Today is July 18th, the beginning of a big journey. After leaving my family at the Brussels airport it is now time to fly away to Santiago de Chile. It has been 4 months since I know I will be leaving for this country that I know so little about. My first flight brings me to London and the lay over is so short that I just have the time to buy myself a pillow to try to make the trip more confortable. Second fly is to Madrid and during those 2 hours I try to understand why they made me go up to then, make me go down. I'm lucky to have my friend next to me who makes the flights less annoying. Finally I arrive to madrid and after two hours of sitting down and eating chips, it is now time to leave for Santiago.
The fly lasts 14 hours and luckily; movies, books, music and sleep make them go by pretty fast. When I finally open my eyes I realize that I'm above the Andes. All I see in the sun rising behind the shapes of the snowy mountains tops. The plane is going down and I can now see the city surrounded by the beautiful rocky landscape.
Excitement takes me and I can't wait to put my belgian feet on the Chilean ground..
When I get out of the plane the only thing I can feel is the cold. Everyone has told me that it was freezing in Santiago right now and that I should be prepared but as stubborn as I can be I was sure it would be warm cause you know, South America... Not really smart.
For the first 5 nights we are staying in a hostel while trying to find a place to live for the next 6 months. The hostel is situated in Bellavista which is the nicest area to stay if you want to party and have some fun. What else right ?
Those 4 first days are pretty full. As much as people have told me how "europeanized" Chili, or at least Santiago was, the housing is for sure not the same. Here they have no isolation. First cause they don't have much money and second because it's winter only for two months a year so they don't want to invest in keeping themselves warm. The kitchens are decrepit, with only the minimum to cook and the walls are so humid that you can see the water running down. When we finally understood we shouldn't pay attention to the luxury we started focusing on the essential. We have a few options; student house with 25 people, small shared apartment or a family renting 2 rooms in their cute little place. We decided to go with the family.
During those 4 days we also discovered the night life of Santiago and that wasn't a disappointment. Bellavista is an area full of restaurant, bar and night clubs. Chileans are probably as crazy as Belgians about partying and they are the nicest people to be around. During the day, the area is as nice as during the night. The walls are full of murals and it feels like going through a rainbow every time I walk down the streets.
We unpacked our bags in a nice apartment right in front of a Museum and right before school starts we decided to go discover Santiago. Here, there are different spots where you can have an overview of the city.
The first one we went to is the Costanera. The building is the highest building is South America. The first floors are all about shops and food but if you take the elevator to the very last floor, you'll get the most amazing view of the city. The floor is entirely recovered by wood and the room is surrounded by glass walls. From here I can see the different parts of town. I see the nice areas with pretty buildings but I also see the poor part of the city with the small houses and apartments. The cars seems ridiculously small while I feel like a giant. I see the mountain but my sight is blocked by all the smog and for a second I wonder if I love humans for building this tower so I could have this view or if I hate them for not caring a minimum about the planet, but that's another debate.
For the other spot, we had to be a little more athletic. We went to San Cristobal. San Cristóbal is a 300 meter high hill above the rest of Santiago where is erected a statue of the Immaculate Conception. The hike up there took us about an hour and really wasn't bad. On our way up we walk pass a zoo and two pools which must be the places to be during summer. The walk up is beautiful, you can see the city and a lot of nature. When we arrived at the top of the hill everything is quiet and the only thing you can hear are the religions songs they plan in the speakers. The place is really peaceful and the view is breathtaking. Religious or not, it is definitely a place to see.
Today seemed like the right day to go for a hike. We decided to go discover "Aguas de Ramón".
Starting the day way too early for a sunday, we took about an hour to get at the entrance on the national park. From here all we can see is the impressive chain of mountains and I wonder if we are actually gonna climb this. Motivated but not crazy, we decided to go with the intermediate trail which is about 8 km/4 hours long.
The hike start pretty toughly with a really steep trail for about 15 minutes. As we are getting higher, the inner parts of the mountains start to reveal themselves while the city slowly fades away from us. When I turn around I see Santiago as I know it. The clouds are low and cover a big part of the city. All the buildings look similar and only the Costanera is breaking through the white fog.
We keep walking and we are now in the heart of the mountain's life. The trail in itself is stunning ! It follows the side of the mountains with on the right the precipice and on the left the immensity of the Andes. On our way, we sympathize with the ecosystem such as; cactus, wild horses, yellow trees that smell amazing and even cows. As we keep walking, we start to hear what sounds like a waterfall. After looking for it for a while we finally found this cute little water spot and decide to have our lunch here.
After this little lunch break it is time to go back on the trail. We are more that half way into the trail now and we are still discovering this green paradise.
The hike took us about 4 hours and really wasn't too bad. It is the best way to feel happy and relaxed on a Sunday morning !
Trust me Aguas de Ramón is definitely worth the sweat.
Sunday August 13 at midnight we took the bus to go to La Serena, which is 6 hours North for Santiago. After a short, sleepless night we finally arrived in La Serena and while we tried to find a spot for breakfast we saw the sun rising over the beautiful city.
The first day was really peaceful. We walked on the beach for a couple of hours and then in the city which was pretty much deserted. I couldn't complain about it though, it felt good not beeing surrounded by hundreds of people for once. The city is really clean and cute. There are lots of little streets, palm trees and the sun was with us which made the city look even more heavenly. The beach was peaceful with not too many people probably because the water was freezing. The only people in the ocean are the fisherman and the surfers who are playing around with the waves.
Around 6, we decided to leave the group and met up with our host. In fact, for those two nights we decided to stay over at a guy's house for free via Couchsurfing. Once we met him, we went to see the sunset on the beach and then we wet grocery shopping to make dinner. Couchsurfing is a great experience cause you meet a lot of people and you exchange about each others culture.
Monday August 14. This morning we were suppose to wake up early to catch a bus to Punta Choros which is two hours northern La Serena. Unfortunately the alarm never rang and we woke up too late to make it to the bus. We still tried to go to the bus stop but it was to late. Luckily, we met a couple of Chileans who also missed the bus and we decided to rent a car with them. The drive up there was really nice, the landscape kept changing between the ocean, the mountain and the desert. After two hours of driving through those shaking roads we finally made it to Punta de Choros.
Punta de Choros is a natural reserve that protects penguin but also the nature in general. It covers a part of the coast and 3 beautiful islands. It is also the home of dolphins, whales, orcas, sea lions and many other species. All of that probably helps you understand my excitement to be there. Unfortunately when we arrived there, they told us that no boats were leaving today because of the bad weather, which was pretty ironical because I never have seen that much sun in my life, but I guess the wind was a little crazy. So, not gonna lie, my disappointment was HUGE. We had no other choice than leave to go back to La Serena. We still had time to go see the "Cruz del Tercer Milano" and decided to do so.
The Cross is situated in Coquimbo which is a really poor part of the city. The view from the "Cruz del Tercer Milano" is amazing, you see the chain of mountains, the ocean and the multicolor houses. On our walk down to the beach we saw the poverty of the neighborhood. The houses are mostly collapsing, the streets are really steep, in a San Francisco kind of way and lots of broken cars are abandoned in the street. Also the dogs are present in big numbers in the street but we are getting used to that. At the delimitation between the city and the beach, we met some smelly friends, twenty sea lions were chilling there in the sun.
It's is hard to explain the beauty of Coquimbo cause it's a sad beauty. It has lots of charm but you see that it is dirty and that people probably don't have the easiest life there.
For diner we went to this cute restaurant on the beach which was absolutely delicious. During dinner, the couple contacted us to invite us to go back to Punta de choros tomorrow because we all really wanted to see the wildlife.
Tuesday August 15. We woke up at 6.30am and began the drive up to the natural reserve. We were pretty much the first people there and bought our tickets for the boat. The boat was really small,maybe 15 people maximum could fit in it, so we weren't far from the water. The water was blue and while navigated around the islands, I realized it was really similar looking to Ireland with the dark blue water and the green lands. The waves were a little crazy so the navigation was pretty fun.
On our way to "Isla de Damas", we saw little penguins jumping around and sea lions sleeping on rocks as usual, those lazy asses. Then the magical moment happened! We navigated next to a group of 6-7 dolphins for about maybe two minutes. It was crazy seeing them in their natural habitat and I couldn't help but cry a little, yes I have a passion for dolphins Haha.
After some fun in the ocean, the boat dropped us off at Isla de Damas which is a beautiful small island that has white sand beaches, cute little birds and beautiful plants. The trip in total, boating plus visit of the "Isla de Damas" took us about 3 hours.
Around 1pm It was about time to go home, we had lunch on the shore and then got back in the car for the same old two hours drive. Back at la Serena, we basically chilled out on the beach and met up with our friends before taking the bus back to Santiago.
This week end was perfect and made me discover another part of Chile. It is crazy to think that Chile has so many different facets and that they are all as beautiful as one another.
This week-end we decided to go to Pichelemu, which is about 200km away from Santiago. Pichilemu is a beach town, known for its good vibes and its nice people. The center of Pichilemu is pretty exotic, there aren't real street with concrete but the road are just made out of sand. The houses all look alike, colorful frontage with nice little garden. As pretty much everywhere in Chile, streets dogs are everywhere and as soon as they see you, they start following for a little while. You can only be happy in this safe heaven.
Friday October 6, we took the bus from Santiago at 7am and arrived in Pichilemu around 10.30am. For the week-end we booked a hostel called Hostal cuncumén which is located about 10 minutes walking from the beach. The house is organized around a nice garden decorated with chairs, couches and a wood hot tub. The owners are two couples of friends who decided to leave the crowded Santiago for the calm of Pichilemu. After having a little conversation with the hosts we took a collectivo (shared cab) direction Punta de Lobos.
Punta de Lobos is 15 minutes away driving from Pichilemu and it's welcoming, this week-end the women's pro surf competition. When we arrive at the competition we sit on the edge of the cliff and we have a perfect view of the ocean and the surfers who are trying to dance with the waves. For two hours we watch the surfers and apparently the waves aren't that good so unfortunately they don't have many chances to show what they can do. Good for us, many sellers are walking around with all kind of stuff and we decide to buy this yummy "strawberry cover in chocolate on a stick" which keeps us busy for a while ! After getting burned all over our faces, it's about time to go back to Pichilemu. We used our last pesos for the snacks so we decide to hitchhike. After maybe 5 minutes trying, this nice couple takes us and in 10 minutes we're back in the center of Pichilemu. Both hungry we sit at the table of a nice little restaurant and order an empanada and a chorillana, both typical Chileans food. A empanada is basically a warm crunchy bread stuffed with whatever you want and a chorillana is French fries covers with onions, different kind of meats and a egg ! So as you can imagine, all of that is really healthy. After eating like baby pigs, it is time to go back to the hostel.
Pretty exhausted by the day, we decide to make our diner and to head into our room. Used to the perpetual noise of Santiago, it doesn't take me long to fall into Morpheus arms.
Saturday October 7, today after we woke up we had the chance to have the most delicious breakfast/brunch ever: omelet, bread with marmelade or dulce de leche (chilean caramel), crepes, tea, smoothie, tomates with mozzarella, ... No I wasn't joking about the delicious breakfast 😉. After we finished eating, we went to get ready and then we left the hostel to go the beach. The weather is not as sunny as yesterday but that is good for our red faces I guess.
Walking down the beach we run into a sort of stable with maybe 50 horses and we decide to ask to ride them. After the three of us, a monitor is with us, got on the horses it is time for a little ride. Our monitor, Angel absolutely wants to make us cross the part where the ocean gets into the bay, with the horses. Feeling pretty confidant we are thinking that he knows what he is doing so we say that "sure why not". After maybe a minute in the water, the waves being way to strong the horses starts to freak out and the cowboy decide to get us back on the land, thank god. After this scary moment, we have a peaceful ride around the bay.
After our Lucky Luke moment, we saw many surfers, obviously beginners, in the water and decided to try as well. It is pretty easy to find equipment, as practically 1 store out of 2 on the shore is a surfing related store. For 8000 pesos we have our board and wetsuit and it's time to jump into the water.
Surfing isn't easy but how can you not be happy when you are in the Pacific ocean on the west coast of Chile and all you have to worry about is are you or not going to catch the wave ? During the surf session many Chileans in the water are giving us advices and we are getting better and better as the time goes by. At some point I can't feel my arms anymore and it is definitely time to stop trying. After giving back the equipment we are getting back "home" and make diner.
Sunday October 8, today is a really relax day. We hang out on the beach with friends while watching the surf competition. Nothing crazy exiting but actually really much needed.
Pichilemu is definitely a great way to escape the city craziness for the week-end.
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