Santiago

Santiago Skyline
As part of our pre-planned flights, we had to cross the border into Chile and make our way down to Punta Arenas to get to a suitable airport before flying up to the capital, Santiago. This would involve a few more busses and a pass through what was expected to be troublesome customs. Chile is very protective of its borders and has strict restrictions on food produce, so we were a little nervous of bringing any food in. After a quick munch of our supplies on the bus, Annie declared her last remaining chocolate bar to a rather relaxed officer, turns out it was no hassle at all.

We only spent a short evening in Punta Arenas as we had a 7am flight the next morning. The city is right at the bottom of South America, ships and boats leave for Antartica, not sure if I fancy that trip, one day maybe. Staying in a budget hotel, we felt spoilt having a TV with 100 channels, some from North America and in English. I’ve not really watched TV since leaving the UK, bar a few shows on the tablet, and not really missed it, but this was a nice little splurge. A brief wander around a few streets is all we saw, along with dinner in a diner style restaurant before scooting off up north to the capital.

Arriving in Santiago we were both awfully tired, narky and a bit worn out. Unsure what to expect from Santiago, we unpacked and looked for what to do. Annie being half mermaid has been suffering from a lack of swimming; in Argentina we searched for proper outdoor pools but kept coming up against closures. It’s still currently low season/springtime and combined with the fact that swimming doesn’t seem to be a popular past time in South America, it has been a bit of an issue. A little research showed that a local facility had both indoor and outdoor lane swimming pools, but as there was a public sector strike on in the capital, both were closed to the public. Trainers on and out for a run was the backup option, a reasonably popular activity with the locals it seems. See Color Run for more on running in Santiago.

Mote Con HuesilloWandering around the streets, there are street vendors everywhere selling all sorts of food and drink. I was intrigued by the Mote con huesillo, a sweet drink that has a base of husked wheat and filled up with a really sweet dried peach liquid, mixed with sugar, water and cinnamon. It was really sweet and unfortuantly not that nice.

A local walking tour was recommended by fellow travellers called Tours for Tips. Billed as a free tour, you pay what you want at the end, and we went along for a nosy. Seeing the city with a great guide and a nice bunch of people, with the sun splitting the skies, we were really impressed. We wandered about the massive fish, fruit and veg markets (Annie’s heaven), watching the locals going about their daily activities, it was interesting and a real taste of Santiago. The quality of produce was unbelievable and an absolute bargain. Santiago was really starting to glow. As a mid morning snack we had a Sopaipilla; a delicious deep fried pumpkin, made with flour, corn and salt patty covered in salsa, beautiful.

SopaipillaThe tour went on through the city cemetery, a little bit of a morbid thing to see but coated in rich history. Stories of communist and socialist leaders, local idols and shared coffins were enjoyed by all before ending in a pub for a sample of Terremotto, a potent local cocktail made with pineapple ice-cream & pipeño (sweet white wine).

The same afternoon we went on a bike tour across different parts of he city, focusing on politics and history, covering a lot further but lacking the detail that was gained from the closer groups in a walking tour. I was really impressed with the historical muriel expressing the city’s fights with power, government and industry.

Over the week we were there, a few things caught our attention. Blur and Beck were playing at the local stadium, Annie being the uber Blur fan was torn over going along, at £46 a ticket we eventually decided to let it pass by and focus on using our fund to do alternatives to what we can see at home.

Our final day was spent down at Chile’s second city Valparioso, a large port that was an essential route back in the California gold rush of the early 1900’s before the Panama Canal opened and effectively killed the city. The city is famous for its hillside neighbourhoods, linked to the bottom with 18 funiculars. This being Latin America, there was another strike on leaving all 18 closed for a few days, time to walk! Every single wall in the city has some form of graffiti on it, generally of very high standard. The locals have an accepted rule that good work does not get tagged over, so whilst empty walls are full of tagging, homeowners encourage the locals to use their walls for art. It works beautifully.

We also sampled a homemade version of a local snack that South American’s love, Alfajores. You get them all the time on busses and airplanes; two wafers covered in chocolate and sandwiched together with some dulce de leche in the middle. Sold by a little man from his house who is now a Chilean celebrity, anyone is welcome to walk up, ring his doorbell and buy one for 200 pesos, quirky!

Thats the end of Chile! Next stop was the neighbouring country of Peru, heading to what was top of my South American list to do, Peru and the Inca trail.

Colour Run Santiago

Colour Run: StartingTrying to keep fit, especially with the Inca Trail looming on the horizon, we have been running around every city where possible. I did a little run around the local parks and central area of Santiago on arrival and did notice a few tents, but didn´t think much of it.

Looking though some what´s on guides, Annie noticed that there were a couple of running events in the city on Sunday, Urbathon – a 10k obstacle race and the Colour Run. Urbathon was sold out and looked to be the same as the UK based events run by Mens Health and Rat Race, Colour Run just launched in London this year but hasn´t made it to Scotland and seemed like it´s worth a try.

Colour Run: Quatro KilómetroThe event is a untimed 5k race with the emphasis on fun, you are issued with a white t-shirt and a packet of colour. Being a bit thick we didn’t realise the colour was in the bag and turned up to the start without ours. Queue thousands of people throwing colour over themselves like an out of control circus whilst we stood feeling a tad odd, standing pristine in white like a washing advert. In desperation we tried to stand uncomfortably close to people who were throwing colour, hoping to catch some of their colour dust. We needn’t have worried.

A fantastic atmosphere had built up; DJs were playing music as they counted down to the start. Suddenly a massive cheer roared out as the sun and sky disappeared, huge clouds of coloured power took over as everyone threw their colours up in the air! We were coated and well ready to go!

Before doing the run, I did a little bit of research and found a blog that advised to wear glasses, cover your camera phone in a plastic bag and bring water to wash your mouth out with as this stuff gets everywhere, good tips!

Colour Run: Meta AnnieAs you approach the kilometer park, you can see a cloud of colour in the sky above it. Running (or walking due to the crowds as you get close) you see volunteers with handfuls of colour, launching it directly at the runners. The first one got me right in the face, ooft! Each marker has a different colour, so by the end you end up with multicoloured t-shirts, shorts, pants, socks, shoes, hair, skin, ears….

It was a fantastic event, will be up for trying it again if it reaches Scotland, though how it will work in the rain, I´m unsure. A full photo set of the run is available here

Latin American Cervesa

Beer Ordering AdviceTravelling and drinking go hand in hand, a night off the booze is normally a day on a bus or flight; I´m fitting in well.

One thing that has bothered me since we got here is the choice of beer which has so far been a bit dispointing. I came here with the impression that Quilmes was an okay light drink, I now realise it belongs on the shelf beside beside Heineken and Carling. Brama is a very, very small step up but still not great. The only saving grace is that they serve beers in a litre bottle which is almost two pints for about two pounds. Taste versus finance, never easy.

Luckily after some foot based research we have figured out that “Artisan” is their word for craft, my eyes light up when I see that hoping for a taste of hops and barley. Using this approach, I´ve stumbled over some intresting beers:

  • Antares was the first one to catch my attension as they have their own bars in a similar theme to a Scottish craft brewer. They run a non transferrable 2×1 happy hour, so we were ‘forced’ to get two each. Their IPA and selection is superb but outside of their own bars it´s rather pricey, up to four pounds a bottle, not often on a travelling budget.
  • Cerveza Artesanal Gilbert from a small brewery on the Chico Circito which did a small tasting session and then discounted us on a pint in the sun, it’s not available anywhere else and due to the cycle home I only had one.
  • Berlina India Pale Ale as sampled in El Calfate, quite a nice taste, rich in flavour but a over priced due to the town being expensive.

The end of the Mendoza Wine Tour finished in what was described as an Ale house, out of the 15 of so people on the tour, three of us (including the German, no surprise) picked the dark ale, both the light and dark were fantastic, I had a couple more and then had an awkard payment conversation with my lack of Spanish!

One night walking down the main pubbing and clubbing street in Santiago I noticed a bar that had not just one but three different bottles of Brewdog. I resisted going in as I refuse to be the British tourist that goes abroad and then stays with the safe option!. That may change in Sao Paulo, if Brewdog opens in time.

The quest continues…