Observations : 14 days in Santiago

Three weeks after arrival. Three weeks in between the Andes mountains and the pacific ocean.

I haven’t maybe been to as many places as ‘true’ backpackers would go in three weeks. Others would have already covered half the South American continent in my three weeks, but that is not me. I (in)actively endorse the ‘slow travel’ movement.

Slow travel does not stand for laying in the sun at some exotic (read: boring) resort, with the only incentive of getting up from your tanning bed being the ‘all you can eat’ buffet 100 metres away.

Slow travel, for me, rather stands for staying a bit longer in a city or in a country. While others would rush from sight to sight in Santiago in one or two days, I stayed there for two weeks. I feel that if you take more time to discover and live in a place or a country, the experience is much richer than from collecting a great number of country stamps in your pasport.

The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.

At the moment I am part of an amazing voluneering project in the Northern part of Chile. Something I will elaborate on in a next post (Yes Hector I will, don’t worry).

Back to the first thoughts and observations on Chile. I haven’t really figured out the country’s soul quite yet, but even for a slow traveller that is pretty impossible in three weeks time. But let’s give it a try.

Chile is: largeness, incredible views, mountains, volcanos, deserts, islands, geysers & fertile grounds.

Chile is: good wines, better wines, best wines, empenadas, completos, terremotos, disgusting coffee, pisco sour.

Chile is many dogs without a home.

Chile is Santiago, but surely not only Santiago, Chile is is many cities and towns with a story, from Taltal and San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaíso, Puerto Montt, Easter Island and more.

Chilean people are: hard workers, kind, helpful, creative in their weird Spanish (Catchay?, Weon!), and critical yet proud of their nation.

Moreover, they are interested in people that come and visit their país and won’t shy away of telling you where you absolutely need to go. That issue divides them however deeply: what is Chile’s most beautiful region, the North or the South? A vital question. The safest bet is to visit both parts to keep everyone satisfied including yourself!

Santiago is: polution, all-day rushhour in the metro, streetart, and the Andes mountains.

Santiago is an empty downtown in el fin de la semana, yet buzzing squares, neighborhoods and culture in its barrios.

Santiago is an amazing view from the top of Cristobal hill.

Two weeks in Santiago and one week in Taltal has given me a glimpse of the country; the local culture and its people. A place that is both beautiful and proud. But also (for a part) isolated from its neighbours and focussed on the United States - aren’t we all..?

The capital city Santiago has two faces. On the one side it can come across as a dusty, polluted, boring place somewhere far away from South Americas main attractions such as Rio and Buenos Aires. Yet, having spend two weeks in this huge city, I have a different experience.

The place is cool, but you sometimes have to carefully search to find its treasures. Life is buzzing, especially in the barrios around the city’s downtown area. In the neighborhoods Brasil, Lastarria and Yungay there is lots to do and see; from an abundance of amazing street art to plazas where people make music, dance, practice yoga and sell organic sushi (hipster alarm).

Furtheremore, museums are often free, bikes are slowly gaining ground and the sunset from the top of the hill is absolutely stunning.

Santiago, both an underrated and upcoming city in South America. Not flooded by tourists yet and a great place to discover for people that like to take some more time for finding the soul of a city.