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Irene's Adventures

Chili - Vina del Mar

CHILE | Monday, 29 October 2007 | Views [302]

border road


It was time to head off to Chile for the last few days of our South American trip.  Before we could get into the country, we had to go through the insanely thorough, insanely paranoid Chilean border controls.  They are really crazy about not letting any form of food into their country and nearly all bags are searched and sniffed for anything that might get in.  Well, some unlucky Chileans no less, got busted trying to bring in some sausages and our bus had to wait an hour extra for them as they got the shake down and a fine.  After finally crossing the border, we descended nearly 2000 metres in about 15 minutes via the craziest, curviest road you’ve ever seen.  We went from snow along the side of the road to vineyards within a few miles. Very strange.  Our first impressions of Chile were that the roads were a lot better than anywhere else we had seen, the countryside was stunning, and that the economy was a lot more healthy than Argentina.  As a consequence (of the economy, not the pretty landscapes) there were more nice cars, nicer housing developments, American restaurant chains.

We decided to skip the capitol, Santiago and to head straight for the coast and Vina del Mar, where we were assured that it was beach weather.  Beach weather it was not, as the wind was very cold.  That didn’t stop a few intrepid folks from getting their swim suits out, but they were definitely in the minority as there were people selling woolly jumpers and caps next to the sunbathers. 

woolen beanies by the beach

Vina del Mar is apparently Chile’s top seaside destination and there's  a lot of hotels, restaurants and the like around.  The beach looked quite nice too. There is however a serious lack of hostels, so we had to settle for possibly the strangest place we’ve ever stayed in.  Before I get to that, the other thing about Chile is that it’s really bloody expensive.  About 2 to 3 times more expensive than Argentina. We were very glad that we were only staying for a few days.  Back to the hostel. It appeared to be a converted old house. Only it was a house with 66 rooms.  It was enormous.  It also looked a bit like something out of a Hitchcock movie.  Or some kind of weird psychological thriller anyway.  Each common room, of which there were 6 (one after the other, it seemed they would never end as you walked through them) was decorated in some kind of odd theme. Well, not really a theme, but kind of.  There were old records, film star photos, swords, Mexican sombreros, creepy teddy bear pictures, weird furniture, dusty wine glasses, odd staircases, outdoor bits, indoor bits, model ships, army helmets with bullet holes, everything. It was really, really bizarre.  And to top it off, all of the doors had a horrible creaking sound. Oh yeah, they also stored mattresses in one bathroom and a treadmill in another. Still, the people running it were nice and so were the guests, so it was all good.  Oh, they also had a scared little dog that either barked or sneezed when you mentioned the word bathroom to him.

El Monaldi

The town of Valparaiso is pretty much one and the same with Vina del Mar.  It’s a UN World Heritage place with crazy coloured houses built in a chaotic manner across a series of tall hills around the city. They have massive elevators to take people, along with their carts, from one street level to the next. It seems a lot of students and artsy people live there.  There’s a lot of little galleries, cool graffiti scattered about.  We spent one nice day there and had possibly the best sea food we’ve had in a long time.

Valparaiso Valparaiso   Valparaiso Valparaiso

Well, after that it was time to say goodbye, head back to Santiago and catch our flights off the continent.  I said my goodbyes to Len & Michaela, I went one way - Canada, they went another - Singapore. 

Michaela, Irene, Len

In Len's words from his blog “Mum was a pretty good backpacker. She didn’t complain about much of anything that we subjected her to and even manged the night buses without a grumble. We were quite proud.” I add that I was thrilled to be a part of their Big Trip II.

chilling out



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