Onward to Chile

Following my one-night, one-day stay in Panama City, I headed for the real mission of this trip: Chile. After all, the whole reason I booked this trip was because I snagged airfare from DC to Santiago for $382 round trip.  This time I was able to grab a shuttle from the hostel to the airport for only $9, but I had to leave on their schedule which put me there about an hour before I really wanted to be there.  Not wanting to risk missing a flight or who knows what else, I chose this option. On my way to the airport I managed to get one measly picture of the famous Panama City buses which are decorated beyond belief. 

While waiting in the airport I had ample opportunity to play on my phone while sitting on the floor to charge my phone.  That's when I got one of my favorite photos of the trip.  This old couple just happened to stand right in front of me and were both dressed in white from head to toe. I don't what the significance is of that, but it sure caught my eye!

Santiago de Chile

Arriving at Santiago Airport at 3am, I quickly made my way through customs and searched for an ATM. It took me a while to find one and then it took me a while to actually get cash, because the one option needed to get cash was in Spanish and said 'foreign transaction' which I didn't think was my option. Don't count on free wifi at this airport.  I managed to get some help from a receptionist at the taxi desk to connect to a rather painfully slow network which allowed me to access my hostel's website to find their suggested method of getting there. There is no way to metro downtown from the airport I was told, even though I thought I had researched that before I left.  So, in the end, I paid about $12 to ride in a shuttle bus with several other passengers going to the same general area. 

I think this has to be the first time I'd ever arrived at a hostel in the middle of the night, and I'm not sure why it was something that always worried me. I was greeted by a most wonderful host, Carlitos, who allowed me to hang out in a room with some couches, use the bathroom, and even help myself to some breakfast even though I wasn't going to check in until after 2pm that day.  Turns out he spoke pretty fluent German and Swiss German as well, and we had some good conversation, but sadly I never saw him again before leaving.

Since I couldn't check in for almost 11 hours, I decided to make the best of my time so I headed off to join a walking tour of Santiago.  This was actually my first ever walking tour. I typically shy away because I want to be in control of where I go and what I see, but being alone on a new continent didn't particularly give me the confidence to do that just yet. Especially since I'd read so much about camera theft and I figured safety in numbers would be the best way to go.  The tour was quite good and helped familiarize me (at least somewhat) with the downtown area.  The highlights included Mercado Central, various other markets, some examples of old and modern architecture, and the massive cemetary.

At the end of the tour our guide took us to a restaurant where we all got to sample the famous drink Terremoto, which means earthquake in Spanish.  Here is our guide Mathias pouring our drinks.

Following the tour, I and several other tour members were quite hungry so we all headed for a stop mentioned during the tour called Tio Willy, or Uncle Willy.  This is supposedly a place for locals to eat, which in part I suppose is true, but plenty of tourists eat there simply because it is hyped up on the tour.  Nevertheless, I ordered the famous Peruvian Ceviche which was quite good!  Ceviche is a simple dish consisting of raw seafood with onions and cilantro which cooks in the acidity of lime juice. It was quite refreshing and surprisingly filling.

After finally getting some nourishment, myself and another from the tour decided to head for the famous Cerro San Cristobal park which sits atop a hill smack dab in the middle of the city.  This is the ultimate viewpoint for seeing the city and so off we went.

On the way we passed through the Bella Vista neighborhood with all of its brightly decorated buildings.

Unfortunately, the smog level was affecting the view, so it left a little something to be desired, but the funicular ride was quite fun. Oh, and cold bottled water at the top tastes great no matter what it actually costs!

By this point I was getting quite tired and quite sweaty, and of course smelly which just completes the trinity of a weary traveler.  My new friend and I headed back to the hostel, turns out they were staying there too, to freshen up a bit and decided to also grab some dinner before calling it a night. We managed to find a quaint little place called Venezia in the Belles Artes neighborhood after passing about dozens and not finding anything overly enticing.  Not to say my meal was anything special, but it was nice to sit down in a semi-quiet restaurant that probably gets overlooked by a lot of tourists.  I ordered a half chicken with mushrooms and spicy mashed potatoes. Yes, they were quite spicy.

After dinner we parted ways at the hostel and I went to mingle at the bar when I ran into my new roommates, who, as it turns out had lunch with us that day! They were a wonderful group of Brazilian girls and guy who were all cousins traveling together.  And with that day 1 of Santiago came to an end.