Quintay, Chile

Checking out Santiago, Chile

I landed in Santiago on Sunday morning at the ungodly hour of 5.15 am.  I was staying at a lovely little guest house with only a few rooms, and as luck would have it one of the rooms occupied by a couple from Auckland, Robyn and Colin, who I ended up spending the next couple of days with.

I was too tired to think on Sunday morning, but Walter, one of the owners and hosts of the B&B, had soon organised my day, and I set off with Robyn and Colin to an area called Cajón del Maipo, which is in the foothills of the Andes. Our destination was Cascade de las Animas, near the village of San Alfonso. It was a beautiful day, crisp, clear and very cold. It was quite an adventure just to get there, involving the Metro, and a colectivo taxi. Colectivos are a great concept – they are essentially shared taxis to a common destination, which makes them only a little more expensive than buses.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile

We arrived in the countryside to an outdoors centre, which included a restaurant and more kinds of outdoors activities than you can shake a stick at: white water rafting, trekking, horseback riding, camping…the list goes on. After a delicious and hearty lunch at the restaurant, Robyn, Colin and I set off for an afternoon trek to some waterfalls. Our trek in the Andes was gorgeous, and the scenery spectacular. After a couple of hours we certainly earned a wee tipple in the bar afterwards!

Next day Robyn and Colin had organised a trip with Walter to a little fishing village nearby, and they kindly invited me to join them. It was a fantastic day. On the way we stopped in a cute little church, Santuario de la Vásquez, where supposedly the Virgin Mary had appeared in 1898. Nowadays there is a huge pilgrimage every year to the church to commemorate this sighting.

We arrived in Quintay, a tiny fishing village, which until 1967 was also home to one of the largest whaling stations in the country. Nowadays it is a marine research centre and information centre about whaling days. We had a look around the whaling centre and then headed towards one of the few restaurants in Quintay, where we had a delicious entree of razor clams, and then shared a main meal of Conga Eel. Good thing we shared, as it was the hugest portion of fish I’ve ever come across, and absolutely delicious!

The next day Robyn and I headed off to Los Dominicos, a handicraft village on the outskirts of Santiago. We had a great day, browsing in the arts and crafts markets and picking up a few beautifully made local handcrafts, before heading to the downtown area to find some boots.

Then I had a Museum day and made myself a city walking tour. I started in the Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art, which also included a temporary exhibition of Inka things. After looking at a lot of ceramics, it soon became apparent that I have reached my museum quota. There were a LOT of ceramic things – pots, statues, bowls. After a while they all looked the same. From there I headed to the Plaza de Armas, and had a quick peek in the Cathedral. It was a very beautiful cathedral, however I thought the best part was the little confessional boxes up the side, complete with living and breathing priests waiting to hear confessions.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile

By chance I stumbled across the Changing of the Guard, at La Moneda, the Presidential Palace. I had forgotten that this happens every other day at 10.00 am, and I heard a brass band and followed the noise. Considering that this happens every other day it’s quite a spectacle .

The big disappointment of the day was discovering that the Museum of Contemporary Art had turned into a solitary room in the basement of the building, following earthquake damage to the building itself. The big surprise however is that is the only evidence of the earthquake damage that I have seen so far, given how large the earthquake was.

I kept up my walking tour of the city and headed towards Barrio Lastarria, a small bohemian neighbourhood with eclectic designers and a few bars and restaurants. Next up I headed towards the Museum of Visual Arts, which was one of the highlights of the day. My self-designed walking tour was not over yet however, and I headed over the Barrio Bellavista, basically the bar/restaurant/nightclub part of town. The reason for my visit however was to visit one of Pablo Nerudo’s houses, La Chascona. This was probably the highlight of the day. Modeled on a ship’s design, it was quirky, artistic, imaginative, creative and very inviting. I loved it!


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