Just like with Australia and New Zealand, we hadn’t anticipated spending much time in Chile as we had heard it was so expensive, so had planned to literally land in Santiago, book our bus for the next day and then leave, but instead we stayed for 6 days because thats just the beauty of flexibility when travelling. There seems to be a running theme here in South America which is similar to SEA, that everything is compared to the cheapest countries, so in SEA everything is not as cheap as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Here everything is not as cheap as Bolivia and Peru. What makes its way outside SA (South America) is that these places are not cheap in general! Which is definately not the case. If somehow getting a plate full of food that would feed 12 people for 4GBP is expensive, then please show me cheap!
Yes Santiago has its expensive attributes, but the standard of living is much better than that of cheaper countries and compared to SEA this is like home to us, if only we could speak more Spanish!! One thing that was evidently more expensive was the buses, but then this continent is 4 times the size of SEA and bus journeys are at minimum 7 hours to get anywhere and can be upto 60 hours!!!!!!!! Once again the standard of these are so much higher and for 25GBP you can have your own reclining leather armchair with footstand and plenty of leg room! Much better than 20GBP for Thailands ‘VIP’ buses or party buses as I liked to know them as, with bright lights and booming karaoke. Just to give a bit of a idea of the price difference, as for the next 6 months everything will be South American prices, so always good to set the tone.
The reason for our extended stay in Santiago was a mix of reasonable prices, plenty to do and a really great atmosphere at our hostel. The place we stayed was more like a house than a hostel and although it could have done with a little more revamp, it was a great location and staffed by a great Chilean guy named Ivan who owned the place and Jason who was British and had been working there for 10 months after travelling South America.
To follow suit from our great free tour in Sydney, we jumped straight on the one in Santiago so we could get to grips with the city and learn about where all the good free stuff was. As well as learning about ‘coffee with legs’ , please google it, lots of results will come up, very funny way to get people to drink shit coffee! Walking around Santiago made us feel very at home and although we lacked proficient Spanish, we didn’t feel intimidated at all, apart from when we needed to order food or drinks! This became quickly evident when we came to get lunch, but through the help of our phrase book and what we had learned in Spain in 2010, we managed to order ourselves a feast of steak and pork sandwhiches all for under 12GBP, but should have been well worth about 50GBP!! This became a reoccurent theme as we gained more and more in coinfidence in where we ate, which some of the best food (as always) came from the street vendors, including an ‘As Sandwhich’ which is exclusive to Santiago and is a big sandwhich filled with thinly sliced cooked beef and then SMOTHERED in guacamole, mayo, grilled cheese and tomatoes……….i know mmmmmmmmmm.
We decided to stop stuffing our faces with protein, since we hadn’t really had our fix for 6 months and burn some of the excess meat off by heading upto San Cristobal hill, which you have two options, a venicular train which takes you to the top for a small fee and takes about a minute or a leisurely stroll up the foot path and take in the scenery. Obviously we opted for the scenic route, which after 45 minutes of steep incline, quickly regretted our decision! However we saw the task through and made it to what felt like the summit of everest. On the top of the hill was the large statue of San Cristobal, as well as panaromic views of the whole city below in all its smog and glory.
On our way back from the HUGE walk and whilst eating our second As Sandwhich of Santiago in Belevista area, our attention was drawn to a very odd sight. Now street performers usually perform on the side of the street down shopping streets or in walkways etc. In Santiago they do exactly what it says on the tin and perform on the street when the light turns red, infront of all the waiting traffic! Then when they finish their performance, walk through the traffic and collect their donations! This can range from jugglers, gaucho dancers and a man who has a fake head attached to his crotch and shoes on his hands to make it look like a man doing cartwheels and……………just very odd is the best way to describe it and it needs to be seen to be understood.
Another part of Santiago and Chilean life is the constant presence of stray dogs. Now in SEA they are everywhere too, but they are sadly starving and possibly infested things. In Chile they are healthier than some pets i have seen and are super friendly, why is this?!!! Because the Santiagons (could be wrong!!) feed them, bathe them and get them their vaccinations. So essentially they are everybodys pets that roam free through the city and still have 2,3,4 maybe even 8 meals a day!!! Just nobody needs to walk them, instead if their doggie sense tingles and they know your going for a walk somewhere outside, they follow you as if they were your own.
I think its fair to assume that if the rest of South America is going to be similar to this, than we are going to get on justttttt fine…………..