The Chicas Take Chile
Today I’ll be talking about:
I. Chile at a Glance
III. Valpo again
VI. Life After Chile
VIII. Previous Posts
I. Chile at a glance
My friends had been planning to visit Chile in November all semester. As much as I wanted to be with them, I resisted for a while because I was afraid of missing out on other travel opportunities. I was dying to travel north to Salta and Jujuy. Unfortunately, I never had the chance. Weather and conflicting travel plans meant that I’d probably die of heatstroke and be doing it alone, so I decided to shelve that trip for another day. I finally decided that Chile was probably worth revisiting, especially because I hadn’t had a chance to do everything I wanted to do the last time. It turned out to be a very, very good choice.
It felt really nice to go back. I’m glad that I was able to spend enough time there that I understand a bit of the culture and slang and I can laugh at the jokes that Chileans and Argentines make about each other.
After spending a decent amount of time in Chile, I feel like I can say a few things with confidence:
-Chileans are terrible at giving directions. Just terrible.
-Chile has cuter cafes than Argentina…but less outdoor seating.
-It has better bread than Argentina, but fewer varieties of alfajores.
-The buses are easier to use
-Clothing is cheaper and more “Americanized”
-It’s a pretty neat place.
Someday in the future, I’d like to visit Atacama and Patagonia as well. But for now, I had some fun adventures where I did go.
First stop was the capital.
I think if I had to live in South America, I’d like to live in Santiago. It’s surprisingly clean for being so large, and it’s got nice parks. It’s got a little of everything, in fact.
A week earlier, one of my friends had a piojo mishap (it’s much more common in this part of the world), so we decided that we needed to visit the (in)famous bar, La Piojera. They’re best known for a drink called the terremoto, which is wine + pineapple ice cream. (We also had grenadine in ours.) Worth trying. Even if you don’t want a drink, La Piojera is worth visiting just for the atmosphere. It’s dark and crowded inside, bodies pushing up against you from all sides, and the furniture is vaguely reminiscent of a medieval pub. But the cool thing about it was that you were equally likely to see, a group of preppy girls, a pair of novios, kids who were barely legal to drink, and someone’s grandma all in this one place.
On the way back to our hostel after exploring the city, my friends and I caught the after-work rush hour. Unlike Mendoza, there is no siesta in the middle of the day, so the work day ended much sooner than we were used to. The result was being jammed like sardines onto the subway—and I was very nearly smashed in the door! Luckily, we all made it with all of our limbs attached. Call it part of the adventure.
Returning to Valpo was another kind of homecoming. It was the coolest thing to be able to show my friends around and explain how things worked—I really had learned a thing or two on my last visit! Even better, I loved that my chicas, those crazy girls I love, also loved the city I loved.
We attempted and failed to go to La Sebastiana—the only one of Pablo Neruda’s houses that I didn’t visit. We got distracted by the city and by each other. It was a fair tradeoff, I think.
One night, we indulged in a luxurious seafood dinner (as opposed to the cheaper version) in Valpo. Quote of the night:
“What’s in this cake!?”
In Reñaca, we went sand boarding. I think it was 2500 Chilean pesos ($5 USD) an hour to rent boards, but that could be completely wrong. It was cheap—I remember that much. And it’s no small wonder: there’s no “board rental establishment,” of course. There’s a lady with a truck and boards in the back. The dunes themselves are plenty big—we were higher than the ocean fog, so we look like we’re in the clouds in all of our pictures. The bottom of the biggest dune was rimmed with old tires—you know, for safety. (Right…)
One thing you should know: the sand is really, really hot going up. Don’t be tempted to go up barefoot.
If you’re expecting snowboarding but with sand, don’t even bother. We had a blast because we were being goofy and laughing at each other, and for us it was very worth it. If you want real adventure sports, go hang-gliding or something else.
After that, we bused back down the coast to Viña for lunch and the beach.
When we asked people for directions for good places to eat, they directed us to the piers along the coast. …Silly. What restaurants we saw were way too expensive (there were tablecloths and the waiters wore ties, man). There were also churro stands (dipped in chocolate, full of dulce, or both), but that didn’t do it for us either. We ended up walking about 8 blocks inland, where we found the absolute best empanada stand.
The dough was delicious—fried or baked were available. The fillings included everything from corn to mariscos to beef and back. One of mine was full of machas, clams.
Then we did beach things.
When we arrived on the beach, we met up with my US roommate and some other friends from the program that had come with us. Our program friends were getting to know Chile’s alcohol selection. (We did our own thing, being amused at them from afar.) That was all fine and funny until
1) The drunk folk got sunburned
2) Someone’s backpack was stolen
It was obvious we were Americans and that they were drunk, so it was an easy target for one Lucky Chilean who made off with $200 USD, an American passport, a photocopy of the same passport, an Argentine visa, and our friend’s ego.
Everything worked out in the end, but I think it never hurts to have a few WARNINGS AND REMINDERS on that front:
-Never carry important documents in your backpack
-Don’t leave your important documents unattended (or in the care of drunk people)
-Keep your passport and the copy of your passport separate
-If you do any of those things and something bad happens as a result…don’t panic
-Contact the program director
The next day, we went back up the coast to Concon beach to search out a horseback riding excursion. We found the stalls but no horses. Apparently it happens every day of the week…except the day we chose to go. Doh. I feel like it was a Monday or a Tuesday. Try to check beforehand with the hostel, and good luck.
We still had a nice time soaking up the sun and talking about our lives. And then, before we knew it, it was time to leave for our next adventure…
VI. Life After Chile
Chile was more than just a beautiful place to visit or another adventure for us. It was an anchoring point in our friendship in a very Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of way. For a weekend, Valparaiso was ours.
On the bus to Reñaca, with a world of color and chaos whizzing past us, we made a promise to ourselves to return someday to this beautiful part of the world. Together. We decided what we want to do with our lives, that we are unstoppable, that we really do mean that much to each other.
I won’t even try to explain, because that moment belongs to us, but it was a big deal.
Back in Mendoza, finals came and went like the blink of an eye. Then it was time for me to pack my bags for Buenos Aires…and for the chicas to go our separate ways. Lorri and Ale would be meeting me in BA for a few days, but Lisa was off to Chilean Patagonia for a few weeks of backpacking with her sister. Before we split up, there was one last thing we had to do. There’s a bridge in Parque San Martin, and we closed a love lock around the rail. One key we kept, and the other we tossed into the lake. The lock will remain in Mendoza, one of many tiny symbols of our life there that we left behind, until we return together to reopen it. To end with a bang, we had a party on Lisa’s balcony with the last of our pisco sour from Chile. It ended with us sobbing, of course. Beso’d Lisa goodbye and her tears were on my face. And, because we’re the cheeks, our crying turned to laughter as we made our way down the street back to my house, arms locked.
Separate, but connected.
Botilleria – convencience store
Macha – clam
Cabalgatas – horseback riding
- VIII. Previous Posts
11. Road Trip!
12. My Mate for Life
14. Pros and Cons
21. San Rafael
The Return to BA
Mar del Plata
Culture Shock and Life After Study Abroad