We had flown via Santiago when we first arrived in South America. Returning there emphasised that we were half way through our trip and time was starting to fly by. We had been recommended a hostel called Bella Vista, in the Bella Vista district. This is a lively area filled with bars, restaurants, live music, two-for-one deals and street performers. It was a great area to stay in and there was no shortage of food and drink. The only downside was the noise from the street could keep us awake until the wee hours. During our stay we tried a popular seafood restaurant, a gourmet sandwich bar and a local restaurant. The local specialty food consisted of fries with a steak on top and an egg on top of that.
One of our first activities was a walking tour around the city. Our Scottish (!) guide showed us some of the old buildings, museums, parks, cafes, restaurants and other points of interest. He showed us a “cafe with legs” a business model where you can purchase your morning coffee by gorgeous women in skimpy skirts. For some reason it is very popular with local business men. He also taught us about the local history which, like the rest of South America, includes corrupt governments, kidnapping and murder of protesters, a time of socialist government, and much unrest. This continued until quite recent times. Chile also went to war with Bolivia and claimed their coastline, causing Bolivia to be the land-locked country it is today.
We also climbed the San Cristobal Hill, which overlooks the city. As we reached the base of the hill, there was a large gathering and a lot of noise. There was some sort of religious parade climbing the hill. The road had been closed, so we thought we would join in the procession as an enjoyable way to walk to the top. The first half hour was entertaining as we followed groups singing songs at the top of their lungs, playing drums, and dancing along. Then we realised we were walking the longest possible road to the top and we still had a very long way to go. This is also when the music changed from being entertaining to a punch in the ears. At the 4km sign we had really had enough and when the priests came up to us to give us a hug, we had had all the religious celebrations we could handle. We ignored the no climbing signs and headed up through the trees instead. After just over an hour, we reached the top of the hill. Only to realise that we had climbed to the top of the wrong peak. The hill had two tops, and we were at the one with lots of trees and little view. So off we went again to climb the other top. It only took 10 minutes and we were standing underneath the Statue of Mary, similar to the one in Paraparaumu. The view was incredible and looked over the whole city. We then found the cable car, which took us back to the bottom in about 5 minutes.
We met some other travelers at the hostel and had a few beers with them. They were all heading out to a masquerade party at a foreigners bar and we decided to tag along. It seemed a little odd that it was a 15 minute walk away when we were already in the bar district, but we followed along anyway. When we arrived there was hardly anyone there and the “free drinks” that were promised were few and far between. There were also no masks. It didn’t take long to realise that there wasn’t much happening and we had walked all that way for nothing.
There isn’t a huge amount for tourists to do in Santiago, so on our last day we visited a museum and checked out the local food markets. We brought a kilogram of strawberries for $900CLP, which is roughly $3NZD. It seemed like an amazing deal at the time, but in hindsight there isn’t a lot you can do with a kilogram of strawberries. It was far too much to eat between the three of us and it was too hot a day to keep them fresh for the next day.
We only had a few days in Santiago, and we managed to see all the main sights. Then we took a bus to Mendoza, Argentina.