While we were in Santiago, I volunteered with a local homelessness charity, Corporación Nuestra Casa (Our House) for two evenings a week. A Chilean voluntary organisation, it has been providing food and shelter to the capital’s street dwellers for 16 years. The following is an account of one of the evenings I spent with the charity, handing out food on the streets of Santiago.
After spending a month in Buenos Aires in October, we realised the value of longer periods of stability while travelling, not only for Amber but also for Claire and I. As such we decided that following a busy couple of months of travelling in November and December, we would lay low for a bit, try to save some money and generally keep things quiet during January.
Santiago was to be our base. The capital of Chile is often overlooked by travellers who use the city as a transit hub in order to reach Chile’s main draws such as Patagonia or the Atacama Desert. However, the city has enjoyed something of a revival recently, boosted by government investment and a subsequent cultural boom.
We had spent 3 days in Santiago in December while on our way to the Chilean coast for Christmas and had rather giddily / drunkenly claimed that the city was the best place we had ever been to. I think it’s safe to say this wasn’t necessarily accurate and could have had something to do with the fact we knew we were coming back for a prolonged period in January. However, even in this short period, we saw a city that was buzzing with a vibrant, young edge. It immediately felt more down to earth than the somewhat haughty Buenos Aires.
And now, having spent pretty much all of January in the city, our opinion hasn’t changed. We loved it and thought the best way to celebrate our time there was to give people a taste of the sheer variety of things to do. So below is a list of not far off everything we did in Santiago, from bars and restaurants to cultural spaces and viewpoints. It’s all there.
When you are travelling and your surroundings are unfamiliar, you often end up in situations that are not immediately obvious to resolve. And some situations, despite having seemingly obvious resolutions, end up being far more awkward and difficult just by the sheer fact that you are a stranger in a foreign land.
On this trip so far, a number of people (and inanimate objects) have crossed our path at exactly the right moment and have helped us resolve such situations. In one form or another, they have saved the day. We refer to them as our Guardian Angels.
We are sincerely grateful for all of them. As such we would like to honour each person (and inanimate object) for the positive impact that they (likely unknowingly) had.
AirBnB has been absolutely pivotal in making our trip affordable and practically possible. All but one of our 18 different accommodations so far have been booked through the site.
Not only are hotels (and indeed often hostels) far more expensive but without the kitchen facilities available in our AirBnB properties feeding Amber and ourselves would be impractical / impossible.
AirBnB has also give us the chance to meet local people and experience neighbourhoods and properties that would otherwise have eluded us. That is not to say it’s all been plain sailing. Putting your stay in the hands of a random punter instead of the professional services industry can lead to problems, some more serious than others. In this post we’ll look back on our accommodation for 2016 and pick out the best and worst that AirBnB has offered.
Award: Biggest property
Winner: Luna Azul, Punta Ballena, Uruguay
For our second week in Uruguay we stayed at this vast 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom detached holiday home (only affordable as we stayed here way out of season). It even had its own name. In a predictable reaction to its size and the quietness of the neighbourhood overall we decided it was haunted. At least we didn’t feel quite so alone if we imagined a ghost making use of the third bedroom.
If anyone has a better pun for the title please feel free to leave a comment.
The arrival of Christmas coincided with our arrival in Chile, having earlier made the decision that the Pacific coastline would be an ideal place to spend our first ever Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere.
We arrived in Santiago on 19th December following our flight from Mendoza. Chilean customs are known for their zero tolerance approach to bringing certain foods into the country. What you are and aren’t allowed seems to be a topic of much debate. As it turned out we lost dried kidney beans, raisins and Amber’s leftover lunch but managed to keep flour, curry powder (phew) and pasta.
Fact: Argentina is utterly brilliant.
We have covered our 2 and a half months in Argentina in other postings (see links dotted throughout this post), so our aim here is to simply round it all up and jot down a few of our highlights. I say ‘simply’. We had some of our most precious moments of our trip so far in Argentina, so summing it up in a few short words is no mean feat.
But I’ll give it a go.
When we made the decision to go as far south as possible on the South American continent (and indeed the world, Antarctica aside) one inevitable question was what happens after that. What goes down must come up, as they (don’t) say. What we noticed while planning the trip was a direct flight from that most southerly point, Ushuaia and Cordoba, Argentina’s second largest city located in the central / north of the country.
There have been a few constants during our trip despite all the regular change that comes from travelling. Amber’s love for her Bunny is one, persistently exceeding our daily budget is another. What we have also noticed is our relentless ability to break and lose things. Accidents happen but it is a small wonder that our AirBnB reviews remain consistently positive – we ascribe much of this to Amber’s charm as it most certainly isn’t related to the trail of destruction we leave in our wake. And if we’re not breaking things we’re losing them instead – no doubt when you try to carry over 60kg of stuff around South America some of it will go missing, yet we’re still surprised by our ability to misplace.
So, in a slight detour from our typical blog entries here we have listed just a subset of the various items we’ve either broken or lost since August. Note 1: don’t tell our kind AirBnB hosts. Note 2: a reward for anyone who finds any of these lost items.
In what would be some of the most incredible days of our trip so far, during November we spent nearly 4 weeks in Argentinian Patagonia. We travelled to Bariloche, El Calafate, El Chalten and completed our Patagonian adventure at the end of the world, in the town of Ushuaia. For us, it is impossible to describe in words the wild beauty of this part of the world. So we won’t try. Instead we have compiled a photo diary showing some of the highlights from our trip. Enjoy.
After clubbing on Thursday and tango on Friday, Saturday brought another serious Argentine passion: football. Many would argue that Argentina can lay claim to the two greatest footballers to play the game, Maradona and Messi. Brazilians would no doubt argue the case for Pele but regardless Argentina has a proud, footballing heritage and alongside it a deep rooted, fanatical passion for the game (90% of Argentines claim allegiance to an Argentine football club). As a Leicester City fan I can not claim to have had the likes of Maradona and Messi grace my club (more Lineker and Heskey – two greats in their own right of course) but I do have a shared passion for the sport and so an opportunity to see a game while in Buenos Aires was too good to miss.