up Argentina!