The 22 hour journey from the Atacama desert to Santiago wasn’t as painful as I expected; the semi came seats were better on this longer journey and, once the kind Chilean man seated next to Katie let me swap with him, I felt comfortable enough to watch a film on my iPad by connecting to the Turbus page (I got through Spotlight, Man Up and Focus on this trip alone) and actually get around 8 hours sleep. Oh and numerous street sellers came onboard at various points offering empanadas and sweet treats, with Katie and I opting for a dulce de leche sugared pastry for 300 pesos.
We arrived at Universidad de Santiago just before 5pm and took the metro to Salvador (660 pesos) where we then walked 10 minutes to Aji Hostel. Pretty exhausted from our bus journey we spent the evening planning the next day and tucking into the free dinner at the hostel (a first in 9 months of travelling!) before heading to bed.
We had arranged to go on a wine tour with Undurraga in Maipo Valley for the following afternoon, a tour that would cost 32,000 pesos each with transport included but for which we only paid 25,000 pesos as our hostel owner, Fernando, drove us there and back – we spent our journey there receiving Spanish lessons from Fernando and singing along to Shakira and Shaggy (Shakira has become a bit of a theme for me on my travels, popping up in every continent I have been to by making a point in Thailand, Australia and now Chile). Once at the winery we posed for obligatory tourist photos with the giant wine bottle out front before commencing our tour around the vineyard.
Now, I have been on a few wine tours in my life, from the UK to Australia and now to South America, yet I still seem to learn something new, which is really cool. For example, for white wine the grapes are crushed and left is in barrels for 20-22 days at a temperature of between 10 and 15 degrees whereas red wine uses whole grapes in barrels for 10-12 days at a temperature of between 25 and 28 degrees.
Plus, at this tour we saw the different grapes of wine clearly distinguished on the vines and we got to sample the different grapes, the taste of which ranged from smooth to sour to very sweet. I was surprised to like the Chardonnay grape despite not liking Chardonnay.
It was a lovely warm day to wander around the vineyard and we certainly challenged the Chilean tour guide with our overload of questions, and probably amused her with our enthusiasm for eating the grapes and tested her patience with the number of photos we demanded she took. But I’m sure she had a place for us in her heart. The wine tasting was, obviously, my favourite part, sampling a Sauvignon Blanc, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere blend, a Cabernet Sauvignon and finally a dessert wine, with the latter two being my favourites. Having not eaten lunch we also made the most of the crackers offered as a snack, consuming them as though we hadn’t eaten in months.
After the tour we met up with Fernando in the vineyard and, after asking him to take a few photos of us, we found ourselves taking part in what I can best describe as an engagement shoot. Not one to shy away from the camera or a chance to perform, we threw ourselves into it and have some wonderful pictures of the happy couple.
A bit giddy on wine and photography, we purchased a bottle of Brut for 3,000 pesos (£4) and consumed it on the car journey back into town using the complimentary wine glasses from the tour, whilst singing along to Britney Spears and Coldplay.
We asked Fernando to drop us off at Museo de arte Contemporaneo as it had been shut on our previous visit to Santiago, where it was free to enter and we spent a good hour wandering around, enjoying the pieces that challenge and subvert the role of and attitude towards masculinity (using the different one to femininity as a way to explore this) and the installation Frozen In Time that explores photography being the death and loss of a moment in time. It was actually really interesting and, despite having necked a bottle if wine in the middle of the afternoon, I found myself really engaged.
We left around 6pm and wandered around the area before walking back through Parque Forestal and along Pio Nono through Bellavista to reach the base of Parque Metropolitano de Santiago where you can pay 2,000 pesos for a return trip via the funicular (basically a cart on a rail track, kind of like the ascensors in Valparaiso) to go all the way to the top. We were in a rush as the funicular closes around 8 but it is advisable to head back down at 7:40 and it was already 7pm, so I managed to spectacularly trip on our trot to the entrance and get a beautiful blood blister on my big toe.
But I’m a trooper so we continued, hopping on the funicular up the hill and being graced with pretty decent panoramic views of Santiago at sunset below us. We were also lucky enough to start chatting to some Chilean men next to us, one if whom took our photo for us and turned out to be a professional photographer; the moment he captured of the two of us was when I had past him my phone to take a photo of us facing AWAY from him, and then realised that giving your valuables to a stranger to then turn your back on them is probably one of the many “common sense” things you are advised not to do and swore to my mum I wouldn’t be careless enough to do it. And here I was doing it. This photograph is of the moment I shared this thought with Katie.
With only 10 minutes to spare until we had to go back down, we rushed up the steps past the statue and to the peak of the hill for a wider view of Santiago below. It was a shame we couldn’t have spent longer up there, but it was one of the nicer funicular experiences and well worth the £3.
Back down at the bottom we ran into the photographer who, as it turns out, had cycled up and back down the mountain, putting us both to shame. But not enough to prevent us getting our photo taken with him.
We then wandered down Pio Nono looking for a place to sit outside and grab some food, settling on one of the many bars and restaurants that line the street and ordering a Chorrillana Mixta to share – Chorrillana is a typical Chilean dish consisting of a plate of french fries, beef, onion and topped with fried egg, but the mixta came with beef, chicken and chorizo. I had been eyeing it up since my arrival in Chile but it had looked quite gluttonous and something I believed I could only consume when drink like the British Kebab alternative. But suddenly both craving chips we went for it, and at 5,900 pesos for a 2 person plate of really decent chunky fries, tasty meat and runny fried eggs, it was actually a lot tastier than I expected. Oh and the 3,000 peso glass of wine also tasted pretty good.
At around 10pm we made our way back to the hostel, enjoying our last evening stroll through Chile, before finishing a bottle of white wine back at our hostel. The following morning, after breakfast, a Katie left first for her earlier flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I left around midday, walking to Salvador metro and paying 660 pesos to get to Los Heroes, before then paying 1,700 to get the CentroPuerto bus to the airport, arriving just after 1pm. I almost had a heart attack when they told me the flight was overbooked and as I hadn’t checked in there wasn’t space for me (something that has NEVER happened nor have I had to do before) but thankfully I was eventually given a seat and was able to make my scheduled flight to a Buenos Aires.
I actually preferred Santiago on my second visit, really enjoying the things we did this time round and appreciating the beauty of the city even more. In fact, I gotta admit, I’m really going to miss Chile…