Chile - The Land of Contrast!

"Finally I have conquered the South!"

Colours and style...
Well, not really lol! But it is indeed the first time I have crossed the equator to the southern hemisphere, and boy was it a journey... Chile has everything to offer, it's the land of Volcanoes, Llamas, Andes, parts of the Atacama desert, the world famous Moai heads at the Easter Island, million cuddly street puppies, massive copper wealth, beautiful lapiz lazulis, natural turquoise lakes, in simple words the list is endless… oh and don't even forget the wine, mmmm! the lovely Chilean wine. Definitely one of my favourites...

Colour me picture... Who needs a canvas?
And travelling from the cold wintery british weather, what I loved  the most about it was that there was always a clear blue sky during the day and an amazing starry night sky just like a diamond embellished canopy of delicate fabric, such an incredible change from the UK grey. 

Truely, the remarkable night sky was a spectaple to behold. The beautiful sparkly stars, the shiny satellites zooming past, the bright dazzling colours of the Milky way, and the constellations as well as stars like the majestic Orion's belt, the Cassiopeia (the big W), Sirius (the brightest star), the Seven Sisters, Alpha Centauri (the closest star to our sun), the southern cross that leads to the south celestial star, then there was the intergalactic mish-mash of glitters among the Large and the small Magellanic clouds through the Milky way that just take the breath away being the two of the 4 closest galaxies to us (the two most closest ones being hidden by our own milky way clouds), the Southern sky was an absolute treat for the eyes. Oh! how I love the night sky! Something I surely miss the most in UK...

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/03/11/know-know-know-kno-know-know-y/
Southern Sky

Where to go...


Coming back down to the Earth, the trip took me from London to Houston, Houston to Santiago, and then from Santiago to Concepción where we spent the next few days enjoying the company of some of the best people I have ever come to know, no exaggeration! We had the opportunity to visit several exotic places with a view to die for, from cozy Concepción to lively town of Villarica, from a little countryside of Pucon to the natural hot springs. All the Volcanoes to behold and the beautiful turquoise lakes, Chile is truly a land of CONTRAST!! In all, we had a total blast  for full 1 week of our stay.

 
 The Andes

Like I said, everywhere we went the view was to die for. Here's the lovely view of the Andes taken from the plane on our way to Santiago. We didn't spend any time at Santiago itself, however our time spent in Concepción will forever be cherished as we had the priviledge of witnessing their impeccably well organised wedding in a magnificent lake side location. At Concepción, apart from the spectacular wedding, we also had fun visiting the Universidad de Concepción (University of Concepción)...

University of Concepción
Mapuche wall art
More mural graphiti
... and exploring the beautiful landscape of the whole city including the busy markets and the drafty seaside... One thing is for sure, the Chileans sure know how to party!

  
 Town square

The beach
View from the hill top
The lovely lively colours
After the glorious wedding and even glorious feasting (for three whole days) we headed for the South where the newly wed planned their short holiday + honeymoon, and I planned to catch a glimpse of the active Volcano Villarica, and bask in the southern sun! So, on our fourth day in Chile, we headed towards the two cities Villarica (also the name of the volcano) and Pucon that faced the two opposite sides of the volcano. It was a long 5 hours drive but not without its perks, such as the amazing coutryside view, and the vineyards to behold. But at the end of the day it was all worth it because what awaited us at the end of the tunnel was more than a beautiful dream... It was a magnificent reality! Our resort overlooked the smokey volcano villarica.

Calming...
Our cottage
A lonely chapel by the resort.
My view...
Fun fact: Did you know there are about 500 volcanoes in Chile alone??? So it is safe to say you are never too far away from one... And that's not all, about 123 of them are actually active, Villarica being one of them, as a matter of fact we were staying very close to the volacno which was smoking every day for a few hours. It actually did erupt about 2 weeks after we had visited it (read here).

Smoking volcano of Villarica
Now, one of the most coveted places to go to in Chile is the world renowned Easter Island. However, this time it was a very short trip (thanks to my PhD life!) and Easter island could not be accomodated into our schedule. Oh well, there is always next time (hint hint…)!

What to see... 


Apart from the volcano and beaches there are tons of other things to see including the regional flora and fauna, like the LLAMAS!

Before coming to Chile I was quite excited to see the world famous cuties of Chile, llamas. But I was told that llamas were mostly found in the north and we were not travelling up north this trip. So, I was kind of upset but kept my hopes up none the less. To my utmost delight, the resort we were staying in had a fenced patch in the middle of the resort, and there were dogs, donkeys, poultry and also ONE FREAKIN' LLAMA at the farm patch right in front of our cottage! Now, with a llama in front and the smokey volcano at the back the location just got beyond perfect! 

Llama and volcano... Everything Chilean...
Grazing llama
My little tryst with the llama!
By the time we got to the resort it was already sun down. So, we spent the rest of the night just relaxing in the hot tub, gazing up at the beautiful sparkly sky (which was simply divine in itself) while we sipped in some yummy amaretto.

Next day, after stuffing ourselves with a hearty breakfast, we decided to spend the day moseying by the enchanting waterfall "Ojos del Caburgua" (pronounced "Okhos del Caburhua")


Ojos del Caburgua
The word "ojos" means eyes in spanish due to the natural turquoise colour of the lakes. We spent an hour or two exploring the whole waterfall and lake. Then we returned to the resort that had its own turquoise lake to behold. The bright turquoise blue colour of the lake was almost too good to be natural, a definite must-see...



Drifting in the wondrous oblivion...
 
I could sit here alllllll day....
Well, we initially planned to spend the rest on the day by the lovely lake at the resort, or at the swimming pool overlooking the volcano. But we decided that since we had quite a bit of time at hand, we could very well make a trip to the top of hill by Villarica that had its very own hot springs called "Geometric thermos" (Termas Geometricas).

It gets its name from the geometrical shaped thermal baths. To be honest it wasn't quite nearby the resort, actually it was more like 4-5 hours away from the resort. We drove through Pucon, through the lava deforested zone, up the long twisty roads of the hills in the hot blazing sun, and right to the hot springs... At the termas geometricas there were springs, extremely hot water trickling down through the rocks, lots and lots of hot thermos with varying temperatures, and natural waterfalls with icy cold water. It felt like middle of nowhere but sure seemed popular cause the place was simply packed! The whole ambience was cozy and rustic with the fresh feel of the deep woods, the smooth sound of the waterfalls and the chilly streams adding to the romantic feel...

 Rustic and fresh...

The geometrical thermos
Icy waterfall...

What to eat...


Ready to dig in to the peruvian goodness of seafood!
So, prior to my visit to Chile I had no idea about the cuisine which makes it better cause that just adds to the experience! The cuisine comprises mostly of seafood, fresh tomato salad, guacamole, and bread. Now I have to admit this, I am a BIG fan of their bread. They are just so different... Soft yet solid, doughy and delicious, I quite miss them now...
 
Chilean bread
The second day that we were at Chile we had the priviledge of dining with the bride's family the night before the wedding. The bride's mother made us traditional chilean cuisine with handmade bread, guacamole, chilean sweet called calzones zonos (literally meaning "broken underwear"), and chilean tomato salad.


Traditional cuisine

Another traditional dish that we HAD to try was the pie-like richly meaty dish called "pastel de choclo". Now, I know what you might be thinking, if you don't know spanish I mean, that it sounds like "paste of chocolate" but no, it is actually paste of corn. Btw, the chilean corns are wayyyy bigger than normal corns. The dish is much like shepherd's pie with beef and chicken cooked with corn paste and raisins, topped with black olives.
 
Pastel de Choclo
Next, I just have to mention that the fruits of Chile are really of the superior kind! Truely sun-kissed beauties! The tomatoes are the best I have ever tasted, the fresas (strawberries) are irresistibly fresh and delicious, the carrots are sweeter than sugar, and the corns are larger than the white gram seeds.
 
Raw tomatoes
Chile is famous for its wine, and I concur that chilean wines are indeed one of the best in the world. That's big coming from me given that I don't drink much, and only prefer red wines on a good day. But, when in Chile, not just wine but pisco is a must-try drink! It's a distilled grape wine made into brandy, a drink most traditional to the northern Chilean regions and Peru. 


Cheers!
I don't much prefer hard liquors and spirits, but once in a while cocktails can really set the mood. I think I quite like pisco sour for once. A bit of lemon juice, a bit of egg white and you have a winner!

Oh yeah... Heart is where the party is!

What to get...


Finally, my favourite - souvenirs!

Afterall, what is a journey if you don't feel compelled to get back something to remember it for the rest of your life? Be it a postcard, a little photograph, or something monumental, I just love collecting souvenirs to add to my collection.


Llamas
So, if you are unsure of what to bring back, here are a few tips... First of all, you can buy the little llama souvenirs that everyone loves, or a little prototype marble statues of the moai heads (the stone heads from easter island). Postcards are one of the best and cheapest souvenirs in my opinion, I love sending them out to my friends and also recieving them from my friends abroad so, it's always a win. Besides, if you find a lovely picture postcard, it can always be framed. 

My postcards to my loved ones...
But if you are not a hoarder and prefer buying something more useful, you can always bring back these babies:

  • Jewellery made from the rare blue gem stones, lapiz lazuli. I went ahead and bought myself a pair of lapis studs cause, why the hell not?
  • Copper plates and copper goodies. Chile is one of the largest exporters of copper in the world with huge copper mines in various parts of the country. So, copper antiques and copper utensils can be a good and useful addition to the souvenir collections.
  • Pisco in moai bottles: novelty item that I am gutted to miss out on. Thanks to the custom control bullcrap!
http://www.vintageliquor.com/spirits/pisco/capel-pisco-moai-bottle-750ml.html
Pisco in moai bottle

Important note: if you see this bottle, BUY IT! DO NOT HESITATE!

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Well, that concludes my accounts of Chile! Hope it was interesting enough to excite and inspire you. Let me know if I am blabbering too much or not giving enough details. I would love to know your views on my narration...

I love travelling and try my best to accomodate it in my schedule as much as I can. Owing to my student status, it can be quite difficult at times but not impossible, stick around and I may let you in on my secrets in time ;)

So next, I am due to travel to Toronto, Canada for the very first time in April! I so wish to see the Niagra falls... Will give you all the details as well as everything you need to know about the trip including visa, bookings, travel tips and my own personal experience :)

Who needs a belly rub...?

Next stop, Niagra falls... See you until then, love always...

Your eager globe-trotter,

aJBcj