The Wish List Tourist: Chile

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A Northamptonshire woman is in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

You can follow her progress with the Northants Telegraph.

Rebecca has been experiencing the extremes of Mother Nature in Chile.

I had never seen the Milky Way before until I got to the Atacama Desert, in Chile, one of the driest places in the world.

I couldn’t have had a better introduction to this country.

San Pedro is a small town, just across the border from Bolivia, and is THE place to go for stargazing.

And, keeping things astronomical, a visit to nearby Moon Valley.

From San Pedro I skipped back to Argentina, working my way down, until crossing the border again to Chile’s capital, Santiago.

This was a turning point in my travels.

I had been ill for three weeks and took the chance to visit a hospital.

The doctor advised that I sign off the tour I was on and stay put until I got better, which I did.

Suddenly I was solo for the first time and while excited for the challenge, I was a little nervous too.

Santiago

Santiago made me feel at home though. With its mix of modern and historic, it felt a bit like London.

Chileans are the most hospitable people I have met along my way through South America

San Cristóbal Hill can be reached by a funicular, which dates back to the 1920s, and offers great views of the city.

Santa Lucía Hill with its surrounding park makes for a pretty stroll and escape from the city bustle.

And there’s Costanera Centre – the best shopping mall I have ever been to.

One handbag and some new make-up later I was on the road to recovery!

Valparaiso

Beyond Santiago is the uniquely appealing Valparaíso, a UNESCO world heritage site.

With its steep hillsides, winding alleyways and street art culture, the city takes on a life of its own.

It is dotted with Victorian funiculars and murals and so the walking Tours 4 Tips is the best way to make the most of a short stay here.

Pucón

Generating a constant tide of thrill-seekers (and more than its fair share of injury) is Pucón.

I went with one purpose in mind – to climb the active Villarrica Volcano.

But, with Chile being the most seismic country in the world, you can’t always get what you want.

Two days after I arrived, and the day before I was due to climb it, the mountain was put on amber alert and I left the town without seeing its summit.

About three weeks later, it erupted with images being shown around the world.

My down time offered me the chance to try whitewater rafting and canopying for the first time.

Whitewater rafting along Pucón River is a more exhilarating way to enjoy the countryside in this part of the world.

Sadly, this is as far as I got into Chilean Patagonia – plans meant I had to make up for the time I had lost while recovering and my road trip was over as I boarded a plane to the end of the world.

Travellers’ tips

Overnight coach travel is the best and, if booked in advance, cheapest way to get around Chile.

A semi-cama seat has enough recline for a snooze during the day, but book a fully reclining cama seat if you want a better chance at a good night’s sleep.

Chileans are the most hospitable people I have met along my way through South America – take the time to make new friends.

Eat: Alfajores

Drink: Mote con huesillos

Loved: The extremes of nature in this long, thin country, from desert to snow-capped mountains.

Hated: The legacy of human rights atrocities left by dictator Augusto Pinochet, which are still in the hearts and minds of Chileans today.

Where I stayed

Happy House Hostel, Santiago

Gran Hotel Gervasoni, Valparaíso

Where I ate

Cafe Turri, Valparaíso

Melbourne Cafe, Valparaíso – this is a good place to go if you like a flat white with soya milk!

What I saw

The Chilean Airforce putting on a fantastic aerobatic display while I ate my dinner in Pucón.

Musical memory

Romeo Santos, Eres Mia

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