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Published: October 16th 2008
It was a sad farewell to Peru after far too short a time, we vow to return one day! The flight we took to Santiago was slightly strange in that it more resembled a bus journey with no fewer than four stops on route, oh well what can you expect for the price we suppose. Even still the few hours spent in transit were nothing compared to the days of travel that would have been involved had we really been on a bus!
We arrived at our chosen hostel, Moai Backpackers, which actually turned out to be one of our favourites so far, very fitting we thought to end up in such nice and friendly surroundings. We spent a day or two exploring Santiago properly this time. We visited the city centre and many plazas and squares, with wee stops in lovely cafes overlooking green and pleasant parks. One thing we did notice straight away is that after spending so long in Bolivia and Peru respectively, Santiago is a whole world away in terms of its modernity. To have come from relatively basic surroundings to step off the plane and be surrounded by skyscrapers and five lane motorways was a
Colorado ski resort, Andes.
tad overwhelming, we were more used to dirt roads and crumbling buildings by now! Santiago itself is brimming with western influences, modern shops and fashions abound, with a McDonalds or Burger King on every corner. But the new seemed to blend with the old architecture well, with high glass walled buildings sat side by side with the ornately decorated colonial styles so widespread in South America.
In one of the many squares called originally (not) Plaza de Armas there was a large open air pavillion with row upon row of chess boards on tables, with hardly a spare seat in sight! Here there was a constant flow of players pitting their wits against one another, with the old playing the young and folk from every walk of life involved. Some of the games took place at blinding speed with a move every second and some were timed by a clock. But there were also the more relaxed matches with opponents puffing away on a cigarette or enjoying a nice ice cream as they pondered their next move. It was an interesting place to sit and watch these exchanges with the city life buzzing on all around us, a little
oasis of calm.
After a fun few days we took a bus to the city of Valparaiso on the coast, a place Karen had long looked forward to visiting. The bus journey out of busy Santiago was a breath of fresh air after the frenetic city as we passed green rolling hills and vinyards. Valparaiso is built on the steep hilsides overlooking the pacific ocean and therefore it is really split into two levels. There is the lower more modern city with the busy port and above this the distinctive barrios which are reknowed for being very bohemian and arty. These upper areas are accessed by 'ascencores' or a 'trollybus' as they are sometimees called. These are funny little lifts which run up and down all day on a monorail ferrying the populous between the two levels of the city.
Many writters, artists, musicians and poets have taken up residence here and their influence can be seen almost anywhere in the town. Most stairwells or alleyways, usually dank smelly places to be avoided, have been transformed into bright cheerful places. The walls are covered in cartoons or paintings by local artists or even lines of poetry and song.
The very houses in which people live have also been turned into striking pieces of art, each one painted in different colours and decorated with beautiful second hand junk! This is why the charming city has been granted status as a UNESCO world heritage site. We spent our time here exploring the different barrios and enjoying the views of the bustling port. It was great to wonder the streets as almost no wall or lampost was left untouched by an artist's brush with bright colours greeting you at every turn. Wandering the streets we were also entertained by puppeteers, guitarists and even the navy's brass band. Perhaps our favorite time was spent listening to a local tango band one evening in a moody bar where the people were just as interesting to watch as the band. All very boho darling!
Following our enjoyable jaunt to the coast we then ventured up into the mountains once again. We had planned to do something special both to end our time in South America and also to celebrate both our birthdays, Tony's being the umentionable milestone of... ahem. We had always hoped to catch some snow based antics somewhere on our trip
and after looking into the possibility of skiing this idea quickly grew on us. Especially after our dissapointment of not reaching Ecuador etc, we decided it was worth the splurge. So we booked ourselves onto a cheeky wee mini break in the South American Andes for some skiing and boarding.
As we travelled into the mountains we were greeted by the comical sight of cacti covered in snow, something we had not seen before. Driving higher there was more and more snow surrounding us before we finally arrived at our appartment. The apartment was right next to the main lifts and had grand views of the beautiful mountains. Thankfully our visit coincided with a huge dump of snow which meant that not only were the mountains spectacular to look at, they were fantastic to ski on as well. The runs were many and varied which kept us both busy, Tony on his skis (thankfully Tony's knee injury had had about a week to recover and he was able to ski) and Karen on her snowboard, also to our great surprise the slopes were also totally uncrowded! After a long day on the slopes it was back to our cozy
appartment where a hot bath was first on the agenda to ease our many aches and pains (very sore indeed). Second up was a glass of Chilean vino tinto as we fell asleep by the warm log burner. Muy Feliz!
All to quickly our time on the slopes was over and it was back to Santiago. We agree that it was a once in a lifetime chance to ski in the Andes, it was a memorable and special way to celebrate our birthdays, if rather extravagant. You only live once eh!
Back at Moai backpackers hostel it was time for one last conversation about how much we were going to miss South America, how much we had enjoyed our time, how much we longed to visit again before we had even left! These conversations had become more and more frequent and now the time to say farewell was finally upon us. South America has been a very special place which has touched us both in so many ways. We cannot believe the amazing experiences we have had so far and we feel so lucky. Our memories will stay with us forever, South America is a breathtaking, stunning place
We found this cola based drink at Arequipa airport... supposedly it is the city's famous drink! Cola Escocesa, or Scottish Cola... how bizarre.
and we have fallen in love with it. Adios Amigos. New Zealand here we come!
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