Chile has deserts, glaciers and mountain ranges
But what attacts you the most is always the coast
The most relaxing coast that makes you happy and puts aside all your worries
USA > Mexico > Peru > Bolivia > Chile - 2012
Chile Itinerary - San Pedro de Atacama – Santiago – Valparaíso
At the Bolivian border I boarded onto a van provided by the tour operator, only in a few hours I was transfered from ice capped mountains to the driest desert on earth, arriving at San Pedro de Atacama, a small town located at the far north of Chile. From that point I no longer had to worry of dangers of any kinds because I already landed in the safest and most modern country in South America, also because of these facts I decided to do two things that I never did but I always wanted to in this country - couchsurf and hitchhike. Unfortunately only after I arrived in the small town I was informed that I actually needed to go Antofagasta, a seaside city located four hours away from San Pedro de Atacama, for the possibility to hitchhike to Santiago. Since I was a newbie and yes I was lazy, and since I didn't want to miss the date to meet my couchsurf host, at the end I decided to take the CLP 42100 (USD 88) TurBus directly to the capital. Although Chilean buses are all luxurious, provided with spacious seats, latest movies and dining services, honestly I felt pretty fatigue and dizzy after 24 hours of long ride.
I had numbers of experiences attending events and making friends from Couchsurfing.org but I never spent a night in someone's apartment. The truth is I know myself too well, I don't talk to people when there is no meeting of minds, people who tried to understand me knows that I am honest and fun, people who just walked past me thinks that I am quiet and arrogant. I considered myself having a wired personality and that's why I shouldn't easily share a roof with anybody. But I decided to give my first time in Chile because every Chilean I met on the road were super nice and friendly. Luckily my assumption was right and I did really met the most amazing host in this country! My host was passionate but not over talkative, sincere but not over caring, not hyperactive nor super boring but very easy and generous. The first day I arrived he already gave me his key and offered me to use his house appliances, that made me feel totally home. Also he loved going to the kitchen and made us delicious food. Although we couldn't perfectly communicate but there was no barrier between us and we had a lot of fun together. My first couchsurfing was a more than perfect experience, definitely beyond of my expectation. However, I wouldn't easily try it again also because of that. Not only I want to keep my best couchsurfing memory, also I more love to travel randomly, but not tied by any meeting date on each journey.
Wandering around Santiago made me felt like being in Europe. In addition to the colonial era buildings that were found everywhere, street artists of different kinds were gathered around the plaza everday, together with residents who were enjoying moments of life, doggies that were sleeping on the ground, and pigeons that were flying in and out for the crumbs. A city of this kind really appeals to me, it is modern but no rush, elegant but no silence, a place that is filled with humanity as well arty atmosphere.
The advertising of one place always tells you how modern that place is. In Chile, I no longer saw any hand painted products that I could easily see in other undeveloped countries in Latin America, instead I saw large numbers of digital designed prints at every other corner. Obviously it told me that people are living in computer age here. On the other hand, contemporary art can also tell you the living standard or political situation of the country. Whether its people are protesting against capitalism or fighting for equality, you can always get a message or see a metaphor from the artworks of the contemporary artists.
Shops in Chile sells very fashionable and stylish products, that city people would definitely love. However, being one of the most modern countries in South America the prices are of course one of the highest, that's why many of the tourists prefer not to stay too long here. Specially the desert in the north could be visited from Bolivia, and the glacier in the south could be reached from Argentina, the most attractive scenery left for Chile is the longest coastline in South America, and the most relaxing seaside cities that puts aside all your worries.
I was so lucky that my host bought me to Mil Tombores, an annual percussion festival that takes place in Valparaíso, the very famous seaside city. I remember we were following teams and teams of drumming band on the avenue walking to the seaside, and then we squeezed ourselves into the crowd to enjoy this very vibrant audio-visual party. Not only there was numerous Samba bands that gave us exciting beats as backgound music, also there was clowns running around while juggling, little girls dancing with ribbons, muscular men performing kung fu, and lots and lots of topless babes showcasing their beautiful body paintings, offering everyone very sweetie eye candy. The audio visual of this festival were totally vivid, that were at the same time sending my eyes and ears super hyper energy, and made me feel happy very directly.
Since Chile got the greatest seasides, of course they also got the greatest seafood. To those who loves seafood you must pay a visit to Mercado Central in Santiago to taste all kinds of freshness from the sea. The price wasn't cheap but trust me every single seafood they had was indeed super tasty! No joke, the seafood soup that I had got like 80-90 pieces of prawns and crabs and clams and fishes inside the bowl, definitely the freshest taste I ever tried in my life!
Arriving in Chile after my extremely remote journey in Bolivia made me felt like having a relaxing holiday. With good food, good sleep, and I no longer had to adapt the strong wind, high altitude and bad weather. Unfortunately the living standard there was too high that I couldn't afford to stay for a longer while. So I could only end up this drifter's holiday mood and continue my journey to Argentina with the CLP 14000 (USD 29) Andesmar.