Part III of III
Chile is known for its stunning scenery, so we booked two seperate day trips and it paid to make research, the exact same tours were offered by Viator and local companies. We chose to go with a local company and got a much better value.
Our first excursion was a bit of an adventure. It took us three hours to get to our destination – the “CAJON DEL MAIPO”, a reservoir high up on the Andes which is popular for Santiaguinos to come and escape the city.
It really is not far away from the city, “as the crow flies”, but first following the Rio Maipo through the gorges and then driving the last leg of the trip on very basic dirt roads, ate up a lot of time, but once there, it was everything you dreamt about!
Our driver was very good but we found the ride a bit nerve wrecking. The road was one lane only and “just because” there is a curve and you can not see ahead if another car or truck is coming at you, “does NOT mean” you have to slow down. Yikes.
Image courtesy of my husband
The lake was absolutly breathtaking in its almost turquoise color, against the snow capped mountains and glaciers in the background and best of all? Once we got to the beach there was only us in the van and one other car. Otherwise NOBODY else as far as you could see and complete silence. All you heard was the wind.
For me, that was Chile. Right there and then.
I am not sure if there are any animals living there at all. There was hardly any vegetation, just some dry looking shrubs but you never know what critters are hiding in the bushes. All we saw were a few condors cruising way high above us. Too far to really capture them but kinda neat to say, “we saw wild condors”, I guess.
This here was the backdrop of the birds flying. I loved the different shades of colors the rocks had. Like a painting.
We had about 1.5 hours at the beach and to really just to take it all in. It was very calming and got even better once a little picnic was prepared for us. I mean, come on – it just doesn’t get better than eating cheese, olives and salami with those panaramic views!
Of course going back meant another three hours, over the same winding dirt roads, facing the same curves and with the same driving mentalities!
We were really glad we went with this local company, on our way back we saw other vans, parked on the dirt road in little turn out spaces, have their picnics. Each time a truck would pass by everything disappeared in a cloud of dust.
Not great when you want to enjoy the view. Our spot was so much better.
Our second excursion brought us to a popular ski resort, “VALLE NEVADO”, also in the Andes. If we thought the drive to Cajon del Maipo was bad – well, this was worse.
Again, in pure distance not so far away from Santiago but it was “the road from hell” for people who get car sick easily. We were pre warned already that, to get to the ski resort high up in the mountains, we would have to do 40 (!) hair pin turns.
We drove and drove and drove. One turn after the other. My stomach was less and less agreeing with me but the “real” hair pin turns had not even started yet! I was not happy but kept myself busy with literally counting down the turns.
Once at the resort, which of course is completely dead at this time of year, we had the option to take a ski lift up even further, to get an “even” better view of the glacier in the distance. We went for it and it was so worth it!
Image courtesy of my husband
Again, nobody there and complete silence.
It looked stunning and I am glad we got to see it but I would not want to ski there. Our guide was talking of very bad road conditions in the winter and I would NOT want to do those hair pin turns with a lot of snow and extend my car sickness misery by an additional few more hours.
This is the hotel complex, on the right, for skiiers.
Plus we noticed there is nothing growing up there. This means if there is a snow storm and you are out on the slopes, you will have a white out and lose orientation very quickly. Since there are no trees growing, there are no roots for giving the dirt support and we saw a LOT of huge erosions.
I can not imagine this is fun if you ski and hit an erosion, because everything is covered in snow and you just don’t see what’s underneath till it’s too late.
And to finish my “triology” of Chile, a unique anecdote. (For more, see “Autumn days in Santiago de Chile” and “Exploring graffiti in Valparaiso”)
Before we had to head back to the airport, we had some time left and decided to go for a walk. It was Saturday afternoon, it was hot and the sidewalks were buzzing with locals, sales people trying to sell you strange things, stray dogs – you get the picture.
We were passing a woman and her approximately three year old son, who got away from her, and ran right into me from behind and landed on the back of my feet.
I didn’t expect to have somebody fall on me and when I looked down, I saw him and his hands next to me feet; so I stopped immediately to not step on his chubby little hands by accident and WHAT did he do???
He looked up at me and bit me real hard in my calf. YES. BIT!!
The only positive thing coming out of this is, I was lucky to wear long Jeans that day. If I would have worn shorts it would have been a flesh wound and to go to the emergency room in South America for getting a tetanus shot, while trying to catch an international flight, was not exactly on my bucket list of things to do.
This happened over five weeks ago and I still have his bite mark on my leg. I can honestly say, in all my travels, I have never been biten by a native!!
Lesson learnt. Watch out for little people with sharp teeth.
In the end, the question is – would I recommend Chile to others?
If you like spectacular scenery, definitely. There are not as many historical sights as in Peru and from the point of cuisine I can not really say it was a place for foodies, but it was affordable and still worth a visit.
We would LOVE to go back and check out other areas, like the desert in the north, Patagonia in the south or even the mysterious Easter Island. That island is calling my name.
Have you been to Chile or is it on your list of places you want to go to?