We entered Chile through Peru. It was a hot day when we crossed the border, in what they call a 'collectivo', rubbing shoulders with 3 other South Americans we'd never met. They would have piled more in if they could fit! Conversation wasn't exactly flowing, as you can imagine with the obvious language barrier, but it was a good experience none the less.
And so we arrived and spent a few days in Arica, a small costal town, it was nice to be back at sea level again, we spent a few days recovering and generally lazing around! You know, kind of like a holiday from our travelling, if you can have such a thing. Next stop was San Pedro de Acatama, a small desert town that borders Bolivia. Our first night was spent watching the sun set in moon valley, watching it disappear behind the mountain in front of us we got to know our new companions Mark & Michelle a little better. It wasn't until a couple of minutes of conversation had passed that we realised what was happening behind us. The last of the days sun had lit up the two volcanos behind us, in a kind of warm red glow that I can only describe as a scene that belong to 'Mordor' from the 'Lord of the rings'. The two volcanos glowed red whilst the rocky desert floor in front was a gloomy grey as if we had landed on the moon, this was all topped off by a orange red evening sky behind. The temperature soon dropped and we made our way back into town accompanied by Mark & Michelle we were off for a 'feed' as they liked to call it.
That evening we planned and booked to go to Bolivia. So the next day we packed our bags and left San Pedro to head into Bolivia. Our time in Bolivia was amazing and rightly so it's been given its own separate post. On returning to San Pedro we made our way to La Serena. Here I spent 3 days getting over a very bad case of man flu, I know I won't get any sympathy but it was definitely a much needed break after a cold and windy few days in Bolivia. Because of this our time in La Serena passed without much to note, apart from a few snotty tissues, and we hopped on another bus.
Valparaiso was our next stop, our first experience 'couch surfing', we defiantly lucked out. We arrived at the bus station and were greeted by a well groomed Chilean man that went by the name of Eduardo. 'You must be Adam & Emma' he said. So without any hassle we were off onto a local bus and into Valparaiso with our new host. Eduardo's home, and ours for the next few days, was an amazing 19th story apartment that looked over the whole town. The whole experience was pretty perfect; he cooked for us, we cooked for him, he taught us Spanish, we taught him English, although he was considerably better at English than we were Spanish. That night we spent most of the evening swapping travel stories. Eduardo is part of the Chilean coastguard service and has spent his years travelling the world by boat. He told us of many adventure he's had by boat and the places he'd been lucky enough to visit, we were in awe, just looking round around he had little pieces of every country he'd been in his living room.
Next he turned tour guide and told us how to get around the town like a local. Valparaiso is built into the side of a hill and each area has its own unique viewpoint and story. We enjoyed it like we could never had imagined, bustling in all the local places, not a western face in sight. As if this wasn't enough, Eduardo still had more, he offered us an apartment in Santiago where his girlfriend Jess lived. Obviously we couldn't turn this down.
So off we went, to Santiago a capital city surrounded by snow capped mountain ranges. We arrived at Jess' work office, via Chiles underground system, to pick up the keys for her flat. Somebody we'd never met just handed over the keys to her flat, the trust these people have is amazing, we duly said our 'thank you's' by cooking a good old fashioned English roast. I say 'we' but in reality I was a glorified potato peeler. Jess was impressed with her first English roast, I know this because she took the rest for lunch the next day! Well that's if she wasn't just being very polite and it made its way into her bin on the way to work.
So we spent a night with Jess, again swapping stories, an American woman with Japanese heritage, who'd done her fair share of couch surfing around South America before moving to Chile with Eduardo. She told us of Patagonia, Eduardo's homeland in Chile and its natural beauty, a place that has made its way onto our 'to visit' list.
Again we learnt how to travel like a local in Santiago. It didn't disappoint as we rode around the city on our newly hired bikes. The next evening Eduardo made the trip down from Valparaiso to join us. So the 4 of us sat in Santiago, 2 Brits, a Japanese American and a Chilean, you couldn't make this stuff up, friends who we still keep in contact with today.
It was a great experience and an even better way to finish our time in Chile. Argentina was next.