Our border crossing in Hito Cajon was the hardest contrast we experienced so far. If the poor Bolivia meets the highly developed Chile, it is indeed a change to which you have to get used. In Bolivia we were mainly on gravel, bumpy roads and rough terrain, which changes abruptly after crossing the border. Asphalted roads, new buildings and brandnew cars let you assume being totally somewhere else.
San Pedro de Atacama
After an exact control at the Chilean border (Ina had to hand over her Coca Leafs and an apple 😄) we reach the Chilean desert city San Pedro de Atacama after a thirty-minute drive. Everything seems to be top organized and dressed up. There are many tourists and fancy restaurants and with English you get much further than in Bolivia. Nevertheless we already miss the authentic and friendly Bolivia.
Our accommodation (la Casa de Don Tomas) is amazing and we get a warm welcome. In the evening we stroll through the charming alleys of the village and enjoy a simple but delicious dinner in the inconspicuous restaurant Fuente Atacamena San Camilo.
The next day is extremely layed back: in the morning a small jogging round to the edge of the Luna Valley, at noon a delicious Chilean lunch and in the afternoon further research for our next destinations. The real highlight, however, begins as soon as darkness surrounds us: Stargazing in the Atacama Desert. The Atacama Desert is known for having the best stargazing opportunities in the world. The high altitude coupled with the low density population means there’s almost no light pollution. This creates perfect conditions to see the Milky Way. Needless to say how excited we are 😍.
The evening is amazing despite the freezing temperature. First we get a fantastic and enthusiastic explaination about the principles of astronomy and the (supposed) infinity of the universe. After that we are having coffee, cake and wine under the impressive starry sky where we see the constellations of stars, planets and of course the Milky Way of the southern hemisphere. Telescopes allow us to get closer to the planets Jupiter and Saturn, observe newborn and dying stars, see a cosmic nebula and even having a look into a distant galaxy. At 00:45 we finally reach our hotel, where we unexpectedly stand in front of closed gates. With a ”hand-leader” we even overcome this obstacle and dive in to the land of dreams 😂.
Santiago – the streetart city
The next morning we fly via Calama Airport to the Chilean capital: Santiago! The weather in the capital is foggy when we board a local transfer at the airport (minibus with 5 other local passengers). And for the first time in South America our taxi ride does not run breakneck and stressed but comfortable and without hectic.
Our first impression about the city: It seems to be a lively, extremely creative place. The deeply rooted street art culture can be guessed in the suburbs, which is also confirmed in the hip quarters Lastarria and Bellavista where we find the most creative masterpieces!
We are really curious about this city and take a free walking tour. We stroll through different quarters and alleys, learn a lot about the history and the political system and dive into the culinary diversity of this impressive city. From empenadas to high class food and wines: the diversity is amazing (special tip: visit Barrica94@Bellavista 🤤)
Especially worth mentioning is the visit of the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, which impressively tells about the dark times of the military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet.
You get the best view over the city from San Cristobal hill which can be easily climbed on foot without any problems. The subway system is as simple as it is sophisticated that you have to see it. It is truely the best way of mobility in this city!
Valparaiso – streetart overdose
For a short daytrip we get by bus to the coastal town Valparaiso, that lies about 100km west of Santiago . We are immediately enthusiastic about the hustle and bustle of the local market. Market criers praise their products, Latino music is playing everywhere and everyone seems to be very friendly and happy. Here a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables precisely prepared, there the catch of the day of the local fishermen and further down there are nuts, olives and even exotic things to buy. I definitly experience my most impressive and authentic market experience here – and I love it.
But… nobody warned us about what would follow. While exploring the small town we suffer a street art overdose. We both love it when colour breaks through a city’s everyday routine. But what happens here is way too much. Each wall is decorated with art, graffiti or simple (ugly) tags and even historical buildings and churches are not excluded from it. Street art is officially forbidden here but this fight is obviously lost. We reach Santiago in the twilight at 6:30 p.m. and strengthen ourselves with Indian Food 😂. It was an intense but interesting day.
Our stay on the Chilean mainland comes to an end with a drive in Chile’s probably slowest taxi.
We are sure that we will return to Chile one day, because Patagonia is top rated on our bucket list.
Chile is an exciting country, although apparently very contradictory. Modern and nevertheless very conservative, proud and in a way wistful.
Furthermore, I have never seen so many dog fashions all over the world 🤣. The Chileans seem to love their dogs, what their fellows in Peru and Bolivia can only dream of.
We are looking forward to the next destination of our trip. The legendary and mystical Easter Island 👋🏻.