Santiago, Vina del Mar & Valparaiso

So a new adventure began for me as I finally decided to take an extended traveling voyage to explore the world of Patagonia. I arrived in Santiago, Chile after an all night flight from Toronto around 11am on November 5th, 2011. It was long and uncomfortable but I left the plane with only a slight sore back. The time was only 1 hour ahead so it wasn’t that bad. It took a long time to receive my bag but I finally did and even though I was really tired I decided to take the cheapest way possible to meet up with my couch surfer in Providencia area of Santiago. This wasn’t so bad, just 1 bus and then the subway totally 2,000 pesos ($4). So I met up with my Couchsurfing host Natalia who was from originally from Anastofagasta in the north of Chile but went to school and has been working in Santiago in the travel and tourism industry. She also did lots of trekking in the Andes and was excited about outdoor adventures so we got along well. She works for Navimag which is one of the most popular ferry companies in Patagonia.

Although I was very tired we hiked all the way up to Cerro de San Cristobal and took the long and winding road to the very top (for more photos click any of the photos below).
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This is a big park in Santiago with amazing views of the city and the Andes mountains which surround it. It was very hot something like 30deg C!

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I was still processing the fact that I was in the southern hemisphere and it was spring and all plants and trees were all started to bud/bloom. Such diversity of plants and trees in this park. I could see in the same view: coniferous trees, deciduous trees, palm trees and cactus!

Natalia and I were quite tired when we got to the top. We decided to pay 1,000 pesos ($2) each to make in down on a sweet little tramway and rest before we went to meet up with her friends that evening for a pub crawl.
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We made it out and met up Natalia’s friends at an Irish pub, then kareokee, then a night club where we stayed and danced with all the people in the group until 5am! I was so tired at one point but I kept it together and had a great time dancing to salsa, reggae-tone and other Latin music with Natalia and her friends.

Sunday November 6th:

The next day we slept in and I join Natalia at giant Eco-tourism convention in Santiago. Natalia had to work at the Navimag booth but I went and toured around collecting info for all the parks and interesting places in chile. I met many people and made connections for jobs and people to meet I the places I was planning on going.

Monday November 7th:

The next day Natalia went to work and I took a bus to Vina del Mar. It is so great how I can meet someone on couchsurfing and have complete trust in them because of this I was able to leave all my stuff and head off to the coast for a few days to couchsurf with just a small bag.

I Arrived around 4:30 after a half hour bus ride from Santiago and I went straight for the coast. It was kind of over cast, windy and cold so I just made a short stop.
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Vina del Mar is a big resort town and weekend get away. On the heart of the summer apparently it is ridiculously full of people. November is still spring so it wasn’t too bad. I met up with Couchsurfer Patricia around 6 pm. She didn’t speak much English so it was challenging to communicate but great learning. We went shopping and cooked a nice stirfry.

Tuesday, November 8th:

Patricia had to work early but I made plans to meet up with another Couchsurfer, Raul. He worked for an insurance company in the heart of the business section of Vina. It was an interesting experience to meet him at his work and following him around as he delivered papers etc. He only spoke spanish so I had no clue what was happening most of the time. After about an hour of walking around we went out for pisco sours and the tour began. He took me to sevreral different bars and we tried to converse with each other in Spanish and the very very little English he knew. Finally after visiting about 4 bars in Vina del Mar I was able to return Patricia’s bike and Raul and I took a bus to the neighboring city of Valparaiso for a long awaited lunch of fresh fish and chips.
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After we finished lunch Raul started talking to two brazilian girls at another table. He invited them to join us on our grand tour of the city. We went to several different bars, scenic vistas, and once Patricia finished work, we all went on a boat ride in the harbour and saw some enormous sea lions.
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Wednesday November 9th:

I slept in and went to the beach in Vina del Mar. It was a beautiful warm sunny day so I thought I would relax on the beach for a while.
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I put on lots of sun screen but still got burned. I took the bus back to Santiago and met up with Natalia once again only to find out she had fallen on her way to work that morning and broke her arm. I stayed an extra day and helped her around the house, did some cooking for her and she helped me buy a cheap cell phone.

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