Well hello everyone! After a bit of a silence we thought we should get blogging again and update you on all the excitement that has been going on.
As you'll see from the picture we are currently in Sydney but the last time we wrote we were about to leave Peru having completed our voluntary work and were flying to Santiago in Chile where we had a blissful 5 days of R & R.
We stayed in a fabulous little eco hostel relatively close to the centre which had a very chilled out vibe and a lovely terrace out the back that we would spend our evenings in chatting to other guests and drinking mucho vino tinto... the wine was absolutely beautiful and very cheap so it just kept flowing!
Our first day was spent exploring the city and getting our bearings. Santiago is pretty European in comparison to other South American cities and even had a bit of cafe culture in the main square (Plaza de Armas) where we took advantage of the good weather and sat outside and had a cheeky cold beer. We got chatting to a really interesting old guy who was from Chile but who had French parents. He had been a tour guide in various places across the world and was telling us about different places that he had been to and different places to go. We then headed to Santa Lucia Hill and had a little look around before sussing out how to buy a bus ticket to Valparaiso (further up the coast) for our trip the next day.
The next day we didn't hear our alarm clock and missed our bus!! We did however manage to sort it out and got a ticket (without any further cost) for the next coach out... our Spanish must be improving! On arrival we headed straight up into the hills to seek out the bohemian arty part of town. The whole town is full of coloured houses and is quite a picture to see. There were many little boutiques and galleries about and we had a leisurely afternoon wandering about and taking in the colours and sites. Many places are covered in very funky graffitti and the whole place was really vibrant.... I felt pretty inspired and really enjoyed seeing other styles of craftwork and paintings etc. Once back at the hostel we had another night of chatting to our "neighbours" and finishing off further bottles of vino!
We hadn't made any plans for the next day but ended up visiting a local winery that one of the girls who worked in the hostel also worked at. It was great as we mentioned her name when we got there and immediately were given a discount (which meant we could buy more wine!). We had gone with a couple of other girls from the hostel and pretty much had a private tour of the winery. We got to taste 4 wines in all after the tour.... all of which were lovely. The tour guide also allowed the 4 of us to finish off the bottles as the wine was just going to go to waste! Needless to say we obliged! After making our purchases and polishing off what we could we left the winery to get the bus back into the city... we managed to let several buses pass us before we caught one! Obviously the wine had affected us more than we thought it had! That night we decided to pool food and the 4 of us who had visited the winery cooked together and shared our various purchases - it was a pretty late night but great fun!
The following day we just took it easy and wandered around the city again and did a few admin things like posting things. We also went to a cultural centre that was in an old train station. There was a book fair on so we had a little look around but seeing as everything was in Spanish we didn't buy any! We were hoping to find a Lonely Planet guide book for NZ as we were due to fly over in a few days and had no itinerary at all but to no avail.
Our last day in Chile and in South America was spent going up into the mountains to visit the hot springs - what an amazing trip. It took us about 40 minutes to leave the city and then we started heading along the Maipo River and through the mountains. The sky was so blue and the snow capped mountains were so white, it was beautiful. We drove for about 2.5 hours along mountain roads stopping along the way for our guide to show us Condors and amazing flowers and other various natural wonders - it was a lovely drive. The final part of the road was a dirt track and at one stage we even drove through the river.... all worth it for the views and for the springs. It was so weird as we were in hot water and overlooking the snow and the mountains! Our guide had brought along cheese, biscuits and wine so we could relax and enjoy ourselves - it was great. The mud at the bottom of the pools was supposed to be very good for you so we were all putting it on our faces and bodies to draw out the impurities. If nothing else we looked amusing.
After a few hours of pure relaxation we headed back into the city and finished off the bottle of wine from lunch before getting a taxi to the airport... next stop Auckland, New Zealand and a month of the open road.... lots to tell you about that but you'll have to wait!
Hope that this finds everyone well - it's actually New Years Day today so Happy New Year and may 2009 be a good year for everyone... It's started well for us so far!
Much Love, V & A Xx