I love traveling because you get to experience so many different ways of life. I have seen massive haciendas (mansions with courtyards and fields) and shanty towns crammed full with run down shacks of homemade bricks and tin roofs.
But in general, Ecuador, Peru and especially Bolivia are not very developed. I was so used to it that I couldn’t help but be wide-eyed and thrilled when I arrived in La Serena.
There were fancy buildings, clean urban areas and people obeying traffic laws! I saw a mall, a cinema, a Walmart (called Lider here) and a McDonalds – and I went to all of them!
I took what I called a “Western Afternoon” where I slummed the mall, and then went to McD’s for a cheeseburger (where my poor spanish was taken very literally and a “hamburgesa con queso” came out with buns, meat patty and cheese. No ketchup or other toppings). Up next was a trip to the movies! While waiting in line I attempted to memorize the name “Los juegos de hambre” only to crumble under pressure when I got to the window. It all worked out when a kind girl basically handheld me right to my seat. I settled in for the latest Hunger Games which was thankfully in English and subtitled in Spanish. For 2 hours I totally forgot I was on another continent.
I also checked out the local Japanese Gardens, which is a great place to go if you want to remind yourself that you are single. The place is infested with couples. They take up every bench or grassy patch, interfering with nearly every photo you try to take. It feels really creepy and awkward when you want to take a photo of a nicely manicured garden, but you have to crop the frame around a full-on make out session. Aside from the lovers, there was this hilarious kid feeding the fish BY HAND. The fish were gnawing at his fingers while he laughed hysterically.
The next day, my friend John had caught back up and we set off on a day trip to the Elqui Valley which was pretty cool. It’s nestled between two very dry mountain ranges with the tiniest river at the bottom. But by some irrigation miracle they are able to grow acres and acres of grapes for pisco and wine.
The most hilarious part was when our hired translator got in trouble for making up his own information during a pisco tour.
Speaking of the tour, here is a picture of John and I taste testing a shot of Pisco. John is holding up his smart phone to illustrate that it is far to early in the day to be drinking… But it didn’t stop us!
I’m certain we missed a few things on the tour when the spanish guide spoke for nearly the whole 6 hours we were driving. I think our translator spoke for a total of 30 minutes. Oh well, the view was nice.
After La Serena I headed to Valparaiso. It’s on this bus journey I started to listen to the Serial podcast… If you aren’t listening to it, you better get on the bandwagon quick! It made the 7 hour ride fly by!
Valparaiso is an old port town that saw its hey-day before the Panama Canal opened up and everyone had to sail under South America to make it to the Pacific.
It’s a cool, quirky place built on hills with many crazy staircases.
But don’t worry about walking up them because you can take old sketchy elevators instead!
My favourite part of Valparaiso was all the super cool graffiti. It’s illegal to draw or paint on public property but private owners seek out and welcome wall art on their spaces. So cool!!!
I was here for a couple of nights and then headed to Santiago! I took a subway! And it was just like any other city to me… I may as well have been in Toronto.
The fun part here was catching up Shera, a friend I made in Ecuador. John showed up the next day and the three of us drank Chilean wine on the rooftop. Shera was heading home to New York after 11 months abroad, so we had some celebrating to do!
Before I took off the next evening I had to say bye to John who was sticking around Santiago waiting for his girlfriend to fly in from Ireland. I was bummed not to finally meet her after hearing so much about her for the last month, but the Lake District was calling my name!
Up next, stepping out of the desert and into the land of grass, trees and lakes!