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Curious what backpackers do in Chile? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day54

    17/06/17-22/06/17 Patagonia (Chile)

    Whilst everyone in England has been enjoying a heat wave, we have been enjoying the opposite extreme in Patagonia.

    We flew from Santiago to Punta Arenes, where the air hostess informed us that temperatures outside were a balmy -4 degrees Celsius. Punta Arenes is the furthest south either of us have ever been. From here, we took a bus to Puerto Natales, a small town where, if it hadn't been for all the snow, we felt as if we could be in an old Western film.

    We spent the night there, before hiring a car and driving to the National Park, Torres del Paine. On the morning of leaving, we thought we would make the most of the day and leave nice and early. We told our hostel we would want breakfast at 7am. When our alarms went off in the morning it was pitch black but we could hear the lady running our hostel clattering around getting breakfast ready. It was only then we decided to check when sunrise was.... 10am. We felt bad so got up and had breakfast before going back to bed for two hours so that we could leave in day light. She must have thought we were crazy!

    The park covers 1810 square km, and has some spectacular scenery and impressive animals. On our first drive through the park to our hotel, we spotted many guanaco (cross between a deer and llama) that would leap across the road unexpectedly, birds of prey – including a condor carrying the remains of a poor animal and an owl hunting, nandus (ostrich like birds) and most excitingly a puma! If it hadn't been for a tour bus stopped in the middle of the road with tourists taking photos of it, we think we would have missed it. Unfortunately we did not get the opportunity to take a good picture as it stalked it's way out of site too quickly.

    We were told that we were lucky to see it by the hotel owner, apparently it's quite rare! Our hotel was in a stunning location, situated on an island on Lake Pehoe. We had to cross a footbridge to reach it. The island was surrounded by mountains, and we were lucky to have a mountain view from our room.

    We spent three days doing walks around the park and enjoying the amazing scenery which consisted of snow capped mountains, waterfalls and turquoise lakes. It was very picturesque. Due to it being winter, there were few other tourists, and so we were able to enjoy everything without large crowds. It was truly stunning. Tom made it his mission to see another puma, until we spotted a puma print in the snow whilst out walking on our last day. We reacted by panicking and running home.... In hindsight we have found out that that is not the way to react if met with a puma. You should instead make yourself as big as possible, by raising your hands above your head, and never turning your back to them. At least we now know what to do if we ever see a puma lurking in the streets of Southampton.

    We returned to Puerto Natales, and were greeted by two forms of bad news. Firstly, our pre booked Hostel had cancelled our booking due to “maintenance issues” (we think it's because of the early breakfast thing) and secondly the buses to El Calafate, our next destination, had been cancelled until the weekend. We looked at various options available, and considered staying until the weekend, but with little else happening in the area felt that it was a waste of our time.

    Fortunately for us, the man we rented a car from took pity on us and offered to drive us there for a reasonable fee, which meant we were able to keep to schedule and finally cross the border into Argentina.
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  • Day37

    Our bus to Santiago was at 9am so we awoke to an early alarm. It's not actually that far from Mendoza so we didn't need an overnight bus. By not far I mean it was only 7 hours which seems like nothing to us now.

    We had been told that the journey to Santiago would be really nice as it takes you through the mountains however we didn't expect it to be as beautiful as it was. For hours all we could see were snow capped mountains, it was amazing. The roads were narrow and wound themselves through the mountains. On some of the downhill bits, we had to take a few deep breaths though as the bus got very close to the edge!

    I mentioned earlier that the journey was only meant to be 7 hours however that does not factor in the ridiculous amount of time it takes you to get across the border. Whilst the border crossing from Brazil to Argentina consisted of a quick stamp in the passport and putting your bags through a scanner that no one was monitoring, took less than 5 minutes, the Chilean border was a whole different kettle of fish.

    First you have to queue up to get your passport stamped and then you have to wait for them to get all the bags off the bus so they can be scanned. There were 2 coaches in front of us and they only do one coach at a time so this took forever. After the luggage in the hold had gone through we were all lined up like cattle with our hand luggage which then also had to go through the scanners. After what felt like an eternity we were allowed back on the bus and sent on our merry way.

    When we eventually arrived in Santiago, and after Simon got called a gringo (followed by something in Spanish which I have a suspicion wasn't very nice) by the luggage man for not tipping (apparently you have to tip the guy who passes you your luggage from the bus, which seems absolutely ludicrous as he literally passes you your bag and therefore no different they getting your shopping out of the boot of your car) we navigated our way to the subway and headed towards our hostel. We are staying in an 8 bed dorm here however the place is huge and the dorm is split into 2 parts so it's really not that bad at all.
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  • Day38

    Whenever we get to a new place, we always try to do a free walking tour. You learn so much about the area from a local perspective and you only have to tip them at the end so it's a really cheap way to see the city. They are also a great way to find your feet and find out about the various things the city has to offer. In light of this we decided to spend our first full day in the city doing the tour.

    It was a 4 hour tour which covered many of the main sights. Our guide Franco was amazing! He knew so much about the city and Chilean history. I feel like I now know way more about the history of Chile than of the UK.

    The tour started at Santiago's main square, Plaza de Armas on which we saw the Cathedral and City Hall. The tour also took us to the Old Congress Building, The Government House, Santiago Stock Exchange, the Opera House, the Bellavista neighbourhood and the Pablo Neruda museum.

    We were also introduced to Santiago's 'cafe con piernas' which means 'coffee with legs'. Now Chile has never been famous for coffee and nobody used to drink the stuff as it tasted terrible. That was until someone opened a coffee with legs. You still get a lousy cup of coffee however it's served to you by a beautiful lady wearing a very short skirt. Some of the cafe's have blacked out windows so they look more like a place you'd find in Amsterdam than a coffee shop! Apparently they tried something similar for women called coffee with three legs but it only lasted a couple of weeks.

    There are a lot of stray dogs in Santiago and South America in general. A local community in Santiago have come together to help these dogs and built them some kennels in the middle of one of the parks so they have somewhere dry to sleep when it rains. They also provide them with food and pay for them to be done to stop them having puppies and increasing the number of dogs on the street. In Santiago people also love to dress their dogs up so pretty much every dog you see has an outfit. We saw a minion in the park as well as a bumble bee outfit on a chihuahua. When they don't want the outfits anymore they donate them to the street dogs. On our tour we met Gary who waits for Franco at a particular place every day when he does his tours. Apparently the day before Gary was wearing a cape!

    After the tour we headed back to our hotel, popping into a few shops Franco had pointed out during the tour on a street called Merced. We also stopped off to grab some bits for dinner and discovered frozen veg which has revolutionised our meals. Pasta and sauce tastes so much better with added onion, peppers, carrot and garlic which comes chopped in a perfect sized frozen bag. It also tastes better and fresher than some of the fresh vegetables we have eaten elsewhere.
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  • Day41

    We decided to stay a couple extra nights in Santiago mainly due to the rain stopping us from doing a couple of the things we wanted to do. One of those things was a day trip to Valparaiso (or Valpo as the locals call it), a town which was around two hours by coach and had another free walking tour. It's often nice to do the earlier tour to give you ideas on things to do so we aimed to hit the 10am tour.

    We set our alarms super early and crept out as quietly as we could, hitting breakfast shortly after it opened (7am) and were on our way via the subway to the bus station. We bought our tickets and boarded the bus leaving at 8.05 which in theory (the bus taking 1hr 30) should have given us plenty of time. If there's one thing you should NEVER take as golden it's bus duration!! We're not entirely sure why the bus took so long as we were both snoring shortly after departure but when we woke up pulling into the station it was 9.57am. Now if previous tours and GPS were anything to go by this tour wouldn't start until at least 10.10am and it was not going to take 34 minutes to walk there. So we did what any other ambitious Brits would do and headed for the meeting point.

    As we got closer to the centre we could hear a racket echoing through the streets. This racket turned out to be hundreds of school kids in various marching bands, marching through the streets. Because of this various roads were closed to cars so trying to dodge the crowds of parents following their less than talented kids meant we inevitably missed the 10am tour. We later learnt that they were practicing for a big celebration which involved the Navy the following weekend. Valpo has a large port so this is apparently a pretty big deal!

    As the walking tour was going to line up the activities for the rest of the day I hadn't really bothered to research anything else to do around Valpo so Blake suggested we do what any good tourist should do and headed to the nearest Starbucks for coffee and wifi. The coffee you get for breakfast in the hostels is pretty terrible so having a Starbucks was a rare treat!! Unfortunately the Starbucks was in a square which was the central meeting point for these marching bands. They entered on one side, did a few laps then left on the opposite side. Luckily by that point it was the adults walking through so at least everything was in time but still enough to give you a headache.

    We had our coffee and logged onto the wifi and decided we'd walk up into the hillside and explore the colourful town that was Valparaiso. Almost every other building has a mural of some sort painted on it and those buildings that didn't were often painted a bright colour. We slowly headed towards a look out nearer the top of the hill which gave us an incredible view. A little further on and we arrived at Pablo Neruda's Valpo house (the poet who's house we looked around in Santiago). On the way back down the hill we decided to stop on a little square to make some sandwiches. Cream cheese in brown rolls topped up with spicy beef crisps were today's filling of choice!

    After a slow walk down the hill it was almost time to join the tour so we just waited around by the meeting point. The marching bands were still playing at this point, 5 hours after we arrived! Our tour guide Jorge arrived and took us up again into the hillside, this time venturing to the opposite side with more viewpoints and murals. At the beginning of the tour we got to a point where there was a giant slide / slider for the Bristolians. We joked saying we wanted to go down it but then it actually became part of the tour and the whole group went down. The bottom of the slide was in a small square where 4 or more dogs recognised our guide. I think Jorge was the pied piper of dogs as these four legged friends stayed with us for the whole 4 hour tour.

    When passing some of the murals we learnt that there were 3 occasions when one could be painted. The first being your house, your walls. The second for buildings not belonging to you, then permission from the owner was needed. And the third was for city owned buildings, for these you needed to submit a sketch along with a proposal explaining the story behind it. Because of this, many of the murals tell stories of Chilean history and its people. There was a fourth, but this involved the middle of the night with dark clothes and a pair of good shoes in case you have to run!

    Towards the end of the tour we stopped at an empanada shop. These from what were described were no normal empanadas either. We had a menu of 80 fillings to choose from and each was individually handmade to order before being deep fried (normal ones are baked like pasties). They were DELICIOUS!! I went for chorizo, onion, tomato and cheese and Blake opted for cheese, spinach, nuts and cream.

    After the tour finished we were all walked out so we headed back to the bus station and made our way back to the hostel for some well needed feet up time! I can tell you that the marching bands were also still going at this point.
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  • Day44

    Now we never expected 24 hours on a bus to be fun and I can assure you it wasn't! Turbus, the company we travelled with do not treat you as well as we have recently become accustomed too. They had run out of the reclined seats so we had to go for semi reclined which wasn't the end of the world however there isn't a lot of space between you and the seat in front of you so it was a little bit claustrophobic! Especially as you have to keep your bag and things under your feet for fear of being robbed which doesn't help with the space problem.

    I can't say you don't get fed as that wouldn't be true but you don't get much at all. Around 11:30am we were given a small carton of juice and a biscuit. We didn't get fed again until 9:30pm when they gave us another small carton of juice and a ham and cheese sandwich! Luckily we had planned for such eventualities and had been rationing our supplies throughout the journey. They do however stop occasionally and let some random get on the bus with cakes, sandwiches or other random items for sale.

    Around 10pm, the bus driver came onto the bus and said something in Spanish. Pretty much everyone got up and got off the bus. We were at a bus station though so just figured that this was their stop until we looked around and realised that only the English speaking travellers were left on the bus. It was at that moment we realised that we had missed something important. Shortly after, the driver got back on and said in perfect English and in the style of Arnie 'get off the bus'. Stupid gringos! Turns out they needed to refuel so we had to get off.

    We eventually made it to San Pedro around 10am the following day. The views towards the end of the journey were incredible but it made you realise we are literally in the middle of the desert in the arse end of nowhere. The bus station is just a shelter with a few seats in and everywhere seems so baron I half expected to see some tumbleweed rolling down the street.

    We somehow managed to walk straight past our hostel so it took us a lot longer than it should have done to get there! As it was early, we weren't able to check in yet so we wandered across to the main street in search of some food and civilisation.

    After a hearty breakfast and some crappy Nescafé coffee we headed back to or hostel to check in. We are staying in a 4 bed dorm which is nice as they are all single beds and is so much better than sleeping in a bunk bed!

    We found another free walking tour on the history of San Pedro so did that in the afternoon. A couple of interesting facts for you all:

    All of the houses in San Pedro are made from adobe.

    Dancing is prohibited and pubs / restaurants can get fined if the police catch people dancing in them - crazy!
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  • Day45

    We awoke to the bluest sky I think we have ever seen. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky.

    For breakfast the lady that owns the hostel made us fresh scrambled eggs which were delicious. We absolutely love this hostel (Casa de Mathilde). It's really chilled and our roommates have been great.

    After breakfast we set off on a 3km walk to Pukará de Quito, the ruins of a 12th century fort. Pretty much the whole way there we were accompanied by 2 dogs which were very sweet. When we arrived we hiked to the top and you could see down over San Pedro which was great. It also once again reinforced how small this place is. On our way back, we stopped in the main street and mooched around the shops.

    Despite its size, San Pedro is full of tour companies. It makes choosing a company to do your tours with extremely difficult. We have decided to do the Salt Flats tour from here and then finish in Uyuni, Bolivia. It's a little more expensive than booking it in Uyuni but if you factor in the bus that you would have to get to Uyuni anyway it works out pretty much the same. Simons good friend David who has been amazing at giving us tips as him and his girlfriend Julia have done pretty much the same trip but 3 months ahead of us, also warned us that the bus journey was horrible and that he had to pee so bad he nearly peed on himself as they hardly let you off the bus. Needless to say we didn't really fancy that so after some trip advisor research we settled on Lithium and booked all of our tours with them.

    Craving some home comforts, we attempted to make baked beans and mash for dinner. We were shocked when what we created was actually edible and resembled baked beans. Simon also found giant chicken nuggets in one of the mini-markets. I think the other British people in the hostel were secretly jealous of our 6 year olds dinner!
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  • Day249

    Today wasn't the toughest, but certainly the longest hike I've ever done. I started a bit before sunrise in the dark and got to my next camp just after sunset. A total of 13.5 hours on the trail.

    So in short: Patagonia rocks! I'll let the pictures speak for themselves!

    Here's a 360-view of one of my favorite spots along the hike :)

  • Day31

    Blurry eyed at 5:30 we hustled our day bag together, strapped on our headtorches and headed into the darkness towards the towers. A 1.2km hike up a very steep incline for sunrise, its the only path shaded red for difficulty so even the Patagonians rate it hard. That means its STEEP.

    Many of you who have come across me early in the morning know that I don't function... at all. Barely any words come out and most communication and tasks are impossible. So imagine what poor James had to overcome with me without caffine or any breakfast. With a LOT of cajouling we fumbled our way up in an hour, a good 30 minutes before sunrise.

    Picking a sheltered spot, we sat down and waited to see what happened at sunrise as the towers were shrouded in fog. As sunrise came the towers remained hidden but the orange haze and a rainbow gave it a moody magnificence. When we started down the clouds started to fade so climbing back up off the path we saw them clearly with blue skies behind.

    We had 4 hours to get down to the hotel, a quick noodle breakfast and we headed off, smiling at the day trippers as they huffed their way up. We made good time, again in brilliant sunshine and celebrated with a beer at the bottom. W trek completed!!

    A sleepy bus ride back, and a very long hot shower we headed out and eat our own bodyweight in meat, before having a long deep sleep.

    I was never sure before the hike that I would make it. I am really quite proud of myself: as a novice hiker I complete over 70km with a backpack and little luxury!

    Number of blisters= 0!! - well done boots
    Number of holas= must have been a thousand passing all the daytrippers
    Number of km= 11km
    Whole trip around 70km
    Happy backpackers= 2
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  • Day46

    Our hostel in Santiago was Castillo Surfista, a welcoming site at 9 o clock after a very claustrophobic metro ride (James insisted on coffee after the bus which pushed us into rush hour. The commuters weren't to impressed with our space hogging bags. Sardines in a can...literally).

    Our mission for the first day was to locate a camping shop to pick up sleeping bags and mats needed for the Dragoman tour. We took the now emptier metro to a colossal shopping centre which was strangely british. I spotted Oasis, The Body shop, Lush and Whittards! As tourists certain shops offered us 10% off including the camping shops. After some debate we settled on Doite a Chiloan brand that we had used for W trek. Hopefully the bags will keep us toasty warm up on the Bolivian altiplano!

    We were starving on getting back to the hostel and raised the local supermarket for sandwiches and empanadas as well as burgers for super. In the hostel courtyard we chatted to the other guests, most of which were starting to work there. Loping around was a very big labrador-dobberman cross called Duke. There were signs everywhere warning of his greed as James found out. He left a sandwich on the table and within seconds Duke had gobbled the whole thing!
    The evening passed helping a English traveller plan his W trek, and chatting away over multiple bottles of wine.

    The next day we embarked on our 7th walking tour by our guide Franco. Chilian history has been as turbulant as Argentinas. Civil war raged for centuries between the Spanish and the local tribe, while later in its history military coups led to terror before democracy was regained.

    Whilst a massive city, Santiago has an open feel with a lot of parks and a few hills but heavily polluted with smog. We meandered through the streets up to Bellavista the student and nightlife area. I bought a wine pipe hear which I'm looking forward to using with my Mendoza wine when I camp on the Dragoman tour.

    After the tour we crossed the city to the meeting hostel of the Dragoman tour. For one month we will be travelling with 8 other people, 2 members of crew and one big truck. From Santiago to Cusco, crossing the andes, a 3 day stay in a ranch, the salt flats and a machu piccu trek are some of the highlights. I can't wait!
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  • Day58

    Crossing into Chile over the andes, we reached an altitude of 4700 meters. Except for mild shortness of breath, or a bit of lung burning when I tried a sprint thankfully it didn't have any other affects.

    As we ascended up the windy road the landscapes kept changing. From mountainous valleys above the clouds, to salt flats stretching on for miles. Arrid land with cacti and llamas turned into Volcanos and the desert.

    We stopped at the last town in Argentina for lunch supplies next to a playground. Izzy, James, John and Sheila had fun in the kids playground trying the see saw and slides. Starting back on the road we put on a Singing in the shower playlist and sang our hearts out.

    We arrived in San Pedro de Atacama mid afternoon and it was a bustling little town. Our hostel was on the main street and we had a room to ourselves for the first time since Santiago. Heading out the main street was full of little artesan shops, tour operators and little restraunts. After some shopping around we booked onto a stargazing tour for the evening.

    Hungry we had been advised by Lou the tourguide that the minimarket by our hostel made great empanadas. We were all starving so ordered four each. Something shouldnhave twigged when they bought out three crates for us to carry the empanadas back tobthe hostel. In Argentina empanadas are small... not so in the desert. Out came 16 giant pies. We fell about laughing which oerplexed the owner. Paying for our empanadas we had supper, lunch and supper again sorted for the next few days!!

    At nine we were loaded onto a bus and headed out into the desert. As we stepped out an amazing site awaited, the stars were out, more than I'd ever seen. The milky way was a clear streak in the sky and thousands upon thousands of stars twinkled away.

    Our first guide talked to us about how thwle local tribes of the area see the sky. The southern cross is called a Cucharra and is the house which holds the whole universe. Its four starts represent stages of life, the first pregnancy, represented by a snake and water. The second middle age, represented by a Puma strong and wise. The third old age, represented by a Condor and the fourth star being the connection between life and death. The four starts also represented pillars of life being do good, reciprocity, to be a leader and minga. Underneath lay the dark serpent which coils underneath the milky way.

    They called the milky way the river of souls and in November when the milky way touches the mountains they celebrate the day of the dead.

    Our second guide way an Astronomer, he talked us through star formation and death, how far the planets were away and pointed outbthe different consilations, including the llama! We were able to look through telescopes at Jupiter, Saturn, the orion nebula and a cluster of stars. By the end of the night we had seen at least five shooting stars. Arriving back at the hostel after midnight we'd had a night to remember in the desert
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Chile, Chile, Chili, Kyili, ቺሌ, Cile, تشيلي, تشيلى, Çile, Tsile, Чілі, Чили, Sili, চিলি, ཅི་ལི་སྤྱི་མཐུན་རྒྱལ་ཁབ།, Čile, Xile, Şili, Chilska, ޗިލީ, Tsile nutome, Χιλή, Ĉilio, Tiiili, Txile, شیلی, Cilii, Kili, Ch·ili, Sily, An tSile, An t-Sile, ચિલી, Yn Çhillee, Cayile, Chṳ-li, צ׳ילה, चिले, Csile, Չիլի, Chíle, チリ共和国, tciles, ჩილე, ឈីលី, ಚಿಲಿ, 칠레, چلي, Shiile, Chilia, Síli, ຊິສິ, Čilė, Shili, Čīle, Чиле, ചിലി, चिली, Ċili, ချီလီ, Tsire, Chíilii, ଚିଲ୍ଲୀ, چېلي, चिलि, Cili, Čiile, Shilïi, චිලී, Cilé, Czile, சிலி, చిలి, ประเทศชิลี, ቺሊ, چىلى, چلی, Ciłe, Chi-lê (Chile), Cilän, Tchili, 智利, Чилмудин Орн, טשילע, Orílẹ́ède ṣílè, i-Chile

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