Hola! This is part 2 of my Chile update (you can read part 1 here if you want). I’m just gonna pick up where I left off, which is our trip to the beautiful city Valparaíso.
Martes, 22 marzo
First, some background. Valparaíso is a port city on the coast of Chile. It has a long political, economic, and cultural history, but I don’t know it well enough to write about it here. What I do know is that it’s cold, hilly, and filled with amazing street art. We definitely weren’t prepared for the weather, as we were used to the days in Santiago being in the 80s or so. Valpo, as it’s affectionately called, was more like the 40s or 50s. Note to self: next time bring a jacket!
We took the bus from Santiago to Valpo, which took about 90 minutes. When we got there, we realized that we didn’t really know exactly where to go or what to do, so we hopped in a cap and asked him to take us to Cerro Alegre (which I think translates to Happiness Hill), a recommendation we got from Amanda’s friend. Once there, we found a map of the area hanging outside a restaurant, so we took a photo of it and were at least able to navigate around a little bit. We started by moseying around through the streets, which is really enough. The street art was amazing; every time I turned a corner, I found something even cooler than the last thing. I totally want to live there and be the bohemian, hipster-like type of person who could just paint awesome things on walls like that.
Cerro Alegre seemed a bit small, and the map made it seem like most of the things to do were on Cerro Concepción, so we headed in that direction. Eventually we saw a cute little rooftop restaurant and decided that it was our destiny to be up there. We went arriba and had a great lunch while swaddled in blankets that the restaurant provided. I guess we weren’t the first dummies to go to Valpo without jackets!
We had our lunch while enjoying the amazing view (it reminded me of a less sunny Mallorca, which of course got me excited for going back there this summer) and then set out around the city again. We stumbled upon a super cute bakery with lots of Ikea stuff (this is significant and exciting because we don’t have Ikea in CR) and found the best brownies ever, and then continued our journey. We found the piano stairs that Chelsea remembered from her first time in Valpo, as well as tons of other cool painted walls. Eventually we headed to another rooftop place to enjoy a copa before heading out of city.
Yet again, the restaurant provided blankets, but for some reason I didn’t get one. I did make a friend, though, when a nice Chilean man next to us noticed me shivering and offered me his shirt to keep warm. I thought that was super nice of him, and he just might have saved my life that day. I didn’t find out his name or “digis,” as Chelsea calls them, but if you’re reading this, Mr. Reading-Lawyer-Man-in-Valpo-Who-Gave-Me-His-Shirt, THANK YOU.
(I am currently editing this post and realized that it sounds like my new friend sat there shirtless while I just reaped the benefits of his shirt. I would just like to clarify that he was still wearing a t-shirt; the one he gave me was his flannel, which he wasn’t even wearing when he offered it to me. Ok, that is all.)
After our second rooftop stop, we slid down the city (literally…there was a slide) and headed back toward the bus station. Once we were home, we again had a late dinner before bed, bringing yet another fabulous day to a close!
Miercoles, 23 marzo
Well, another day another adventure! On Wednesday, we headed to the mountains for a tour of a winery and a little hike at a glacial lake. It was yet another successful day in Chile!
The day started around 9am, when we got picked up by our excellent tour guide Matias. It was a private tour, so it was just us three crazy gringas in a van with Matias. I mostly slept any time we were in the van; I felt like a 6-month-old who was lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the car!
Our first stop was the Errrazuriz Winery, or Viña Errazuriz. We got to take a tour of the vineyards, wine cellars, and tasting rooms, all the while learning about how they make the wine. We learned fun facts about the grapes (carmanere has red leaves, and merlot has yellow), the winemaking process (basically just let gravity do its work), and wine storage (French oak is the way to go). We even got to eat some of the grapes right off the vines! Since it’s only the beginning of autumn in Chile, they hadn’t yet harvested the carmanere grapes, so we quite enjoyed trying a few fresh grapes.
From the winery, we headed further into the mountains to Portillo. When there is snow, Portillo is a ski resort, but it’s a bit too early in the season for that (thank goodness; I hate snow!). Portillo is located in the Andes near the Argentinian border, and the ski lodge is built right on the edge of Laguna del Inca.
Laguna del Inca has a beautiful legend, which I have stolen from Carolyn Howard-Johnson and pasted here if you want to read it:
A long time ago in the land of the Inca lived a young couple in love. Like most Incas they felt close to their gods like Febo the god of the sun and Eolo who blew clouds into shapes like giant umbrellas, much like some old men in the villages do today, only they blow their smoke into rings, not into giant mushrooms.
Illi Yupanqui and the Princess Kora-Ilé were to marry and, because the Incas considered themselves children of the sun, they chose Aconagua, the highest peak in the Andes, for their wedding. There they could be as close as possible to Febo’s warmth and Eolo’s magic. Aconagua was not only the highest mountain in all of the Andes, it was the highest in all of their world. It was so high, so very, very high that the peaks were carved into giant black teeth, pure and barren, by glaciers and Eolo’s icy gusts.
Kora-Ilé’s eyes were blue-green. They looked as if the gods had mixed lapis lazuli found in the veins of the mountain rocks with the silver waters of the lagoon at the foot of the Aconagua. For her wedding, she chose to wear white linen, much as brides do today. It was summer and though it was often cold on the mountain even in summer, the sun god, Febo, shone so her dress looked as pure as glacier ice against the dark peaks that surrounded them. The princess walked regally followed by her séquito down the steep dark precipice where all could see her, much as modern brides make their entrance down a curving staircase.
The cliffs were smooth and slippery from the morning dew. She chose her way carefully. Trying to glimpse her Illi, she looked away from the path. Her soft slipper caught on a piece of smooth black basalt and she fell to her death.
Illi Yupanqui could not bear to have her removed from the place where they had experienced the bliss of true love. He wrapped her in his arms and carried her to the edge of the silver lagoon at the foot of the peaks. There he kissed her lips, immersed her into the pure, clear water and watched her sink. The lake was so clear he could see her still as she descended deeper and deeper. He didn’t think he could leave the lake as long as he could see her hair flowing in the water, her dress shining up at him like a white pebble from the bottom of the clear lagoon . The gods knew his thoughts. As Illi watched, Eolo moved the surface of the water into tiny ripples that obscured the young bridegroom’s view of Koru-Ilé and Febo moved across the sky so shadows from the peaks darkened the water. Soon the water turned from crystalline to turquoise. Eolo’s breath no longer pushed it into tiny waves. It became a smooth cabazon, rounded and opaque like a semi-precious stone set in black metal, just as the Laguna del Inca looks today.
Illi Yupanqui knew it was a sign that all would be well. When the moon is full, high up in those mountains where the country of Chili meets the border of Argentina, the village people who trek to the summit can hear the princess’ voice blend with Eolo’s call. Eolo, for his part, has never disturbed the surface of the lagoon from that day to this, though some say it is only because the peaks that surround it protect it from his sighs. Descendants of the Incas are reminded of this love story by the blend of Eolo’s quiet moans and Kora-Ilé’s high, young cry that can be heard in the thin mountain air, and, of course, by the tales that are told today of a love still pure in the this place so close to the gods.
Isn’t that romantic??
Anyway, because Matias knew we are not old and/or feeble, he suggested a hike along the side of the mountain so we could go put our feet in the lake. We agreed. I will admit that I was pretty winded as a result of being at almost 10,000 feet altitude, but I still loved being out there walking in the sunshine. I kept thinking how lucky it was that my mom didn’t know about the narrow path I was walking on because it definitely would have freaked her out!
After taking lots of pics and being attacked by those annoying spikey burr things, we made it down to the shore of the lake and spent some time hanging out there. We took off our shoes and socks and stood in the water, which was freezing (duh, it’s from a glacier). We definitely didn’t go for a swim or anything crazy like that. Definitely not. But if we did, I bet it would’ve been so cold that I couldn’t breathe, but I bet I would’ve loved it anyway.
After our hike and non-swim, we headed back to the lodge and had a nice lunch with a beautiful view of the lake. And then it was time to head back to the city, which was about two hours away. Of course, I passed out in the car again, but this time so did Amanda and Chelsea. That is, of course, until we got a flat tire!! Even that was a learning experience, as we found out about Chile’s new traffic laws that require all drivers to have bright yellow safety vests in their cars. Matias was thrilled about wearing it, and Chelsea helped out by controlling traffic with a beautiful truncated triangle.
We eventually made it home and headed out for yet another late dinner (sushi with our new friend Sara, who used to work at my current school, and her boyfriend Pedro). The sushi was delish, and then we went and sat inside a mushroom for a while before heading home to bed. It was a great day!
Jueves, 24 marzo
Thursday was a generally low-key day, but still fun! We met Sara for lunch in Providencia in the afternoon, so we got to see more of that neighborhood. We had delicious burgers in yet another sidewalk cafe (I can’t even count how many times we noted how much we wished San Jose had sidewalk cafes!). Then we headed to Torre Gran Constanera, which is the highest tower in Latin America. We paid our pesos to head up to the top, where our ears popped but our eyes got to enjoy the vistas. We spent some time walking around the tower (there were two floors from which to view the city) and then hopped on the metro back to our apartment (I am really a fan of the Santiago metro and wish we had one in San Jose!!).
I took a little siesta while Chelsea packed, and then we headed back to Providencia to Sara and Pedro’s for a delicious Chilean barbecue. This was a good excuse to experience rush hour at Santiago; the metro was packed! We couldn’t believe how many people packed themselves into the trains; people were basically smooshed up against the glass. Luckily, we changed trains, and the second one was less crowded. But still, it was a fun experience nonetheless.
Pedro cooked amazing food for us, and we enjoyed every bite. My favorite was the pebre, which is basically a Chilean form of pico de gallo. I can’t wait to try to make it! The churripan was also delish, but really everything was.
We got to hang out with their dog Lupe, which I loved because I miss having pets on my lap. We also got to soak in more beautiful views of the city (have I mentioned that Santiago is gorgeous) while watching the Chile/Argentina fútbol match on TV. What a fabulous way to spend our last night! (Thank you, Sara and Pedro!!)
Well, that’s about it! Friday was a travel day, and now I’m back in San Jose being lazy and gearing up to start school again. It was definitely a fabulous spring break; I regret nothing. Can’t wait to find out what’s next!!