Santiago, Valparasio and San Pedro de Atacama

30th April – 8th May
Our flight to Santiago was 11 hours with Qantas, it flew by. When we arrived I breezed through security but there was a slight delay with Paddy, it was due to another Patrick Murphy who got into some trouble in Chile so they had to do a check on Paddy! After about twenty minutes he was given the ok and a stamp.

We set back our watches 12 hours and took a bus and subway to the city. Our hostel was located in Barrio Lastarria, centrally located near the popular Belle Vista neighbourhood. That afternoon, we set out on a three hour walking tour with Tours for Tips. The tour took us through the city centre and to various points of interests. Santiago was a little chilly about 18 degrees. The Chilean tour guide spoke perfect English, the tour was excellent and a great introduction to the city. That evening, we had dinner out and bed early as we had jet lag.

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The 1st May was a public holiday in Chile, all shops and museums were shut down. In the morning, we did a hike to the top of Cerro San Cristobal where there was a church and statue of Mary. We could see nice views over the city and the snow capped peaks of the Andes.

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After,we walked around the city through a couple parks. In the afternoon, we took the subway to the main bus station to book our tickets to valparasio and San pedro de atacama. An Australian girl at the hostel mentioned if we purchased tickets a few days in advance of your travel date we would get a cheaper ticket. We took Tur Bus as it was a reputable company.
We decided our route through Chile spending two days in Valparasio (2 hrs) then returning to Santiago and getting the bus to San Pedro De Atacama (24 hrs).

We were considering the Lake District and doing a volcano trek in Pucan but the weather was wet and cold in the lakes and snowing in Patagonia. We hope to come again sometime in the summer to visit this area. Santiago is close to Australia so not too long a trip.

Valparasio was a lovely city built on hills. There is no organisation to the place with street going everywhere. The buildings are very colourful and the city has some great street art. We did another three hour walking tour which was excellent. We got some great views of the city along the way. That evening, we cooked in the hostel and had some Chilean wine with our meal. The next day, we walked along the coast to the next town Vida del Mel. The walk was lovely and weather nice and sunny.

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That afternoon, we took a bus back to Santiago and got the 7pm bus to San Pedro. The bus to San Pedro was comfortable, we were given food, blankets and we slept well that night. The following day on the bus seemed to pass by fine, we both finished a book.

About 2 hrs before we were due to arrive our bus broke down, turns out about 30 mins from the next town. The bus driver spoke in Spanish to explain what was going on, I did some sign language with a Chilean man who said bus broken an will take 2 hours. Everyone got of the bus and most of the Chileans who were going to the next town got onto buses that stopped. Eventually, it was only the tourists left and one spanish girl left who were all going to San Pedro. After one hour we caught a bus to the nearest town and were told the next bus was leaving to San Pedro at 10pm (it was now about 7.30pm, we should have arrived at 7pm). I rang the hostel to advise we were arriving late, we got in about 11pm, happy to get to our hostel and sleep in a bed!

San Pedro is a lovely town set in an oasis in the desert. There are five volcanos around the town. It is 2,500m above sea level. We stayed four night here. The plan was to do some activities and climates to the altitude before Bolivia.

We did horse-riding through the oasis and desert. Two of the horses where owned by a Swiss man named Walter, he accompanied us on the tour because we had no Spanish. The riding was lovely, the horses were quiet although were keen to trot along at times.
After the horse riding we hired mountain bikes to take us to some old ruins from the 1500s. The ruins were not that great as were taped off. We did a hike there up a small hill 200m, the views from the top were impressive.

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That night, we did Star gazing with a local tour called Space. The guide was from Europe and very interested in Astrology. We got a compressive talk about the various zodiacs stars in the sky and planets. We had a good view of the Milky Way. There were nine telescopes to view various points in the sky including The moon, Mars, Saturn, the brightest star in the sky (can’t remember the name) and various other groups of stars. The tenth telescope was used for taking photos of the moon. After our star gazing we went indoors for some hot chocolate and a Q&A session.

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The following day we did a tour to the geysers, we were collected at 4.30am and travelled up to 4,500m into the mountains. At this level altitude sickness is common, symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness and generally out of breath when moving quickly. We had breakfast at the geysers. After, we went to hot springs temp 35degrees and stopped at some scenic points on the way back to town. We didn´t get altitude sickness, just a little out of breath when walking fast. The geysers were great, I would definately recommend it. On the way back to San Pedro, we had a few stops to see some flamingos, limas and had a good view of a nearby active vocano. We took a break in a small town where we tried barbequed lima, it was tasty.

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