We didn’t spend as much time in Chile as we would have liked to as our goal was to make it to Machu Picchu before they closed the trails in February for maintenance. We took a bus from Mendoza, Argentina and crossed the High Andes into Chile and down to Santiago where we spent ten days in the run up to Christmas.
I know we said that we weren’t big fans of cities (mostly Bob) but we enjoyed Santiago immensely. It is a great big sprawling city with a good mix of old and modern architecture. We had an apartment for 10 days in the Lastarria barrio, which is central to the Plaza de Armas, close to trendy restaurants, shops, cafes and the metro. What makes the city so pleasant are the many parks that you can wander through. Santiago is not necessarily a tourist city, but there are many things to see and do if you have some time. We went to the food market where we gorged ourselves on cherries, strawberries, asparagus and avocados. Avocado is served with practically everything! In fact, our food choices were mind-boggling and we took full advantage of the many fruits and vegetables on offer, and it was so cheap. Being in Chile was a marked contrast to being in Argentina, where we just came from. The whole infrastructure is superior. The place was clean, the roads were great, and there was barely any graffiti. You also didn’t have to worry for your life when crossing the roads as drivers did pay attention to pedestrians. We walked nearly everywhere, and when we didn’t, we took the metro. One of our great discoveries was Pisco and Pisco Sours. A bottle of Pisco didn’t cost any more than a decent bottle of wine in the supermarket! Although you do need to keep tabs on your personal items, even the locals are careful, we didn’t have any trouble and most everyone was friendly and our service was usually very good. I had the best pizza here that I had in our whole trip, and Bob had an amazing lomo. We couldn’t complain about the food. Our only regret was not trying a completo!
Iquique is the home of body surfers and paragliding. North of Santiago on the Pacific Ocean, Iquique used to be a booming town during the Nitrate mining years. Now it is known as a Free Port, where people come from all over to buy duty-free goods such as electrical appliances to cosmetics. We went swimming in the sea, but the waves can be quite fierce. We got taken out by one and ended up losing our sunglasses. Our main reason for coming here was to try the tandem paragliding. It was amazing and surprisingly relaxing. Bob got the paragliding bug and has been taking lessons since we’ve been back home. There are quite a few paragliding clubs here on the South Downs. That’s what can happen when you try new things when traveling.
We also stayed in La Serena for New Year’s Eve and had an amazing night there and we also went to Arica on our way into Peru. There is so much of Chile that we haven’t seen that we would like to visit. As it was, we would most likely re-visit Santiago and I am sure that Bob would love to go paragliding in Iquique again as that would be the only reason to go back now that we have already been there. Who knows, it might happen!