Santiago and Valparaiso
Santiago and Valparaiso marked the end of our time in Latin America. While we’re sad to leave we’re looking forward to the new adventures that await us. Due to the exorbitant price of flying from South America to Asia, we will be making our way across the Pacific via a cruise. Wait, What? See you in a few weeks New Zealand.
Leaving Mendoza, we boarded a small van to cross from Argentina to Chile. We chose a smaller van because the border crossings between these two countries are absolutely terrible in terms of time. Thus, a smaller van means less people compared to a larger bus and hopefully a quicker turnaround. The drive between Mendoza and Santiago takes you winding through the Andean Mountains which act like a natural barrier between the two nations. In fact, this is our second time crossing between the two, both with the actual immigration offices high in the Andes. The entire drive should take about 6 hours, but with immigration it can take anywhere from 9-11. While our van idea panned out and we managed to get through the border relatively quickly and then zip down the mountains, we had a tire blow out 30 minutes outside of Santiago and then watched all the large buses we beat drive past us. Once we eventually made it to Santiago we were very happy with the AirBnB we had booked, we stayed in a quiet street near Barrio Brasil, with a beautiful fountain outside our doors. The metro was also nearby and very easy to use, we relied on it heavily for our time in Santiago.
The first night we went to the Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in South America, to enjoy the sweeping 360 degree views of the entire city. This building is relatively new, only being completed in 2013 and the viewing decks only opened in 2015. The next day we took the metro toward the outskirts of town to go wine tasting at Viña Cousiño Macul. I’m sure by now anyone who has followed our adventures is probably thinking, really, more wine tasting, but we heard good things about the Chilean wine and since it was easy to access by the metro, why not. This was probably our most detailed tour and tasting–it also came with the price to match that. We enjoyed that we were walked through the tasting process and each glass had a cheese paired with it. After this we spent the rest of the day wandering through the city, soaking in the atmosphere.
From Santiago it was a quick 1.5 hour bus ride to our final destination in Latin America, Valparaiso. Our first impressions of Valparaiso were not great. It very much resembles what it is, a port city. It’s a bit smelly, dirty, and cramped. However, the real Valparaiso is discovered amongst it’s hills. Here you can find colorful homes and street art everywhere, it’s a bit of a sanctuary from downtown. We spent one day taking a street tour that took us away from downtown and winding through the hillsides. There are numerous ascenors (elevators) that you can pay roughly 0.15 USD to take you up some of the more steep climbs. In the cities heyday there were around 26 working ascensors, now only 9 remain active. Luckily, thanks to some German immigrants, they brought their engineering spirit with them and created one maid flat winding road through the middle of the different hills, Avenida Alemania. Our main reason for coming to Valparaiso is this is where we board our cruise bound for New Zealand. That’s right, I said cruise. We NEVER thought that we would be traveling across the Pacific Ocean on a cruise for this trip, but our research into flying led us here. The prices to fly to Asia from South America are not cheap, in fact we met an Argentinian going to Europe first and then flying to Asia from there because the total price was roughly the same. We experienced the same setback when looking for flights and thus got a little creative. So, instead of flying we’re taking a 17 day cruise to New Zealand (with a few island stops in between).