An eleven and a half hour direct flight from Sydney and we had arrived in Santiago, Chile – our first destination in South America! After a long queue at Customs, it was just a quick stamp of the passports and we were on our way to Dominica Hostel, our accommodation for the next few days in Barrio Bellavista, a neighbourhood of Santiago full of colourful graffiti, numerous bars and somewhat tattered charm.
With a 14-hour time difference to home, we were rather jet-lagged so limited our exploring to a quick walk and lunch close to our hostel. Our first South American food experience saw Will order a ‘hamburguesa’ and end up with two meat patties, an egg, some onion and some chips but without a burger bun (or some lettuce/tomato) so he was rather disappointed! We shared 2 litres of Escudo, the cheapest of the local beers (at $3 a litre bottle) – and with that and the time difference, we were ready for bed!
Recovered from our jet lag, the next morning we walked to Plaza de Armas, the city square located in the oldest part of Santiago where we joined the free walking tour of the city. We had two rather large dogs escort us to the square – there are so many stray dogs in Santiago! They were pretty awesome though, in that ‘I really want to pat you but I’m also scared you’ll bite my hand off’ sort of way. For the most part though, all of the dogs seem quite friendly and healthy – there are some really nice looking dogs… I think if I moved there I might become that crazy dog lady stealing dogs from the streets. Anyway, the walking tour was ok, we were shown around the various neighbourhoods of Santiago but the guide himself didn’t really seem to know all that much!
The next morning we were up early and walked in Parque Metropolitano, one of the largest urban recreational parks where we walked up Cerro (meaning hill) San Cristobal, where you have a fantastic 360 degree view over smoggy Santiago and beyond. We had some more dogs escort us on the journey and at one stage while we were walking we watched a dog run along the cliff high above us chasing a rabbit only to then fall off the cliff and tumble down 20 metres before landing right near us, getting up and walking off a little dazed and confused.
Back at the base of the hill, we walked to Mercado Central Santiago, Santiago’s fish market where we had lunch before continuing around Santiago, walking up Cerro Saint Lucia and through Barrio Lastarria, a rather pretty neighbourhood. We walked through a few museums and searched through some antiques at the markets before making our way back to Barrio Bellavista. At this point we had worked up an appetite so we decided it was time to try ‘Chorrillana’ – a Chilean dish that seemed very popoular amongst the uni students of Santiago and advertised at every restaurant we passed. For the most part it consists of a plate of hot chips covered in onion, meat/sausage and then fried eggs on top – a really healthy dish! Anyway it didn’t really live up to expectations but really, none of the Chilean food had so far so we enjoyed what we could and washed it down with some more litres of beer!