A Travellerspoint blog

Santiago de Chile

25 °C
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Santiago with a population of almost six million people, about one third of Chile's population, is, like most big cities, polluted and noisy but it has some things to see, too.
There is 'La Moneda' where Salvador Allende committed suicide on September 11th, 1973, when Pinochet launched a succesful coup. At 10 am, you can watch the changing of the guards at the back entrance. Furthermore, there are two nice hills overlooking the city, Cerro de Santa Lucía and Cerro de Santo Cristobál, the latter by far the highest one.

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Again, there is a Pablo Neruda house, in Bellavista, the bohemian barrio in Santiago. The house named La Chascona (tangle-haired woman) after Matilde Urrutia, Neruda's last wife, is now an interesting museum that can only be visited by means of guided tours. Like the other two Neruda houses I can recommend La Chascona very much, there is this nice atmosphere about it and I can only conclude that the man must have had a very good taste.
Next to the two hills, there is also the Parque Forestal to escape from the stress and the heat.

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Santiago must be the fast-food capital of the world. It seems like everyone is eating fast-food. Empanadas, hot-dogs, hamburgers and other unhealthy food is to be found on every street corner. The Spanish name for hot-dogs, by the way, changes from country to country in Latin-America. Whereas in Argentina they call them panchos, they are called italianos in Chile, perros calientes or just hot-dogs (Spanish pronunciation) yet in other countries.
Did you know that Santiago has more taxis than New York?

Saudo!

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Posted by Gitan Jean 17:07 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Valparaiso y Viña del Mar

sunny 21 °C
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For the first two nights Katrien and myself stayed in a private house with a very good breakfast included in the price. When Katrien left, I went to Hospedaje Maria Antonieta, a good hostel with very friendly people, where I met Amanda and Alessandra, two lovely and very enthousiastic girls from Santos, Brasil.
Valpo, as locals call it, is without any doubt the most picturesque Chilean city. It is at the sea and has very colourful houses built on the hills that make the city. There are quite some antique lifts to take you up the steep hills for half a euro or so.
A must in Valpo is the Pablo Neruda house called Casa Sebastiana, named after the architect that designed it. It is a wonderful house with a breathtaking view on Valpo and the Pacific. A little piece from one of his poems that was quite nice reading in his house, looking at the pacific:
'El Océano Pacifico salía del mapa. No había dondé ponerle. Era tan grande, desordonado y azul que no cabía en ninguna parte. Por eso le dejaron en frente de mi ventana.'
The Pacific Ocean dropped of the map. There was nowhere to put it. It was so big, disordened and blue that it did not fit anywhere. That is why they put it in front of my window.
You can walk around forever and keep on taking pictures in Valpo's beautiful barrios high up the hills. The centre of the city is less interesting and much busier, although it has got its charms too. There is the Avenida Brazil, a wide avenue with a broath path for pedestrians, boarded by palm trees, in the middle. There are some nice buildings and some markets, a flea market behind the Congreso Nacional and a fruit-, vegetable- and flea market on Avenida Argentina on weekend days. Another thing not to miss is the Mercado Central where you can have wonderful pescado (fish) and mariscas (shellfish), it is not cheap though!

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Viña del Mar is probably the most mondain bathing city in Chile. It is only a ten-minute metro drive from Valpo and it is much more expensive to spend the night or to eat, so you better stay in Valpo and visit Viña from there. It is nice to spend an afternoon on the beach, the water in the ocean is ice cold though, or to stroll around the main streets with their fancy restaurants, watching people.
About one hour and a half from Valpo is another Pablo Neruda house which looks very nice from the outside. Do not go there on Monday, though, cause than you are confronted with a sign saying: 'Cerrado los lunes, por favor no inciste'. I had not checked the opening times of course!

'Hoy es hoy, ayer se fue, no hay dudas.'

Posted by Gitan Jean 13:55 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

El Puente del Inca y Uspallata

sunny 21 °C
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To get from Mendosa to Chile, you pass by a spectacular mountain pass and drive through a beautiful mountain landscape. A thing to see is the 'Puente del Inca', a sort of bridge made of salt, 50 metres wide and 8 metres broad, pending 30 metres above a río. A few kilometres further away there is a mirador with a good view on the Aconcagua, with its 6.959 metres the highest peak in Latin America! It is very hard to believe the mountain is almost 7.000 metres high, though, the mirador is under 3.000 metres and when I was standing there, looking at it, I had difficulties imagining it is another 4.000 meters higher.

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The region there is gorgeous, definetly good for a few days of trekking. We hitchhiked (hacer el dedo in Spanish) back to Uspallata and were picked up by a lovely couple from Buenos Aires, on their way back from holidays in Chile. Back in Upsallata, we, that is Katrien, a girl from Ghent I had met in Mendosa and me, tried to arrange a bus to Chile, but everything seemed to be booked, so we had to spend another night in Argentina. Next day, we tried to hitchike again with a paper saying 'Chile' in our hands and were taken by a little bus on its way to Santiago. We had to pay though! From Santiago, we took the bus straight to Valparaiso. Yet, another country, very exciting!
Chile seems even richer and more western than Argentina. As a consequence, living is more expensive than in Argentina. If accomodation prices doubled from about 2-3 US dollars per night in a dorm in Bolivia to 5-6 in Argentina, they have doubled again to 10-12 dollars in Chile! The prices of food have risen in the same proportion. There are some friendly people here, but a thing that strikes me is that people in shops are very unfriendly. Like yesterday, for example, when I went to buy a ferry ticket in Puerto Montt, the woman who was 'helping' me was so scarce on information I literally had to ask everything, very bizarre. The same story when I went buying camping material in Bariloche. But than, on the other hand, in Santiago, I went looking for an envelope that fitted an LP to send it home and I found one in a shop with a lovely girl serving me and giving me the envelope for free because there was a little cut in it.

Posted by Gitan Jean 07:58 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Mendosa

38 °C
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Mendosa pleased me more than Córdoba. It is much quieter and with less traffic. The enormous Plaza Independéncia is the centre of the city and is surrounded by four other lovely squares. At the west side of the city, there is an enormous park that houses the zoo, the Cerro de la Gloria and a lot of green. I took a long walk there in the afternoon on December 31st and guess what I saw there? Old blokes playing tennisfoebal! They played four on four and were only allowed to touch the ball one time. As they were quite good (for their age), I did not invite them for the World Championship 2007. It made me long for the next Belgian summer a bit, I have to admit.
For New Year's Eve we had a Cuban dinner annex party with a lot of people on the terrace of our hostel. We wanted to go out a little in Mendosa after the dinner, but to our disappointment, most bars and clubs were closed or the entrance was very expensive, so we went back to the Cuban party. New year's day went by without much happening. I sat on a terrace of a Shell petrol station most of the time as it was the only place that was open and sold drinks and food. I managed to finish 'The Beach' by Alex Garland,which I liked.
Then, next day, we went to Maipú, half an hour from Mendosa, rented bicycles and went on a tour around the bodegas (wineries). The Mendosa area is very known for its good wines and it produces about 80% of all Argentinian wine, if I remember well. We started of with a guided tour in the wine museum, with some wine tasting at the end of course, and went to two other nice wineries. In the last one, we ordered a good bottle of red wine and sat down on the gorgeous terrace covered with sun and overlooking the vignards, pura vida! Then, we finished our tour with a visit to a chocolate and liquor shop where we, well, tasted some chocolates and liquor. I have not seen any scales for the last four months, but I am quite confident that I did not loose to much weight!
In his last e-mail my brother, den Baas, wrote that my webblog suffered of a severe jet-lag and I can only say he is so right. I am sorry about that, but writing the blog takes quite some time and I do not always have acces to the internet. Moreover, there is so many more interesting things to do here than sitting in front of a computer!

Ciao ciao!

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Posted by Gitan Jean 14:38 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Córdoba y Cafayate

sunny 33 °C
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In our hostel in Salta, I had met up with Gabriella, a very nice girl from Northern-Italy and a lovely travel companion. From Salta, we took a very early bus to Cafayate, a very nice little village a few hours south of Salta. After a little siesta we went on a tour to see a bit of the quebra de humauaca and it was very beautiful!

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The landscapes and rock formations and their colours in the north of Argentina and the south of Bolivia are absolutely gorgeous.

Next morning, we took the bus to Córdoba, a student city, the second city of Argentina. Actually, it was quite a disappointment, a part from the very small historic centre and some beautiful women, there is not very much to see. Salta and Mendosa seemed much nicer to me.

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Ciao ciao

Posted by Gitan Jean 17:54 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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