Published: July 26th 2010July 24th 2010
From Trelew, Argentina I flew via Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile. Once I arrived there, Marcial picked me up and brought me to a hostel. The plan was to go out that night (Thursday) but he was very tired so was I, so nothing happened that day. I met Marcial in Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam in 2008. There we went out, did tours and visited some attractions together. We kept in contact ever since via internet. Chile
Currently the wealthiest country in Latin America and therefore the country that ranks highest in general living conditions, Chile stretch more than 4000 km from north to south but only about 200 km wide. Like Argentina, the country has a wide variety of landscape and vegetation. The country has 17 million people with more than a third living in the capital.
The country is economically advanced and well developed, but, like in Argentina and Uruguay, there is poverty here too. Chile has actually the second worst wealth distribution in Latin America, after Brazil which remains the worst. So homeless people, kids asking for money and slums are no exception in Chile.
Chile is also, probably, the
most expensive country in Latin America. I found general prices to be very high, at Curaçao standards. People earn a lot less here so things are way too overpriced here, except wine, fruits and vegetables which are produced here. Even gasoline is more expensive than in Curaçao. Chile has the same time as Curacao has. The currency is the Chilean Peso (CL$). One US$ is about CL$ 530 these days. To make it easy I always divide by 500 of course.
After being here for a bit longer than a week, I learned a lot of Chilean words using during conversations like:
Esa wea (that thing), weon, guagua (baby or girl), cachai (do you understand), quico (affluent & arrogant people), flayte (non-educated people, bad manners) etc.
In Chile people stared and kept looking at me a lot when I walk around, which was really strange to me because I didn’t expect it. In Argentina that wasn’t the case. But after asking some people, including Marcial and his friends, I came to the conclusion that there are not many coloured people in Chile and they’re less “globalized” compared to Argentina. Santiago
The capital and largest city of Chile,
Santiago, has about 7 million people and lies at an elevation of about 500m. Now during the winter day temperatures reached about 15°C while I was here, the coldest was -3°C one morning. Because there’s not a lot of wind, you don’t feel the cold that much.
In Santiago I visited the Parque Metropolitano de Santiago. Here you go up a hill called Cerro San Cristobal in a funicular. This hill rises 400 m above the city. There is also a nice, big zoo up the hill which was worth visiting. On the top of the hill there’s a statue Virgen Maria (Virgin Mary).
From the top you can enjoy excellent views of Santiago and the Andes mountains covered with snow in the background. The smog was also clearly visible here, except the day after it rained, when the skies were cleaner and that day I went to Cerro San Cristobal again. Both days were very crowded because the kids have two weeks vacation. I also visited Santiago Centro (downtown) which was very busy. The Plaza de Armas was great. Nice atmosphere, many people playing chess, kids feeding pigeons, others were playing music in order to get coins from
the pedestrians, others were acting as a clown and doing funny things which attracted a big crowd. The Cerro Santa Lucia was also great to climb. It’s not that high, it rises 120 m above the city. You can climb to the top within 25 minutes on a slow, relaxed pace. The hill is in the city center and there’s a castle on the hill called Castillo Hidalgo, built in the 1870's . From the top you can enjoy views of the city. Another nice experience was the Mercado Central (market). In the market there are many stalls selling fruits, vegetables, clothes etc. but primarily seafood! There’s A LOT of seafood in the market. There are many little restaurants in the market selling primarily seafood of course and here I had a good fish with rice and vegetables as lunch!
Santiago has an excellent and expensive metro system (subway) with four lines: Metro de Santiago. I took the metro several times as its convenient and easy, bringing you near all places of interest! I stayed at a hostel, which actually is a house that normally hosts students that come for exchange from abroad. But they also rent rooms per
night. The owner, Jessica and her husband and son, Rodrigo, were extremely friendly people and I felt right at home straight away!
Marcial, my friend, is very crazy and all he does is “party”, a lot! He’s going to Cancun with some friends during the USA-Spring break in March, I “wish” I could join them too! He works during the week so he only had time during the weekend. We went out twice together with his friends and had a very good time. I was hearty accepted by all of them and I always felt comfortable. The first time we went to the apartment of Alejandro, one of his friends, where we just chilled, drank a bit etc. Alejandro’s girlfriend, Juan Luis and his girlfriend and Cristobal were the other friends of Marcial present this evening. After this, most of us went to a club and I arrived back at the hostel at 5:30. Marcial was totally wasted and fell asleep on the backseat of the car hahaha! The second time, Marcial picked me up at the metro station and we went to a cafe where his friends were waiting for us. After a while we went to a
club in the city, where, again, we had a very good time...actually it was better than the first time (I’m not telling why it was, hahaha). One Sunday Marcial invited me to come to his house where we had lunch and I also met his mom, brother (Cristian) and sister (Carolina). It was actually the second time that I saw his mom and brother then. I spend the whole afternoon and evening there, just chilling, talking a bit and so on; a very nice and friendly family. Marcial’s father is abroad for work at the moment.
In Chile, friends call each other “weon” or “perro”, it’s very common and I already knew as Marcial used to call me “perro” on Facebook. His nickname under his friends is Tsunami, God knows why, hahaha! Cristobal’s nickname is El Profe, Juan Luis is called Juan-Asco. During my stay they called me “El Loco-Elton”, hahaha! We drank some Pisco both nights, which is a Chilean drink...it’s like a rum you could say but it’s not rum. They mixed it a lot with Coca Cola so they call it “Piscola”. It’s a nice mixdrink and I’m thinking about buying one or two bottles to
take to Curacao. Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
I left Santiago on a Monday to visit Valparaiso and Viña del Mar for 3 nights. Valparaiso lies about 100 km west of Santiago and has about 300.000 inhabitants. Vina del Mar lies just 8km northeast of Valparaiso and has also about 300.000 inhabitants. Vina del Mar is well known for the annual song festival “Festival Internacional de la cancion de Vina del Mar”, held in February during the Chilean summer since 1960. Viña del Mar is just another city, popular especially in the summer when many Chilean and also Argentinean tourists come to spend a couple of days in the city. I went to Valparaiso and Viña together with Luis from Mexico City, who was also staying at the hostel in Santiago. He went back to Santiago the same day. In Viña del Mar we visited the Reloj de las Flores (Flower Clock) and a stadium where they played Fifa World Cup games back in 1962 when Chile hosted the event. We went up a hill with great views of the city and visited a nice, quiet park with a lagoon which is located near the stadium. Also nice was
a walk along the boardwalk where there are many small stalls where they sell souvenirs etc. The boardwalk goes along the coast and the beach. Popular among the locals is the casino, which from the outside doesn’t look like a casino at all. Getting to Viña from Valparaiso is easy as there is one metro line that connects both cities.
Valparaiso is far more interesting than Viña del Mar. Valparaiso is unique in her style. It’s a very important harbour to the country. The city center doesn’t lie far from the coast, but the rest of the city consists of more than 40 hills, all with their own name. My hostel was located near Cerro Alegre, but it wasn’t all the way up the hill. Colourful, little houses cover all the hills in the city. All the hills have a lift: a funicular that takes you all the way up and costs around CL$300 one way. This is what Valparaiso is well known for. Other nice areas were Paseo 21 de Mayo, Plaza Sotomayor, Plaza Bolivar, Plaza Victoria etc. in the city center. Valparaiso is also known for her trolley bus and it’s the only city in Chile left with
this trolley-bus which work by using electricity lines hanging above the street; like in Arnhem, Netherlands. In both cities there was some evidence of the 8.8 earthquake that hit central Chile back in February. Valparaiso is a student city hosting students from throughout Chile. During my stay they had holidays and most of them go home, which was the reason nightlife was very slow in the city those days. In Valparaiso I met some people from Couchsurfing with who I went one night out in Viña del Mar where it was crowded with both foreigners and Chileans primarily from Santiago. I also spent a couple of hours in Reñaca, which is just a bit further than Viña del Mar. It’s like a tiny version of Vina.
Well that’s enough for now I think. Next step will be San Pedro de Atacama, Antofagasta and back to Santiago to take my flight back to Curacao via Bogota.
There are more photos below