Sweet escape to Santiago

Trip Start Jan 11, 2011
Trip End Aug 05, 2011

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Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First time on my own. Looking forward to experiencing being solo, the bus journey felt quite lonely though. The worst part was being woken up to go through customs at the border with Chile. We had to wait ages to get check out of Argentina and then stamped into Chile and then luggage check. They had sniffer dogs but we couldn’t stroke them, boohoo. It took over 1h in the cold. 
I was so happy to finally arrive on a bright sunny day, feeling quite adventurous. I was on my own, in a town I’d never been, in a country unknown to me to meet up with people I hardly knew. First things first map of the city and when entering a new country: cash point. Chile made me fell rich. I took out 100 000 Chilean pesos!!!!! Then an empanada cost me 800 pesos which brought me back down to the status of poor backpacker. The French-Swiss Yves and …. had given me the name of their hostel but it was still very early when I arrived so I enjoyed a free breakfast. Not long after, the pair came out. They had actually already booked me in the same dorm as them, how thoughtful. They were a day ahead of me having arrived the day before. So they went to visit Valparaiso, a town 40 mins away along the coast, while I walked round Santiago. 
The hostel was in the area of Bellavista, the bohemian neighbourhood with good bars and restaurants. Right next to it is the Cerro San Cristobal, which is basically a hill with a statue of the Virgen but you get some great views of the city. It was actually really nice a part from the religious background music. Strange walking around by myself, I get to decide exactly where I want to go, how long I want to stay and what I want to see. Not that scary after all. The weirdest part, I think, was eating on my own (almost on my own, I had my guide book for company and read everything there is to know about Pinochet). Then I walked through el Mercado central, Plaza de las Armas and el Cerro Santa Lucia or more commonly known as the “lust retreat”. Yea that place really made me feel lonely. Amazing though with all its levels, paths, stairs and hidden places. I was exhausted after that and had a well-deserved siesta. I woke up as the Swiss came back. We had planned to eat together so they got the food and I got the wine (I’m an expert now). Then we finished the day eating and drinking with other travels outside on the terrace.

We had decided that for the next day we would get out of Santiago to a small town called San Alfonso. We took the tube half of the way (very comfy and easy) then a bus (very uncomfy and unsafe) and got there. Or somewhere. Basically we just got off the bus in the middle of nowhere along this really winding road. The guide book mentioned a sanctuary with waterfalls so we walked up the road to the nearest human and asked. We were told to go back in the other direction. So we walk back and passed where we had started and asked again a bit further down. They told us to go back the other way !!!! Confusing. We did finally find it after one man took pity of us and drove us to the entrance of Reserva del Santuario. Such a nice man. There we had a 30 minute trek across bridges and up foresty path and we finally found the waterfalls. Beautiful. Unfortunately, we disturbed a small group people during a semi naked singing and relax ceremony. They left pretty quickly after that and we had the waterfall just to ourselves!! The water was pretty cold but refreshing. After a couple of hours, we took the death bus back to Santiago. 
Time to go our separate ways. Yves and Isaline headed north to San Pedro de Atacama and I went to meet up with Russ and Romz in Vina del Mar. 
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