We had more visitors! This time they were very special, my folks! They agreed to come down for two weeks at the beginning of April and visit Chile. Just a little spoiler, we had a blast and we really enjoyed having them.
Obviously we couldn’t travel, with them, the same way that Alex and I usually travel. Although we thought about it, but figured that Mom was not interested in sleeping on the floor of the van. Dad probably would have been OK with it though. Instead, we got a few AirBnBs and use them as home bases to explore.
We started out with a week in the Lakes District. They are a series of 10 or so massive blue lakes that are fed by mountains streams and rivers flowing from several snow-capped volcanoes. The region stretches for several hundred miles along the Andes. For our home base we got a really nice Airbnb in the mountains outside of Pucon. The house was perfect. It had big, well-appointed kitchen with a wood burning cook stove (as well as a gas stove) and a beautiful, massive, garden that we could collect berries and flowers.
April is the shoulder season, just after the end of the Southern hemisphere summer, think early October at home. On one hand was great because it meant the millions of tourists that flock here every summer were not flocking, but on the other it meant that it was cloudy and rainy for much of the time we were there. This was not at all a problem for us because we had some really nice hot springs to visit, some rain forests to visit in their natural habitat, tasty meals out, and a great house to cook and spend time in together.
For Alex and me it was a wonderful change of pace and allowed us to slow down and be stationary for a while. It also allowed us to spend some real quality time with my folks, who we hadn’t seen for 8 months.
From the Lakes District we made a hard push north. This would be about 10 hours of driving that we spread out over two days. The first was pretty much just driving, but during the second we were able to check out Chile’s wine region, taste some excellent wine and visit the beautiful winery estates.
We eventually arrived at Pichilemu, home to some of Chile’s best surfing and a great big beach. We got a place right on the beach. It was a short drive north to town and a nice long walk south to the headland that helps to make the perfect surfing waves. Two nights here provided us with some great beach walking and some time to relax.
From Pichi we headed to our final destination, Valparaiso. Valparaiso is an awesome city. If you are ever visiting Chile don’t miss this historic and vibrant city. The city came into it’s own as a very important port for ships rounding the horn in the days before the Panama Canal. It has a rich culture, amazing architecture, and very cool street art.
Valparaiso is a port city. It’s location was chosen based on it’s protected harbor, and not because it had an inch of flat ground. From the protected harbor the land rises steeply all around. Forcing the people to be creative with it’s layout, or maybe the streets were just laid out based on necessity. Back in the days of the trolley car the people of Valparaiso, like San Francisco, came up with a unique solution to the problem of steep grades. Valparaiso has around 20 funiculars, or elevator type things, that bring you from the bottom of the hill to the top on a set of steep rails. The funiculars consist of two cars that are counter balanced, which transport people efficiently up and down the steep slopes. The funiculars were neglected for a long time, but the government is slowly restoring these great, and useful, pieces of history. They cost about 50 cents for the ride and make walking in the city a hundred time easier.
Valparaiso, and actually much of Chile, has some incredible street art. There is this one neighborhood in particular in which about 20 pieces were commissioned by the government, we think back in the 70’s. But in the mean time the spaces between have been filled with more amazing art. It was great to walk around this area. I think I enjoyed the non commissioned art more that the real stuff, it was just way too abstract for me.
We also visited Pablo Neruda’s house. Those of you from the beat generation will remember his writings. He was an extraordinary man who challenged the way the we take in the world, and he inspired many people. He also took the design of his houses seriously, this made for a good tour. I am sure I am not giving him due credit and I really don’t know Neruda’s work well enough to truly appreciate it, sorry.
As an aside I have just started reading the book On the Road. I’ve been told that this will give our wanderings more perspective. So far, the story has made me feel a bit old. It feels more like the traveling I did in college and in my early twenties than what Alex and I are doing today. But I am not done with it yet.
From Valparaiso, we dropped Mom and Dad off at the airport in Santiago and pushed north for Coquimbo. Having Mom and Dad with us was wonderful. It allowed us to play tour guide and show off our Spanish skills. It gave us some valuable time together after being apart for so long. We are excited to announce that they’ve agreed yet again to brave the wilds of South America and will be visiting us in Colombia!
We traveled from Puno to Valparaiso, Chile from March 30th through April 14th, 2017.