Fin de Semana Largo en Chile, Part 1 — Viña del Mar and Concón
I'm no expert writer, but I do know that they say inspiration strikes you at the most random of times throughout the day. As I write this, it's 6:58am on Tuesday, October 14th and I am currently sitting in Santiago, Chile's International Airport. Right in front of me, I have a great view of the sun rising over the snowcapped Andes Mountains and can't help but realize how great this past weekend was (and also wonder why I have a rush to write my blog at this ungodly hour). The past 5 days have been entirely worthwhile and I'm glad to say that I can cross off another country on my list. As expected, I have a lot to write about for my Chilean experiences so bare with me because I am breaking it into three different posts (one for each place: Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, and Santiago). Here we go.
Before coming down to South America, the one place outside of Argentina that I surely assumed that I would be going was Chile. Given that the flight prices were cheap and there is a lot of things to do and see, it's a great option for many expats exploring South America while on a budget. Thus, this was my trip to plan for my friends and I, so there was a lot to consider. The Delaware Crew (Ben, John, Sarah, Cristi, and myself) all made the trek to Chile with the additions of my friends Katie, Elyse, and Rodrigo (the Argentine). We left from Jorge Newbury Airport (the local one within Buenos Aires) in the morning on Thursday, October 9th en route to Santiago, Chile; the Chilean capital city. The flight only lasted about two hours, and with the amount of traveling I have been doing and still have planned, that is a short trip for me and my friends.
We decided that we were going to spend the first half of our trip in Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, so after arriving in Santiago we hopped on the next bus directly to Viña del Mar, which is about an hour and a half northwest of Santiago. Now just for some brief background information about Viña, the city actually means "Vineyard of the Sea" in English and is a major tourist attraction during the warm weather months (September to April) for South Americans. The city is known for its beachfront high-rises, crystal clear waters, and extensive greenery. It's international claim to fame came back in 1962 when it was recognized as one of the 4 host cities for the 1962 World Cup in Chile. It is also a sister city to both Sausalito, California and Mar del Plata, Argentina.
After seeing some great views along the way to Viña, we made it to our hostel near the coastline of Chile. Naturally we had to try a Chilean staple food, their version of the empanada. They are larger than the ones in Argentina, but are fried. The Argentine version is much better, so that was good to know. Another weird thing that I realized once arriving in Viña del Mar was that I had not heard the sound of seagulls since leaving the US back in July. Buenos Aires is also situated on the water, but there are no seagulls because it is the Rio del Plata and there is not a lot of fish in the waters in comparison to the ocean. Random, I know, but it was a little taste of home that I actually enjoyed a lot while in Viña.
After some empanadas and drinks, we headed straight to the beach. This was only the second time that I have ever seen the Pacific Ocean (with the first being back in 2011 when I went to Costa Rica) and that was enough to keep me ecstatic for the whole day. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the area and enjoying the awesome weather. We saw an old seaside castle called Castillo Wulff that has housed a museum since 1953, as well as the Chilean National Soccer Team that was staying in a hotel in Viña del Mar because they had a game versus Peru the next day. Later that night, I went out with my friends Katie and Rodrigo. My other friends within my program told me that we had to try a certain drink that was a staple in Chilean nightlife. Called the Terremoto (Spanish for "earthquake") it is basically a mix of many different kinds of liquor and pisco sour. This bar also topped off the pitcher of it with coconut ice cream? So that was different. Basically it came out as an alcoholic coconut float that was too sweet for me.
Speaking of terremotos, Chile is obviously known to have earthquakes because the country lies on the fault line of shifting tectonic plates. Every day, there are several earthquakes that occur throughout the region, as some of them can even be felt. Most go undetected by the general public, but on occasion it can be more serious. While we were in Chile, there was only one instance while we were in Santiago where my friend and I thought that we felt an earthquake. After looking it up online, it said that an earthquake had just happened, with the epicenter of it being relatively close to the city of Santiago. And for such a major city, they could care less about the passing of an earthquake, but for us it was a big deal.
On Friday (10/10) my friends and I explored Viña del Mar even further in the morning. It was just nice to hang out by the beach for a few hours before heading a few miles down the road to Valparaiso. The following day, Saturday (10/11) we headed the opposite direction towards Concón, where the largest dunes and oceanside cliffs reside. Concón was only a 20 minute bus ride away, as we hopped off the bus and realized that on one side of the road was a shopping center and supermarket, while the other side looked like the middle of the Sahara Desert. The sand and dunes stretched much taller than all of the surrounding buildings and we chose to climb them anyway. The pictures below only show so much, but the view atop the Dunes of Concón was entirely worth it. We also saw our first sea lions and seals hanging out on the rocks below the cliffs.
In general, Viña del Mar is the ideal place for someone to retire later in life. Lots of things to do, a beach as your backyard, and warm weather three-fourths of the year. What more could you ask for? So that was the first part of my trip to Chile. Keep reading to see the rest of my adventures.
"El mar es la patria de todos los soñadores en todas las vidas en pugna con lo cotidiano hay un floor de mareas y es en el surco abierto por los barcos donde fructifican las semillas de los mejores sueños." — Salvador Reyes Figueroa, Chilean poet and author
(Translated) "The sea is the homeland of all the dreamers that live in conflict with the everyday where there is a coup d'état of tides and there is an open furrow for vessels that fructify the seeds of the best dreams."