From Bolivia we arrived in Chile through San Pedro De Atacama where we had planned to stay the night, but within the hour of our arrival, we were on the next overnight bus to La Serena. La Serena has one of the worlds best observatories due to the high altitude and lack of light pollution so we immediately booked our trip. Luck would have it that it began to rain. This was the first (and only) rain of our trip AND the first time it rained in that part of Chile in 3 years. Needless to say, the trickle of raindrops shut down the roads and the electronics and we had to stay 3 extra days! The town was cute enough, and naturally, we ran into another parade (for a holiday based on a guy who swung from his Chilean ship to his death and in turn loosing the war…but inspiring many men to join the fight for their country) but we would have preferred to get to the next places sooner. Our final night we got to see with our very own eyes (and the help of a super telescope) the craters of moon and the rings of saturn! And that was amazing.
Next we went to the once prosperous and now very bohemian but hip and colorful Valpariso. Rachelle fell a bit ill and spent one whole day in bed. Luckily we sprung for a private room and the hostel owner leant us his personal laptop. We spent the time uploading 3 countries worth of photos and watching netflix. The next day we spent taking a walking tour and getting a bit of the insides and history of the really cool town. We also got to see Pablo Nerudas house! But quickly had to leave in order to get to Santiago.
We met with one of our besties Rach in Santiago! It was so great to see a smiling familiar face from home and together, explore a new city! Santiago is very “modern” and had most comforts of the US. We were in a great area that was walking distance to restaurants, bars, boutiques, and San Cristóbal Hill that we hiked to the enormous statue of pregnant Virgin Mary!
After a set of really fortunate and amusing circumstances (involving Meg and Rachelle cork screwless and shoving a cork into a bottle of appropriately named “oops” wine) we were put in touch with a gentleman by the name of Domingo from Undurraga Wines. He picked us up, drove us to the vineyards, gave us an extremely personal and detailed tour and tasting, took us out to a Chilean restaurant where Rachelle and Rach had sea urchin for the first time, and dropped us back off at our hostel. It was an incredibly gorgeous day and we felt very fortunate. (thanks Jeannie for the hook up!)
We also went on a walking tour which consisted of a few hours and took us through some of the important but not so touristy spots of town, where we saw the food and fish markets and learned about the bloodshed military coup of 1973 (your welcome Chile).
We checked out all of the cute neighborhoods, saw great exhibits in the museums, tried the local drink and cuisine, saw great live music and Meg’s highlight was getting custom veggie burgers on the street for $0.50 whilst we watched a gaggle of students performing orchestral music outside of the subway!
Rach got to experience being hungry during “siesta” which means that no restaurant is open for a good 3 hours. Honestly, not one. We were starving and desperate and eventually lucked out and found some good cheap empanadas. Later we crashed an art opening with free food and wine. Ya win some, ya lose some… but it all seems to even out.
All was fun, exciting, and going swimingly…until we tried to leave.
Meg and/or Rachelle left the UV water filter (theee single best purchase of our trip…the one that allowed us to drink the water without spending money or adding to the landfills) at the hostel and we just missed the last bus from Santiago Chile to Mendoza Argentina before the road closures due to snow and ice. Instead of taking one 8 hour bus, we ended up taking three buses that totaled 30 hours. It was a sad, expensive, and unfortunate way to spend two days. The (only) bonus was that our last bus served us hot meals, wine AND frenet (the liquor of the Argentinians). This was something we were used to…but poor Rach on her vacation
Our boarder crossing into Argentina was relatively easy, but we all had to pay the $165USD reciprocity fee… for U.S. citizens only.
Side note about Chile – boarder crossing into Chile is extremely strict as they take great pride in not contaminating their fruits and vegetables. They are an agricultural island with the ocean to the west and the mountain ranges to the east. No food or seeds are allowed in and all bags and people get scanned. As a result, they had some amazing produce! If you see an apple from Chile in your local grocery store (when you’re not buying from your local farm of course), pick one up! YUM