Notes from Santiago

These are just awful pictures! Will have to update them.

Day 1: Street Wander

Our flight to Santiago arrived around 6am, so had plenty of time to sightsee on our first day. That afternoon, we hopped aboard a bus running from Providencia, the district where our hotel was located, to the downtown area only twenty minutes away. We got off, wandered along the river, through the bustling central market, and then walked the streets of the downtown core. Many attractions were closed. However, the excellent Pre-colombian museum was open, and had outstanding exhibits…in English!

Day 2: Valparaiso, Vina de Mar, Renaca

Surrendered our principles and signed up for guided tour of the three seaside towns of Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and Renaca Beach on our second day. A guide (who spoke English with a heavy Scottish brogue) and driver took the three of us in a minivan. It takes about two hours to drive to the coast on the modern four lane highway to Valparaiso, passing through scenic valleys.

Valparaiso is a rough but colorful naval port and the other two towns are gradually merging with it to form one coastal sprawl--the more monied citizenry living further out. Our stops in Valparaiso included a visit to one of Pablo Neruda’s(Chile’s other Nobel Prize for Poetry) houses with its eclectic (bizarre?) decor, overlooking the city, and a ride up one of the cranky old funicular railways that service the upper cliffs. Back in the van, we trundled along the coast, through Vina and on for lunch at a beach restaurant in Renaca. Had our first taste of conger eel in a marisco (seafood stew). (If you go, skip the conger eel but DO try the marisco

Concha y Toro Winery tour

This was a tricky to arrange as not all wineries open on the weekend. However, this, the best known and biggest did. It took us about an hour and a half using local transportation to get to the small town of Pique, just south of Santiago, where the winery is located. A fee of $8 bought us a tour of the winery, a large souvenir wine glass, and three fillings during the tour. The samples were not from their top line of wine, but after the first one it didn’t seem to matter.

Cajun de Maipo (Maipo River Canyon)

The first time I did this, I took Lonely Planet’s suggestion of getting the bus from the Bernard O’Higgins subway stop. Well, OK, if you want an extra hour of the frenetic activity of a local bus (hawkers of everything from a bottle of Coke to Walkmans leap on at every stop, make their pitch, and leap off at the next; a busker with a guitar and recorded accompaniment, gets on, serenades the bus, collects a few coins and hops off a few stops later), but you can cut the time for the trip in half by taking the subway all the way to the last stop and picking up the bus there. The trip is no more than a local bus ride along a rural and picturesque river valley. I did a second trip with Lynda later in the week and we stopped in San Jose de Maipo, the main town on the route, watched a local Palm Sunday festival, and had a delightful hour in the town square, looking at the local arts and crafts.

John's Two Hikes; Lynda and John's Big Hike

(1) A 100 ft statue of St Cristobal can be seen at the top of a large (about 500 meters high) hill overlooking the centre of the Santiago. The hill is in a park, and the treed slopes of the hill looked as though they might conceal a trail to the top. So one day, I set off along the river, cut through some brush, and sure enough found myself on a system of trails leading up through trees and occasionally dense brush. It was a little ragged but what the heck!

Half way up the steep slope, following a trail, I almost ran into a sort of “dwelling” concealed in the undergrowth…which, I discovered too late, had two mangy old dogs guarding it. Thinking that their bark was probably worse than their bite, I hesitated a few seconds, trying to figure my way through, but one of the dogs got behind me and nipped me in the leg. Although the bite didn’t do any serious damage, it did convince me that further bushwhacking might not further my desire to avoid rabies. So I clambered back down, found a road around to the official entrance to the hill, and eventually climbed a broad horse trail that took me to the top. Beautiful gardens and view of the city.

(2) On Rimmer's recommendation I took a bus out to a small private school in the suburbs where, with the eventual help of most of the staff, I found a trail at the back of the grounds leading up towards a nearby peak.

I was just about to head up when a scholarly gentleman approached and warned me (in excellent English) that he'd run into some vagabonds on one evening about a month previous, on the trail I was heading out on.

In practice, it was neither threatening dogs nor hoodlums that thwarted my aspiration to the heights, but the lack of any clear trail up, and a very marked and pleasant trail around. This broad track too mysteriously petered out as it rounded a hillside above some houses, and trapped between a fence (house-side) and an awkward ditch (hill-side) I gave up, and turned back.

But it had been a very pleasant few hours.

(2) Lynda’s business contact very kindly offered to take us for a hike into the hills behind his home in the suburbs. This turned out to be about a 10K trek, climbing perhaps 3000 feet with great views of the nearby valleys and distant Andes. It would have been less arduous if it hadn’t been for the heat and dust on the trail, which in turn made for a very slippery descent. Lots of other hikers. It was a brilliant day. Thanks Rimmer!