27.09.2014 - 29.09.2014 16 °C
First impressions of Santiago was that it was smaller and quieter than I expected. However, I did arrive over the weekend, which I am told the city is dead over weekends. It certainly was more lively this morning as I wandered around. The city is run down and showing signs of years of neglect, with lots of graffiti, but is relatively clean. There is a lot of construction and restoration work underway.
Saturday afternoon, I met up with Jose (via couch surfing) who showed me around Plaza de Armas and took me to grab some coffee and a burger, Chilean style as it came with fried plantain on top of the beef. From there, we headed to The Clinic bar to try out some local drinks.
It was here I was introduced to the terramoto which translated from Spanish means earthquake. It is a sweet white wine, with some kind of bitter spirit added, and a scoop of mango ice cream. It packs a punch, but fortunately I found it too sweet for my liking, so didn't run the risk of being hit by the earthquake after several terramoto's. I also tried the Chilean pisco sour, which was similar to a Japanese sour plum wine I have had, but stronger. As a lack of sleep and jet lag was setting in, I bid Jose farewell after the couple if drinks and called it a night.
The next morning I was up early as I had arranged with Andrés (another couch surfer) to do a trek to Alto des Narajos with a local Chilean group Trekkeros Chile. The trek was amazing. A tough 6km hike rising about 800m along what can best be described as a goat track at some points. The effort was worth it though as the views of the Andes and Santiago were stunning, though somewhat limited by the haze/smog that gets trapped in the city with the Andes rising behind it.
After the full day hike, I was exhausted, and in desperate need for some dinner. With options limited on a Sunday evening around my hotel, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a guy selling meat skewers cooked over coals in a shopping trolley. They were superb, a mix of pork, beef, and sausage, so 4 of these was my dinner sorted for the night.
My final morning in Santiago I wandered back into the Plaza de Armas, which unfortunately due to construction the area was pretty closed off so the experience was not what it may have been with it fully opened up with the cathedral standing over it. I headed up to the Mercado Central, the local fish market and eatery. I had a snack of empanadas (most excellent) and then jumped on the hop-on hop-off bus to try and see as much of the city as possible before heading off to Quito in the afternoon. Needless to say, this was one of the lamer hop-on hop-off bus tours I had done, with only the start and finish parts of the loop of any interest to see. If I had my time again, I would have skipped the his and spent some time hanging out in the Bellavista district, which looks quite funky. It also has access to San Christobel hill, which on a clear day (which this was not) would be great to go up to the top to see the city.
And that's all I had time for in Santiago, it's now off to Quito to start the first of the tours I have booked, this one is the Galápagos leg of the journey. Adios amigos.