La Serena, Vina de Mar, Valparasio, Santiago
24.12.2012 - 06.01.2013 26 °C
Happy New Year!
We left you last in La Serena on Christmas Eve. We spent 3 nights at this coastal town in Chile before departing south on Boxing Day. We found La Serena not to have that much of interest to do which didn't really matter as we were there over the Christmas period. On Christmas Eve the hostel put on a dinner which you could participate in along with Christmas cookie decorating that afternoon where we had some fun with the hostel worker's kids. This was really nice as it was a chance for us to actually get into the Christmas spirit. In South America they have Christmas dinner and the opening of presents on the night of Christmas Eve, therefore on Christmas Day we cooked our own lunch and had drinks to celebrate. We made quite a potent punch which knocked Scott out for half the afternoon before having an early night and him sleeping for about 14 hours into Boxing Day. The only downside of Christmas in La Serena was that the group we had in the hostel had been one of our least favourates so far, as they weren't very social.
On Boxing Day we caught a 7 hour bus south to Vina del Mar (which stangely means 'vineyard by the sea' as we didn't see any) where we spend the following 4 nights. Vina was a lot bigger than we expected and it was one of the most modernised cities that we have visited up to this point. Vina is a popular holiday destination for Chilean people because of its beautiful beaches. We got lucky with the weather for our first 2 days in Vina, as the weather was cooler and cloudy for the following days here and in Valparasio. We spent those 2 days soaking up the rays at beaches in Vina and the town just north, Renaca. While the beaches were nice, we didn't dare go in the freezing water which surrounds Chile's coast due to currents from Antarctica. We have complained about the cold water to a few locals in Chile and their response is usually 'at least we don't have sharks!'. We are looking forward to heading east to the Brazilian beaches. With the coming of the cooler weather on the third day, we went to the movies and watched "El Hobbit". Luckily there was a session that wasn't dubbed and only had Spanish subtitles. The shopping mall where the cinema was located was massive, being inside it was the first time we had actually felt that we could have been back home.
The following 4 nights were spent in Valparaiso located just a few kms south of Vina, originally build around the now oldest port in South America. Our trip thus far had been planned around reaching Valpo for New Year's Eve as it had the reputation to have one of the best firework displays in the southern hemisphere with steet parties that went on for several days, although we found this not quite to be the case. The town itself is very arty and bohemian and is built on the slopes of many different hills, from a viewpoint you notice the houses all along are painted in different bright colours, and close-up the windey streets are filled with artistic and unique street art. Many of the hills have an asendor to take people upto the top with ease. Each day we went exploring for hours taking so many photos. Many areas close up were old and quite dirty but that was all part of the charm and character of the town. The nicest area with the most street art, cafes and art gallaries was Cerros Conception, where many of the photos you'll see were taken.
We had been quite worried about our hostel in Valpo which we had booked about 8 months ago as we had scored a double room for $15 each a night whereas everyone else we had met was paying close to $100 a night for a dorm room. We thought it may have been a scam but it turned out that we had booked so early that the hostel owner hadn't yet bumped up the prices for New Years (which go up at least 500%). We had an amazing group at our hostel for New Year´s Eve which was a relief after the hostel we were in over Christmas. We arranged for everyone to bring meat and something else to prepare and share that evening and we all cooked up a huge asado on the balcony of the hostel. The hostel´s balcony gave us an amazing panoramic viewpoint for watching the fireworks along the water, much better than being crammed along the port among around 1 million people. The fireworks were not as good as we had expected but we should have known as Chile does not have the money to host a display like Sydney. After midnight we went downtown to join in with the 'street parties' which we just found to bemasses of people walking around the streets. The streets were empty late morning the next day - so much for going on for days. Never-the-less we still had a really good time. From speaking to Chilean's in the following few days, the way to do it was to have pre-purchased a ticket to an exclusive section of beach which had music and unlimited drinks.
On the night of the 1st we went out for dinner with an Australian couple, Stefan and Monica, we had become closest with at the hostel as Stefan and Georgie celebrated the same Birthday. Celebrating Georgie's birthday on the 2nd proved to be a bit of a challenge as half the town was still closed and seemingly still recovering from New Years Eve but we did manage to have a nice champagne breaky at the hostel and went out for lunch in town.
On the 3rd of January we left for Chile's capital, Santiago, where we spent the following 3 nights. On our first morning we went on a 3.5 hour walking tour from the downtown to Bellavista. Bellavisa, which means 'beautiful view', is the area we stayed as in. Bellavista is located next to a mountain and is one of the only suburbs in the city to have a view of the Andes. We decided to skip the 1.5 hour trek up the hill as the Andes have been a fairly standard view for us since we got here. We stayed here because it is a happening suburb with so many restaurants, bars and markets all of which we visited. We had our first proper clubbing experience in South America seeing an international tech house/minimal DJ on the Friday night. By emailing the club with our names beforehand meant that Georgie got in for free but Scott still had to pay 6000 pesos, around $12. Free entry for girls is common practise over here. On our last day in Santiago we checked out heaps of markets around town including a very impressive fish market with plenty of unidentifiable seafood. We had lunch here and sampled Ceviche which we had been meaning to try since we heard about it in San Pedro de Atacama. Can't really describe the fish but it's pretty much mashed raw salmon and prawn with lots of coriander. It tasted a bit questionable but had a good effect on our hangovers. Later in the day we went to a bar which is famous for the 'Earthquake', a drink in a big plastic cup containing wine, fernet and pineapple icecream. We only intended to stay for a drink but got stuck there for hours meeting lots of very odd locals.
We have now left Chile and are back in Argentina, in the large wine region of Mendoza. We have seen and done a bit here already, though we will wrap this entry up for now as we have just heard there are 15 bottles of free wine on offer in the backyard of the hostel.
Scott and Georgie xxx