I really appreciate my sister for organizing my 2 day itinerary in Chile (and for inviting me and sponsoring this flight out here in the first place!). It’s hard to do everything in a big metropolitan city but she planned a great mix of sights, physical activity, regional food specialities and local culture.
I touch down and immediately notice the ruggedness of the Andes mountains – they look as though they’ve been carved by water.
I came prepared with my sister’s apartment address and was reminded several times from her that the cab fare should be 15,000 Chilean pesos. So we arrive, pay our reciprocity fee (knew this in advance from our trip planning) get our luggage and make our way to the taxi stand. We asked, “how much”? They said “19,000 pesos”. On to the next guy! As we leave the baggage area, many taxi drivers with signs are eagerly trying to get our attention. We show another guy our address. “20,000 pesos” he says. We say “15,000”. He shakes his head so we walk away. A few seconds later, he runs after us and says “OK, 15,000” 🙂
Lesson – have a sense of cost up front so you can walk away when they try to charge you too much!
Views in Chile
We arrive at my sister’s apartment and she has a great view of cerro San Cristóbal/ San Cristobal Hill and the Andes Mountain.
She also has a rooftop BBQ grill and infinity pool. That evening, she had invited many of her friends from the Start-Up Chile program so that we could do something “very Chilean”: Rooftop BBQs!
But first – Hiking up San Cristobal
We crossed a bridge with locks along the side (much like the lover’s bridge in Paris)
Passed by some colourful streets and reached the base of the hill.
Then we began upwards on a dusty path. My sister noted that in the summer, when many residents of the city are away, the smog clears up and you get fantastic panoramic views of the city and Andes mountains.
However, it was now Autumn in Santiago with everyone back to commuting to work so the view was a bit distorted by the haze.
At the top was a shrine to the Virgin Mary (like a mini Christ the Redeemer) with a theatre and terraced steps for stage performances. Along the way, we met a few street dogs.
Apparently, they’re everywhere in Santiago but they’re well taken care of and some locals even knit sweaters for them in the winter.
These dogs will be your hiking companion (which is quite endearing) until they get bored and find their next companion.
There is also a funicular that will take you up and down but we chose to hike back down to get some exercise. Washrooms are available but you need to pay a small fee – reminds of Asia or train stations in France.
View from the top
After hiking, we went to a local restaurant that is popular with both tourists and locals. A packed restaurant is a good sign!
My first Chilean meal
We ordered some traditional dishes including the Chilean poutine..fries with big chunks of meat! I know Argentina is famous for their steak but this was pretty tender too!
We also ordered a baked corn meal dish, and pisco sours which worked out to $4 USD. What a good deal!
Visiting the market
Side story – crime is not a huge problem and it doesn’t get the same amount of attention that say, Rio does. (more on this stereotype later.. but in short, I felt safe in Rio and actually heard more stories about petty theft in Santiago!) But this market is known for pick pocketing.
On pick pockets and traveling smart
My sister had the following experience just before arrived:
(Taken from her FB status: Had my wallet stolen at La Vega as I was buying broccoli with Quynh. Not surprisingly, it happened when I had all my ID in it. You know, stuff like my US green card, RUT Card, driver’s license and every last credit and debit card that I owned. Yes I knew better.
So I’m trying to explain what happened to the La Vega Security Guard and it’s going splendidly because of my fantastic Fraspanol when a nice Chilean fellow pulled up on a motor bike and offered to translate. Not only did he help with that, he escorted us all the way to the police station and sat with me while I gave a written statement. “I want you to know Chileans are nice too,” he said.
I’m still sitting at the station giving my written statement when a lady called. She found my wallet in the garbage can of some metro station about 45 minutes away. She got my number because I hadn’t taken out the telephone recharge receipt from the wallet yet (score for laziness!). The gentlemen wished me luck and left, while the police officer wrote out the directions and her contact information and sent me on my way.
We hop in a cab and I’m trying to negotiate a fixed fare to this location when the taxi driver convinces us instead that it all sounds super sketch and that I was probably going to be asked for ransom money for my wallet back. So instead of going straight there we taxi detoured to fetch backup help.
We stopped long enough to strip down to bare essentials, money in shoe, wallet left behind, the whole works. We called and renegotiated a new meeting spot – the metro, not her house. 45 minutes on the metro later, it was my posse meeting up with her posse.
And it was way anticlimactic. She gave me my wallet, I thanked her profusely with 10 luka, and we headed back home, me, super grateful to have my ID back.
I tell you, word of the day for me that I won’t forget. Cartera. Me robaron mi cartera. Donde es la mas cerca oficina de PDI?)
At the market, you’re not to touch any of the fruit, unlike back home where you pick things up. We got a lot of groceries – vegetables and meat for that evening’s barbeque!
Then it was off to home where I took a nap. Woke up to this – Lots of food!
Chilean BBQ time
My sister had organized an event called Welcome Asado and about 20 people came out to enjoy some food and drink on the pretty rooftop. Thanks for the local flavour sis! Had fun chatting to all of her new friends and their experiences in South America. Even there, I heard more stories about how dangerous Rio was and how some people chose not to go there.
More stories: Thwarting robbery attempts
“This one guy stole our friends purse so she chased him down. In the process, the robber jumped over a fence but tripped…and broke his arm. She caught up and was able to take her purse back. Definition of Karma.”
“Another guy decided to try and mug a friend of theirs who is 6 foot 5. Of all the targets, not sure why he would’ve chosen someone who is built this way! But when the tall guy was targeted, he just kicked the mugger down and that was that.”
The sausages were good and the grilled veggies were perfection. I get the impression that vegetables are not a popular staple and many guests were happily surprised to see them.
Avocado/Guacamole however, is something that is very abundant! It’s served as a side with many dishes, and we had 2 different kinds at the BBQ.
After a long flight and a packed day .. I was ready for bed to be well rested for day 2..