The First Week in Chile: Santiago

Landing in Santiago brought my count of continents visited to 5 (NA, SA, Europe, Asia, Australia – Africa and Antartica still await).

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Plaza de Armas in Santiago

Flexibilidad

The first three days in Santiago were not good, entirely because of jet-lag and the inability to sleep in the hostel I had booked (in my defense, I had been told that the Hostal Providencia was a middle ground where private rooms would give me a better experience, but the hostal was still incredibly loud, the facilities are not well maintained, and it just wasn’t for me).

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A view from Cerro San Cristobal (and my travel companion)

When I don’t sleep, I’m more anxious, and for the last couple of years, I’m not in great shape after long international flights. I began to doubt the whole trip: What was I doing out here? As I learned more about the roads South of Santiago, I questioned where I should start. Everything was up in the air. The planner in me really did not like that.

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There are a lot of murals all over Santiago. Some are better than others. This one says, “Please try not to butcher our language too badly. Maybe you should just speak English?”

A couple of quick steps – moving to a basic hotel, and starting to talk to tour companies, got me the sleep I needed and more information about the possibilities of the trip.

And, as I realized the cycling portion was going to take a bit more planning, even when I was trying to go unplanned, I made the biggest shift of all, to head to Easter Island on Wednesday.

Santiago

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A well fed pre-Colombian dog. Bear’s cousin from another continent.

While the West side of Santiago is not beautiful, it does highlight the growing divide between wealthy and poor Chileans in the city. The East side is modern, bright, and meets the expectations of a city of 7 million. The center is what you’d expect: crowded, loud, full of nightlife, museums, restaurants, and activities.

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Bryan and the Big Chicken (“Gallina Grande”). An art installation part of the “Hecho en casa” festival in Chile.

Generally the people of Santiago are friendly, with the exception of the wait staff in restaurants, which is a coin flip between either warm and helpful or rude and incompetent.

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“La Chascona” is the house of Pablo Neruda. The name comes from his nickname for his secret girlfriend, which basically translates as “a hot mess”

Los Andes

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I did two excursions in the Cajón del Maipo, one in a tour van and another into La Valle de La Engorga, a steep hike up to a Refugío (shelter) among rocks, shrub, and snow.

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The Refugío, or shelter, for the hike up towards the San Jose Volcano. We’re at 3100 meters at this point (we started at 2200 meters). Patricio does some crazy mountain biking, carrying his bike to the top of 6,000 meter peaks and then riding down.

The Andes here are exceptional – an amazing mountain range that jumps straight out of the plains of central Chile, in every color and posture imaginable, filled with glaciers, a vast playground for rock climbers, and vistas that attach to your deepest love of nature.

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Next: Easter Island

I’m planning to disconnect a lot more than I did while in Santiago, which will be like water for chocolate. Though I have no idea what that means.

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