Chile – Days 14 & 15 – Travel Days

The next two days were mainly travel days. We had to drive back to Punta Arenas, fly to Santiago, sleep overnight, fly to Buenos Aires, and then fly to Iguazu Falls. We were supposed to be able to sleep in but unfortunately our heater in the loft wasn’t working so we both woke up at 7:30am fairly cold. I used the oven to heat the place by turning it on and leaving the door open. We decided to have a lazy morning and hung around the loft until 11:00am when it was time to check out.

We drove back to Punta Arenas and experienced intermittent rain along the way. It looked as if anyone who was hiking in Torres Del Paine was going to have a very wet day because the clouds in that direction were very dark.

Once we arrived in Punta Arenas we decided that we wanted some ramen or Vietnamese food. We found a hole in the wall place that served Korean noodles, but they only accepted cash and we decided it was too much of a hole in the wall. Across the street was a restaurant called Gyros Pizza. We both shared a Hawaiian pizza, which was absolutely delicious. I also had an americano coffee as I was starting to fall asleep.

After lunch we went for a 12km walk along the beach front, which was very relaxing. After the walk it was time to head to the airport, drop off our truck and kill some time. When I returned the truck there was nobody to inspect it so I was told to just leave it and they would clear my receipt. Turns out three weeks later after the trip I am still in a dispute with my credit card company and Europcar because they double charged me for the truck. I had prepaid for the vehicle before the trip and they were supposed to just have a $800USD deposit that would be removed when I returned the truck. Turns out they actually charged my credit card for the cost of the vehicle even though I had already paid in full.

While waiting for the flight to Santiago we found out that the flight was delayed about 45 minutes. We managed to make up most of that delay once we were in the air. The view on takeoff was absolutely incredible. The flight landed at 11:30pm. We parked at a remote stand and had to take a fairly long bus ride to the terminal, which was perfect because I had to figure out how to order us an Uber, since it’s quite different at Santiago airport than other places because its still not technically legal in the country.

Ordering the Uber was the same; you just use the app, but that’s where things differ. Barbara, our Uber drive, texted me on the Uber app and told me she was behind me and to board the parking lot shuttle bus and then she would talk to me on the bus. She was super friendly and we took the parking lot shuttle bus to the parking lot where we walked to her car. She explained to me that they have to keep a low profile at Santiago Airport because authorities were cracking down on Uber drivers, who were not supposed to be there. When we got into her car she had quite the setup to communicate with foreigners. One phone was dedicated to Uber and the other was dedicated to Google Translate communications.

The drive to Hotel Diego de Almagro Aeropuerto was short and sweet and Barbara was extremely nice. After checking into the hotel we went to bed immediately as we had to get up at 4:45am the next day.

The next day we woke up at 4:45am, quickly got dressed, and had some buffet breakfast before boarding the shuttle to the airport for our flight to Iguazu Falls via Buenos Aires. Before boarding our flight we had to clear immigration to leave the country. The lineup at the immigration booth was about an hour long, but the process was simple. Before boarding the LATAM Airbus A320 flight to Buenos Aires I tried to get some Argentinian Pesos at the foreign exchange, but they were out of currency. I was starting to get a bit concerned about obtaining Argentinian Pesos as nowhere in Calgary had any, nor did Chile… more on that fun adventure later…

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We arrived in Buenos Aires after a moderately turbulent flight. We had a two hour layover and had some food and a drink before boarding our next LATAM Airbus A320 flight to Iguazu Falls, Argentina. An interesting thing to note about Buenos Aires AEP airport is that it sits right next to a beach so you can see people hanging out on the beach sunbathing. The next flight was less turbulent and arrived on time. After arriving at Iguazu Falls and the aircraft door was opened we were greeted with 37 Celsius weather and tons of humidity. It felt really nice as we had just spent a week in Patagonia where it was cold, dry and windy.

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After deplaning into the terminal I searched for a bank machine and found the only one in the terminal. Of course this was too good to be true because when I put my card in and requested any denomination of Argentinian Pesos I was greeted with the message of “ATM out of cash”. At this point in time I decided that we would have to find a way to get to our hotel with only credit or debit. Uber was ousted from the Iguazu area by the taxi commission a few years ago so that left us with having to take a taxi. There was only one taxi company that said they took credit or debit so I picked them. All taxi companies have a flat rate of 700 Argentinian Pesos to the main city.

When we were only a few blocks away from the hotel the taxi driver pulled into a gas station and told me I would be buying her gasoline as she doesn’t have a credit / debit machine. I thought it was really weird at first but then told the taxi driver that I will not be paying for more than 700 pesos. She gave me a very dirty look and started to talk in Spanish to the service station agent. After fueling the taxi we were dropped off at our hotel; Boutique Hotel de la Fonte. The hotel beautiful, but fairly dated. You could tell that it was once an extremely prosperous place.

From my research and talking with others it appears that Argentina is going through economic decline, where as Chile is actually doing really well. Their roles over the last decade have reversed as Chile used to be a fairly impoverished country. Argentina’s economy is being eroded due to political instability and corruption and the locals are suffering. It’s extremely difficult to obtain cash because the citizens of Argentina have lost trust in the local banks due to devaluing currency. They panic and take out all their money, leaving the machines empty.

After settling into the hotel for a bit we decided to go explore the town and get some dinner. We came across a quaint Italian restaurant called Il Fratello. I had vegetable lasagna and Catherine had herbed chicken with pumpkin infused mashed potatoes. Both meals were exquisite.

After dinner we found a bank machine that actually had some money in it. I took out 4000 Pesos ($130 CDN) and was charged 385 pesos ($13 CDN) to take it out, which is extremely expensive. Most countries charge $1-5 but this was the most that I had ever seen. Either way I was happy to have cash as I would need it for tomorrow and to also buy some bottled water. We stopped at a convenience store and tried to purchase a few bottles of water for tomorrow, but the store owner didn’t have enough change for my 1000 peso bills. I ended up having to buy four bottles of water, some bottles of beer, and some ice cream just to purchase enough items to receive change. He even had to go into his own wallet, and the next days float to have enough change to give me.

After arriving back at the hotel we swam in the pool and were greeted with a welcome drink of champagne. Catherine started to not feel well, but I was feeling better at this point in time. We had a lazy evening before heading to bed. Tomorrow we explore Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side.

This concludes my Chile series, but I have two posts left for Argentina/Brazil that will be debuting sometime this week.

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Chile – Day 6 – Travel Day & San Pedro De Atacama

Today we woke up at 5:15am because we had the airport shuttle departing for SCL Airport at 6:00am. Security was a total breeze which makes you wonder if they’re even looking at the screens or peoples tickets and passports. I recall when I travelled to Peru in 2014 with my father that there basically was no security for internal flights; this basically gives the same perception. We then purchased some Starbucks; I had a drip coffee and C had a Chai Tea Latte. Our 8:15am flight boarded quickly and we arrived at Calama Airport (CJC) at 10:50am.

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The day fell apart from here and it started with the Budget rental car agency. The rental car took almost three hours to figure out and we were given about ten different excuses as to where the car was, but it was obvious they were not prepared. I left a nasty 1 star review on Google Reviews during the whole process. While waiting for the car we talked with a bunch of people dropped off cars at other rental agencies and they said the entire park was closed due to flooding and heavy rain; which was not great news for us… more on that later! After finally leaving the airport at close to 2:00pm, three hours later we went to Lider (Walmart) and purchased water and a few groceries and started our adventure.

We drove one hour to San Pedro de Atacama and saw the Valley of the Moon from the top of road. The weather looked okay at this point in time and we had yet to see the flooding until when we drove into the town. That’s when things really changed… the roads were red mud and completely flooded. We drove to our hotel; Hotel La Casa de Don Tomas. The hotel was absolutely beautiful and we were greeted with Champagne. After checking in we decided to walk into town and get some dinner at Las Delicias de Carmen. We both ordered vegetable lasagna with a side of potatoes and quinoa. We were told the portion was large and could probably share it, but we didn’t heed to her advice… we should have though! While we were waiting for our meals to come out there was a torrential downpour and the power in the entire city shut off. Our server casually came over with a candle as if this were a regular occurrence. We ordered a thousand layer cake to go for C as it was her birthday. We wanted to have it while watching a movie back at the hotel, but sadly with no power there was no internet.

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We watched a previously downloaded episode of Marvelous Miss Maisel, the second last one before we’re all caught up. If you have not seen this series I highly recommend it! I came up with a plan B for tomorrow for us to explore Reserva Nacional Alto Loa. It was still raining, my cold was getting worse, and it was time to go to bed.

Chile – Day 5 – Valparaiso & Santiago

Today I woke up with a headache at 6:45am so I got dressed and walked across the street to the Shell gas station and purchased an Americano and then sat in the lobby of our hotel while catching up on Social Media. I went upstairs at 8:00am and C was ready for breakfast. For breakfast we went back to the Panini Cafe that we went to two days ago. I had a Neapolitan panini and a double shot americano, while C had a Belgian waffle with strawberry syrup as well as a Cappuccino.

We hung out in the hotel room in the morning while I did some work and C drew on her iPad. We checked out at noon and left our bags at the hotel for a few hours while we explored Valparaiso a bit more. We explored the community of Bellavista. We decided that even though Bellavista was nice that we enjoyed the other cerro’s that we had visited on the previous day more than Bellavista. After exploring Bellavista we decided we wanted to track down a restaurant that served Arepas, which is a bun made of ground maize dough or flour and then stuffed with meat and cheese. Arepas are actually not too common to Chile, as they are a Colombian and Venezuelan food, but we were craving it since we had them at one of my colleagues houses back home. We came across the one of the only places in town that served them (according to Google Maps); Sazon Chevere. I had pulled brisket with cheese, and C had pulled chicken with cheese.

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We picked up our bags at 3:45pm and took the train (also saw a homeless dog sleeping on the train who seemed very cute and peaceful) and walked back to the bus terminal to take us back to Santiago. While walking back to the bus terminal a guy tried to pull a typical tourist theft scheme on C but we caught it in time and nothing was stolen. The scheme typically occurs by someone saying that your bag is open (even when it’s not) and that some stuff fell out, which you then scramble to find, and someone else will then quickly slip into your pockets while you’re panicking and steal your phone and/or wallet. I recognized this right away. This type of scheme is very common in South America and some parts of Southeast Asia.

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We took a 5:15pm TurBus bus back to Valparaiso. We were fortunate enough to have seats on the upper deck with a view out the front, which was a really nice view. During the bus ride I started to come down with a cold.

We arrived in Pajaritos at around 7:00pm and took a $6.40 Uber ride to City Express Hotel beside Santiago International Airport (SCL). We checked in to the hotel and had some dinner in the bar. I had a burger and some local beers (Quimera Amber Ale & Quimera Pale Ale), while C had spaghetti and a glass of white wine. Both beers were quite excellent! It was then time for us to head to bed as we had to wake up at 5:15am for an early morning flight.

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Chile – Day 3 – Valparaiso

Today we woke up at 7:30am. We packed our bags while waiting for the cafe’s around us to open. Most of the cafe’s don’t open until 8-8:30am. We decided to go to a coffee shop called Coffee & Me. C had a cappuccino and I had an Americano. The food at this cafe was very expensive so we decided to get food elsewhere. Across the street from Coffee & Me was a NesCafe branded coffee shop were we both go panini’s for $4 and some more beverages before heading back to the hotel. C had a Chai Tea Latte and I had another Americano. As you can tell I don’t really like sweet beverages very often.

We told the hotel that we were checking out a day early because we were going to head to Valparaiso. After checking out of the hotel we made our way to the Red Metro line right below our hotel and took it all the way to the other end of the line and got off at Pajaritos station.

After exiting the metro at Pajaritos station we went to the TurBus checkin counter to purchase tickets to Valparaiso, which ended up only being $18/pp return-trip, which was a bargain compared to the cost of the tickets online. We boarded a 10:20am bus to Valparaiso. During the bus ride we played a few games; hangman and 94% (a game on her iPad where you guess what words are associated with a certain theme).

The bus arrived in Valparaiso at 12:15pm. Within 3 minutes of exiting the bus C realized she left her jacket on the bus and when we went to go back to the bus it was gone. We talked to the check-in counter at the bus terminal and they said the bus driver would return it within 30 minutes. We were skeptical and thought the jacket would be gone, but we waited around for 30 minutes and sure enough the jacket turned up. What we think happened was the bus driver stopped and met another bus on the highway back to Santiago and did the exchange. This level of service goes above and beyond the level of service I’d expect from any company and TurBus gets a 5/5 star review from me.

We exited the bus terminal and walked towards the train station where we boarded an LRT style train towards Puerto train station, just two stops away. After exiting the train station we checked into our hotel; ibis Valparaiso, which was right at the train station. After dropping off our bags we went exploring the cerro’s (hills) of Valparaiso; which are officially recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.

We started off by grabbing some panini’s from the self titled Panini Cafe. I had a cubano panini and C had a chicken, cheese and mushrooms. We visited Plaza Sotomayor, Cerro Concepcion, Cerro Carcel, Cerro Alegre, Cerro La Loma, Cerro Pantheon and Cerro Bellavista. The other Cerro’s are known to be pretty dodgy areas and therefore decided not to visit them. We took some classic photos such as climbing the very long and tall Valparaiso Stairs, Piano Stairs, and the steepest and oldest funicular in the city; Ascensor Reina Victoria, which opened in 1902.

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Below Ascensor Reina Victoria is where we had some dinner at Altamira Brewery (Casa Cervecera Altamira). I had a black IPA (7.5%) and Regular IPA (6%), while C had a Pina Colada. All the drinks were fantastic. For dinner we shared a plate of fried covered in cheese and pulled beef brisket. After dinner we decided to walk back to the hotel and watch an episode of Marvelous Miss Maisel. If you have not watched that show I highly recommend it!

Chile – Day 2 – Santiago

Today we woke up at 7:00am. We got ready fairly quickly and then walked to a nearby Starbucks. I had a regular drip coffee and C had a Chai Tea Latte. We then walked back to Santa Lucia Hill and explored the hill. Santa Lucia Hill sits on top of a volcano that last erupted an estimated 15 million years ago. On top of the hill is a beautiful park, chapel, and Fort Hidalgo. Fort Hidalgo was recently restored and reopened to the public and traditionally a cannon shot is fired at exactly noon.

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After exploring Santa Lucia Hill we walked over to Plaza De Armas. Plaza De Armas is the main square of Santiago. It is the centerpiece of the initial layout of Santiago and the square grid pattern of the city was laid out from here. Santiago (officially known as Santiago de Chile) was originally founded in 1541 by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Valdivia. Santiago has a population of 6.3 million people and is home to 40% of the entire population of Chile.

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Right across from Plaza De Armas is Cathedral Metropolitana de Santiago which took 52 years to build and was first opened in 1800. Previous cathedrals stood in its spot but were destroyed by earthquakes. Chile is known to have some of the world’s largest earthquakes in recorded history, with the largest being the 9.5 magnitude earthquake on May 22, 1960 near Valdivia, Chile. That particular earthquake left 2 million Chileans homeless, killed approximately 6000 Chileans, and created Tsunami’s that reached as far as Honshu, Japan. The 18 foot high waves reached Honshu about 22 hours after the earthquake and left 1600 homes destroyed and killed 185 people.

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After visiting the beautiful Cathedral Metropolitana de Santiago we walked through the nearby Central Market and over to Centro Cultural Estacion Mapocho, which was a former railway station (built in 1913) that was converted to a cultural center/musuem. The beautiful semi-restored train station is built in Art Nouveau style architecture, which is some of my favorite architecture, alongside Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern. You can refer back to my France blog posts, among others to see some other beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture.

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We continued exploring the area and came across a hip modern area called Eurocentro, and narrowly avoided a protest in front of the University of Chile. There were about 30-40 armed military personnel with riot shields ready to pounce if things got out of control.

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After that we took the Yellow Metro line from Santa Ana station to Departamental station. Santiago is home to one of my favorite style of Metro systems; the rubber-tyred Metro. There are only about 25 systems like these in the world and I’ve been on about 1/4 of them. The rubber-tyred Metro was first applied to the Paris Metro in 1951, and is also used in Montreal, Canada. The benefits are better grip, quieter, and a better ride.

After exiting Departamental station we walked to the nearby community of San Miguel, which is a rundown lower income community with many tenement buildings. The appeal of this community to us was the huge open street market and the massive murals on the sides of the tenement buildings.

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We were getting hungry and were in search of Arepas, which is a Venezuelan & Columbian food that is fairly popular to Chile as well. Arepas is made of ground maize dough and is cut in half and stuffed with cheese, meat, tomatoes, etc. You can have it in many different styles. We took the Metro and walked to numerous places on google maps that supposedly sold Arepas, but sadly they were closed or didn’t sell them. We settled on some amazing freshly made pizza at a nearby restaurant. We ordered a Neapolitan style pizza, which absolutely delicious.

After eating we explored the rustic community of Varrio Italia, before walking back to the hotel and calling it a night. Originally we were supposed to stay one additional day in Santiago but we opted to go to Valparaiso a day early starting tomorrow.

Chile – Day 1 – Travel Day & Santiago

I have to start of with an apology for a half month delay for this travel series. Internet connectivity was questionable at the majority of places we visited, and I was combating a very nasty flu which left me with little energy to write. Anyways, let the adventure begin!

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Today was mostly a travel day for us. We woke up at 8am, got ready and my dad drove us to the airport. We travelled from Calgary to Toronto on one of Air Canada’s last Boeing 767-300ER flights before they are retired from mainline service to Air Canada Rouge; a low-cost subsidiary of Air Canada. The flight departed Calgary at 11:45am and we arrived in Toronto at 5:15pm. After a 2 hour layover in Toronto we departed for Santiago on Air Canada’s flagship Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The flight arrived the next morning at 8:45am.

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After landing in Santiago we went through customs, which was actually a fairly painless experience contrary to what I had read online. After clearing customs we boarded a Centropuerto Bus that took us to the city center station of Los Heros for only $3.20/pp. Once we reached Los Heros we took the Red Metro line ($1.30/pp trip) to Manuel Montt station, which was right below our hotel; the ibis Providencia. We checked into the hotel and had a quick two hour nap before venturing out into the city.

After waking up from our nap we walked along the Mapocho River, which was extremely turbid and fast flowing. The river led us to the beautiful community of Bellavista, where we stopped at the Fukai Sushi restaurant and ordered some sushi rolls. We tried three unique rolls that we’ve never had before; Guacamole Rolls, Baked Brie Rolls, and Seared Salmon with Almond Slivers. We’ll call this lunch/dinner since it was about 3 in the afternoon.

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After having our meal we walked to Funicular de Santiago, which took us to the top of San Cristobal Hill. The funicular was opened in 1925 and definitely shows its age. The views provided from the top of the hill are absolutely fascinating. We had 360 degree views of the entire city, including one of my favorite of the newest flagship building in Santiago; Gran Torre Santiago, which is a 300 metre tall skyscraper that towers over the city. Gran Torre was completed in 2013 and is the tallest building in South America. Also at the top of the hill was Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (Virgin Mary).

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Instead of taking the funicular back down the hill we opted to take the gondola across the hill and down the other side, exiting near the Gran Torre. We ended up walking around a bit before taking the Red Metro line to Baquedano station, where we got off to get ourselves some of the famous ice cream from Heladeria Emporio La Rosa. C had I both had two scoops of Ice Cream. C had Raspberry & Pineapple, while I had Vanilla & Cookies and Cream. It was starting to get late and we were tired so we walked past Santa Lucia Hill before walking back to the hotel. We walked a total of 23km today, which our feet and bodies definitely felt considering we only got 1.5 hours of sleep on the plane as well as a two hour nap.

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