Santiago

It was a bit of a mission to get to Santiago. While we were both excited about the snow in Mendoza, we didn’t realise what havoc it would cause.

There was also snow in Santiago (apparently the first snow in 10 years). The city and surrounds lost power and it affected the immigration control on the Santiago side of the border up in the Andes. As we were going to be taking the bus through the Andes from Mendoza, we couldn’t get across overland. The buses just stopped running and the bus company couldn’t provide us with any information, simply stand at the allocated bus departure point and wait for a bus to arrive.

There were so many people in the bus station and outside. One entrepreneurial guy decided to increase his exposure and started rapping for the crowd. There were TV cameras and photographers hanging around as well. As buses are the main way to travel long distances in Argentina, it was big news in the local area.

After 2 hours, we decided to take our chances and head to the Mendoza airport, as a bus wasn’t our only way out. After a hectic taxi ride, we arrived. There were very few flights going to Santiago and no ticket counters were open. We hopped online and started looking for flights. I found a flight on Expedia and was all excited. It left that afternoon and while it was expensive, we could cover the cost with travel insurance.

As I was on the Australian Expedia site I just chose the first date option available to purchase, without thinking of the time difference. I had booked the next day, not the day we needed. Hoping like anything, I could get a refund, we pushed that mistake to the side and went about finding another flight.

There was one with LAW. You can only purchase the tickets online and luckily we had free wifi at the airport so we jumped straight on. We had lined up for the check-in queue (which was very long) and kept trying to buy any tickets available on that flight. A lot of stranded travellers were doing the same thing. LAW’s booking process had to be one of the most frustrating processes I have ever encountered. It probably didn’t help that we were under stress, I’d already booked the wrong flight and so many other people were trying to buy tickets as well. Through sheer luck, we finally managed to get tickets. I cannot express how relieved I was when that confirmation email came through.

We were disappointed we didn’t get to drive through the Andes, but the flight over was incredible. There were mountains almost as high as the plane and they were all snow-capped. It was stunning.

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Once at our amazing Airbnb in Providence, Santiago, we both breathed a sigh of relief. This was the most stressful day we had had on the trip so far. Which in hindsight is pretty lucky that was all we have encountered.

With the incorrect flights, mum came to the rescue pretending to be me and the flight was refunded. Let’s say it was a very stressful transit day.

We slowed down a lot in Santiago Chile. Neither Dave or I were feeling particularly healthy so we took a couple of days to rest and recuperate. Travelling can be taxing and we didn’t really want to be sick for our WorkAway stay in Valparaiso.

We started to explore the city again with a free walking tour. We learnt more about the history of Santiago and also a military coup which seem to plague all countries in South America. Pino Chet. We walked through Lastarria which is known for its bars and restaurants.

Dinner that night was at a wine bar, Bocanáriz in Lastarria. The food was once again amazing and they had an extensive range of Chilean wines. They have flights of wine, however, because the bottles were so cheap we just decided to have a couple. This was our first lesson in drinking at a higher altitude. The hangover the next day was definitely worse, that’s for sure.

We hadn’t had much traditional Chilean food in Santiago so we went along to a cooking class. It was a pretty fun class with the chef taking us through the insane fresh produce markets in Santiago. The fruit and vegetables are so tasty and cheap. Avocados were the equivalent of $3 per kilo. Plus there was plenty to see (and smell) in the fish market.

We learnt to make a pisco sour and more about the rivalry between Chilean pisco and Peruvian pisco, each claiming to be the first nation to make it. On the menu for the meal was dobladitas (like a flat bread) with salsa verdechupe de choritos y cochayuyo gratinado (a mussel and cheese dish, with cream and bread. It was very rich), charquican de vacuno (steak, eggs and mash. The mash was a bit different as it contained dry horse meat). For dessert, we had sopaipillas pasadas (similar to pumpkin pancakes with a sweet syrup).

All served with delicious Chilean wine. While the food was exactly my cup of tea (a bit too heavy) it was great gaining insight into traditional foods. We will definitely be making the salsa verde again and the pisco sours, if we can find pisco back home.

On our final morning in Santiago, we walked up San Cristobal. It was a tough ascent with many steep inclines and winding paths. Plus the smog in Santiago is terrible and after a while really affects your breathing. The views of the Andes made it worthwhile though. It was an overcast cold day but it was still beautiful up there. It gave us our last look at Santiago before we headed to Valparaiso.

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