A Travellerspoint blog

Day 1 & 2

Santiago de Chile

sunny 18 °C
View The Adventure of two auld ones on WelshAndy's travel map.

When we were first researching this trip, I found a lot of useful info on other people's blogs so I'm going to start each of these posts with some practical stuff which might come in handy for anyone planning a similar trip.

PRACTICALITIES

1) As British & Irish citizens we didn't need Visas to enter Chile
2) When you arrive at Immigration at the Airport in Chile, they stamp your passport and give you what looks like a till receipt. Turns out this is your Immigration card and is very important. Don't lose it. They don't tell you this but if you do, it's another $100 and a whole load of hassle to get a replacement.
3) We booked our Hotel through Booking.com and it was hassle free. They mention a 19% tax which isn't included in the price which is payable by all residents of Chile. It says if you pay by Dollars that proves your identity as tourists and thus you can avoid this tax. As it turns out, your very important Immigration Card is all you need to prove your standing as a tourist!

and so on to the good stuff...

Day One

We arrived in Santiago, to little fanfare it must be said, at 7.30 in the morning after a very long journey from Dublin via Madrid. All in all it was a 20hr trip door to door but the whole 5hr time difference thing threw us a bit. Not quite arriving the day before we left thing but it certainly took a bit of time to readjust. Hardest thing on arrival was taking money out of the ATM and trying to work out the exchange rate. Turns out 1,000 Chilean Peso's are worth €1.44 or so but because they've been devalued so many times it's just marked as $1. The taxi tickets were marked $7.6 yet the lowest note I had was 20,000peso. I thought to myself, he's never going to have change for this! Anyway once you get used to the fact it's 7,600 it gets a little easier to work out.

We arrived at the hotel, a fabulous, almost gothic style, think home of the Adams family and were given a great welcome. Early days I know but the staff were very friendly, hopefully a sign of things to come. We casually mentioned we were on honeymoon and got upgraded to a premium suite and given a bottle of Champers. Think we're going to enjoy our stay here.

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As the room wouldn't be ready till 3, we took our slightly smelling selves for a stroll in the 'Chile' morning air (the first and last time I'll use that one!) Just yards from our hotel we came across the funicular which brings you to the top of the Cerro San Cristobal. This hill towers above Santiago and has spectacular views of the city and the snow covered Andes in the distance.

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We strolled back down in the balmy heat, 18degrees, had a spot of lunch and our first Pisco Sour.

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Finally, we got to take a long awaited shower, and chilled out for the rest of the evening. After sitting in the very warm heat for lunch, there was a noticeable drop in the temperature once the sun went down and the pair of us were shivering under the heaters for the rest of the night.

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Mind you this was only about an hour as we hit the hay at a ridiculous 8pm. I put it down to tiredness and not the fact we're on honeymoon 😉

Day 2

Inevitably we woke early and after breakfast headed for a stroll around downtown Santiago. Sadly the sunshine and heat of yesterday gave way to overcast conditions and a resulting drop in temperatures. Think of Dublin in January and you get the idea. The weather wasn't the only thing that was turned on its head either as the calm and serenity of the Bella Vista was replaced with the hustle & bustle of a modern city existence. What was really noticeable was the lack of other tourists from our neck of the woods. We stood out but everywhere we went we were greeted with a warm smile and friendly banter...well we think it was friendly, hard to tell when the limit of your Spanish Is Cerveza, Hola and Gracias. We visited all the main buildings in the city, the Art Museum, the Cultural Museum, the Palacio de la Moneda etc. All magnificent architectural sights, a throwback to Chile's colonial past. As is often the case when wandering city streets, we soon built up an appetite. Down near the river on the edge of the Parque Forestal is the fabulous Central Market reminiscent of the Fruit market in Smithfield in Dublin. It's chaotic as the traders try to outdo each other in the shouting stakes. It's famed for the fish stalls but there's a multitude of other stuff available too. All the stalls are on the outer ring and a walk through to the centre reveals loads of restaurants serving up Fish, Fish and more Fish.

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We decided to down tools and have our lunch which was...you guessed it...Fish. I really wanted to try the Crab but chickened out. No sooner had I ordered and the table next to me got theirs delivered. Impressive to say the least.

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We continued on after lunch around the Cerro Santa Lucia and the area around Barrio Lastarria. One of the first things noticeable around Santiago is the amount of stray Dogs that inhabit the streets. Caution is exercised but we've discovered that it's not really necessary. The locals are very fond of these dogs and whilst they live on the streets they are very well looked after. A number of them have jackets on, provided by caring locals and we were told that it's not uncommon to see them jumping on buses and getting a lift to places where they know they'll be fed. Sounds like a wind-up but didn't stop us looking at every bus going past waiting for the inevitable paw at the window. This was spotted in the same Parque Forestal, kennels randomly placed for the poor mutts to sleep in.

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We returned to the hotel aching but satisfied with the days efforts. We polished off the Champage kindly given to us by the hotel and headed out again for a bite and some local brew. Tomorrow we say goodbye to civilisation as we fly north to Calama and the Atacama desert, the driest place on earth. Yikes!!

Posted by WelshAndy 15:34 Archived in Chile Tagged san chile santa santiago visa lucia cristobal cerro vista card immigration barrio bella lastarria Comments (0)

Its all in the planning

Deciding on where to go

overcast 5 °C

Getting married is an expensive business so we decided rather than adding to the ever growing bank loan we'd put back our Honeymoon until this year, giving us time to save enough to make it memorable. Of course, we hadn't accounted for everyone's generosity at the wedding.

With a year to think about things, a number of destinations were considered, Trans-Siberian Railway, China, Patagonia, Southern United States but in the end we settled on Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. The perception of how long three weeks is varies depending on whose perspective you're coming from. If you're my boss for example, then three weeks is a hell of a long time to be away but for us, it soon became apparent that three weeks wasn't long enough to do everything we wanted to do. The crucial thing was to try not to do too much but to make the most of our experience.

We rocked down to Trailfinders, a must for any wannabee Traveller, and gave our instructions to the very willing Sales Rep. He scoured the available flights and after much consideration we discovered the cheapest and best way to go, was to fly to Santiago in Chile via Madrid and fly back from Lima in Peru. International flights from Quito in Ecuador were way too expensive and weren't possible from La Paz in Bolivia so immediately our plans had to be changed.

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We're both seasoned travellers but it never ceases to amaze just how difficult it is to judge how big a country is. Once we realised that Ecuador on its own is the size of Ireland, we knew that those three weeks weren't going to be long enough to do everything we had planned. In fact with us flying into Chile we made a quick judgement call that Ecuador was out of the question. We just wouldn't have enough time to make it. So we left Trailfinders with the flights to Santiago and from Lima paid for, now all we had to do was work out the bit in between.

As Chile wasn't part of the original plan, I got carried away with what we could see while we were there. We'd only been home a few minutes and we got out the Lonely Planet guide to South America and started planning our strategy for getting from Chile to Bolivia. A couple of days in Santiago seeing the sights, catch a bus to the coastal town of Valpariaso, head upto La Serena. Another overnight Bus to Antofagasta and then the Atacama.

When you put it like that it sounds so straightforward but once we got the Bus timetables out and looked into it, we soon realised that little journey alone would take 7 days. Its over 1500KM from Santiago to Calama, the foremost town on the edge of the Atacama....1500!!! So the first piece of paper with a travel plan on was scrumpled up and tossed in the bin and Plan B was began.

Several hours and days have passed and enough beads of sweat to fill a bath tub have been shed in order to try and get everything in. Thankfully, my wife is the sensible one who reminded me that we still need to relax, it is a holiday after all. So the Itinerary is going to look something like this.

Mon, 18th July - Arrive Santaigo
Tues, 19th July - Chill in Santiago for the Day
Weds, 20th July - Fly to Calama and Hire a car for 2 days
Thurs, 21st July - Tour the Atacama Desert for the day
Fri, 22nd July - Hand the car back and check into San Pedro De Atacama
Sat, 23rd July - Up early and join a 3 day tour to Salar De Uyuni (Salt Flats)
Sun, 24th July
Mon, 25th July - Arrive Uyuni 3pm Depart Uyuni 8pm on an overnight Bus
Tues, 26th July - Arrive La Paz 6am
Weds, 27th July - Spend the day chillin in La Paz
Thurs, 28th July - Catch an early bus to Copacobana on the edge of Lake Titicaca and get the boat over to Isle Del Sol
Fri, 29th July - Hike the Island
Sat, 30th July - Get the Boat back to the mainland and continue onto Cuzco in Peru
Sun, 31st July - Arrive Cuzco 3am
Mon, 1st Aug - Join 2day/1night Trek to Machu Pichu
Tues, 2nd Aug - Arrive back in Cuzco, 6pm
Weds, 3rd Aug - Chill out in Cuzco
Thurs, 4th Aug - Fly to Lima Arrive at 2pm
Fri, 5th Aug - Depart Lima for home :(

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When you write it down like that it makes you realise just how short a time 3 weeks is....and to think we were hoping to do Ecuador too!!

The flights are booked, the hotels are booked, the tours are booked and the buses are booked. All that's left now is for us to count down the 132 days till we leave.

Salúd to that

Posted by WelshAndy 03:46 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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