We got up at about 2am Chilean time. We all rushed to get ready. Our flight to Peru was at 6am. The flight was fine, other than not being able to recline our seats, but I fell asleep anyway. After a bit of school work, we landed safe and sound in Lima, Peru at 8am local time.
The owner of the apartment we were staying in, had organised a taxi to pick us up at the airport. Once we were on the road, we were astounded to see that there were no rules at all!!! All the cars, busses and other vehicles were crammed with people. They were all speeding and weaving from one side of the road to the other, trying to take every gap they could possibly get.
About half an hour later, we arrived at our apartment. We got out of the taxi and went in. It was Eulain and my turn to choose the room, so we took the one on the top floor.
A little later, we went to a park where we joined a tour group. With the tour, we saw all of downtown Lima, it was very interesting. We walked into an old cathedral, watched a bit of a parade in front of the president’s office, saw a museum and much, much more.
Afterwards, we went for lunch at a traditional Peruvian restaurant. The food was amazing. I enjoyed and savoured every last mouthful.
Afterwards, we headed back home on the Metro Bus. When we arrived back home, we got ready to go for a run. We ran along the Malecon clifftop walkways. It was really nice. There were other people exercising, riding skateboards and having picnics. Later when we were back in our apartment, we ate some fruit, and got ready for bed and so we concluded our first day in Peru.
We were so excited!! We were going to climb Machu Picchu today. We got up nice and early at about 3:00am and grabbed our day bags and rushed down to eat our porridge. This was oatmeal and boiling water mixed to together.
We needed our head torches for the walk, as it was still dark. We hurried along the small streets and got to the long line to enter the gates of Machu Picchu. After a very long wait we got into the gates leading us up to Machu Picchu. It was time to start our journey….
The steps were extremely steep. Because it was still so cold we didn’t sweat much. We were some of the first people to get to the top. We even beat the bus! It took us 36 minutes in total. We were so tired already. To get up to Machu Picchu we clambered over nearly 700 stone steps!!!
When we got to the top I was so disappointed. There was a road, toilet and what looked like a service desk. By the desk there was another line. We joined it to see what was going to happen. Then when we finally reached the desk, we saw that you had to swipe your passport against a screen of some sort.
When you enter, you nearly explode with the beautiful sight. There were beautiful mountains on each side of the huge stone city made by the Inkas.
We met Grandma Thomase during our stay with the Andean family in the Peruvian highlands. Actually, we stayed in her house and on her farm as we were hosted by her daughter and her family. No one is sure of her age, but everyone agree that she is around ninety. She and her husband have been part of the activities on the 6ha farm perched on the forested slopes for as long as anyone can remember (seventy years or so). They started as hired hands in their twenties, working the coffee, cocoa and pineapple plantations and staffing the kitchen of the hacienda. Around fourty years ago, they became the owners of the land – purchased through hard work. They have invested a lifetime in these steep fertile slopes.
When we were introduced to Grandma Thomase, she was busy skinning coffee beans with the manual husker/grinder. She was processing her harvest that she hand-picked earlier in the morning. Later the afternoon we saw her wash and select yesterday’s harvest that has by this time fermented and is now ready to be dried in the sun for a couple of days. She produces about 50kg of dried coffee beans per week during the harvest season – 100% Organic – because there are no other means available. The bag of raw coffee beans is taken to the local market in Quillabamba once a week by hitching a ride on the back of a pick-up.
Coffee merchants purchase bags of coffee from the subsistence farmers, making up larger parcels. These are transported to larger centres and changes hands a few times until it reaches Lima where it is acquired by export merchants and roasters that make the precious produce available to espresso and latte drinkers all over the world.
Globally, coffee consumption has risen 18% over the past 10 years, reaching 9.1Mt in 2016. Being a globally traded commodity, new and cheaper production capacity, mechanisation and concentration of production has driven coffee prices lower and global inventory higher regardless of increase in demand. Improvement in yields and input costs are required to satisfy the requirement for returns to the investors. One strategy producers are following is to differentiate to extract higher prices – speciality roast, flavour selected, single origin, fair-trade and now even barrel aged (similar to wine and whisky courtesy of Nestle).
Grandma Thomase gets ~USD80 for her 50kg bag of coffee. The price has been higher in the past but without direct access to the market, she is at the mercy of the merchants and transporters. Her land is not conducive to mechanisation and she has no access to capital.
I was very encouraged to stumble upon a government sponsored agricultural expo during our stay in Chachapoyas. It showcased very basic equipment and opportunities for mechanisation and yield improvements clearly aimed at the small-scale farmer. This, as well as infrastructure development to improve access to markets and reduce transportation costs are required to remain competitive. To stimulate this, investment is needed.
Grandma Thomase gets just more than USD0.01 (yes one cent!) of the USD3.50 for a cup of coffee we buy, yet she has invested seventy years in its production. Transition is never without cost, whether it be physical, emotional, or in the case of Grandma Thomase’s coffee in Peru, economical.
At 4am we were all standing in the dark beside the kerb, awaiting our tour van to pick us up. We had woken up at 3am to have breakfast and complete the last of our packing. The tour company had provided us each with a small duffle bag that was barely big enough to fit all the things we would need for the 5 day hike in the mountains of Salkantay.
We had a three hour drive to where we would start the trek to our campsite for the night. Compared to the rough overnight bus ride we had survived just two days before, this was nothing. Although, the large van would honk loudly before swerving to the other lane to make the sharp curve. This still made us nervous, for to your left there would be a sharp cliff that ran beside the narrow little mountain road, and there was at any time a chance that another vehicle would come racing round the bend. We have found, however, that this is the way of driving in Peru.
The walk was beautiful! Our team of twelve (our family making up half of the group) immediately got to work getting to know each other, and from the first day we all got on well. Ricardo, our tour guide was wonderful! Always with a ball of dried coca leaves (for energy) in his cheek, he would explain everything, and anything.
After reaching our campsite (around 4100m altitude), we had a delicious lunch. I could honestly not believe how our two chefs could present such amazing dishes, when in the tiny room next door, there wasn’t even a kitchen bench! Never were we able to finish all of the food. Our two horsemen really did lift huge weights off our shoulders. All our luggage (except our small day bags) were hauled along on the backs of mules.
After lunch, with a bag of coca leaves, Ricardo led us up to a beautiful lake, and the Salkantay Peaks, climbing up to around 4250m altitude. There was a ceremony we all had the privilege of taking part in. To me this was fascinating, however, because the Andean Leader, during this ceremony only spoke the native language of Cetchua, it was quite difficult for me to understand.
The scenery was breath taking. Although, for mum and a few other members of the group the altitude literally did take their breath away. Even when returning to the campsites, heads were throbbing, and many were nauseous from the altitude.
In total, though, we had walked around 15km, reaching a hight of 4250m. We were all exhausted and quickly fell into bed, after another delicious meal. What a start to our trek of a lifetime!
All of us were quietly, but firmly woken up with a cup of steaming hot coca tea. Our cozy igloos were steamed up by the vapour and the fresh morning air outside. It was still dark when we emerged from our warm sleeping bags. I literally had to make a countdown to force myself to leave our cozy room to head for breakfast. Once again, we were all very pleasantly surprised when platters, plates and dishes were served to us from the tiny, damp room next door. Our chefs really did make it worth it to get up.
Two of our team members who could still feel the altitude, saw the amazing scenery from the backs of mules, who were at times very stubborn and strong willed. They were supposed to all follow a certain mule led by either a young Andean man or young boy. Well, I can’t complain, because they carried my heavy load of luggage all the way up the steep, rocky slopes. I don’t lie when I say ‘steep, rocky slopes’. We climbed up from the altitude of the night’s campsite to the splitting hight of 4630m altitude. This is when I started to feel a little unwell.
At the summit, one of our young chefs, Evan, served us all sandwiches and another steaming cup of coca tea. He had carried the large flask of boiling hot tea, and the bag of sandwiches in his backpack all the way from the night’s accomodation, and arrived before us to ensure that he would be able to serve us. Imagine climbing up more than 530 m with this load on your back. How’s that for service?
We had heard that in the Salkantay area, the weather changes very rapidly and to extremes. And then suddenly, from the hot shining morning, it went to completely overcast and then rain. We all slipped our cheap ponchos on, and tried to make the best of the situation.
This was hard though, especially if the track is a mess of sloshy mud, water pools and only a few scarce stepping stones to help prevent the mud from seeping through your brand new, sparkling shoes and on into your socks. Finally we arrived at the small mountain shelter where we would have our lunch. Lunch consisted of many delicious dishes and lots and lots of hot chocolate. We now had only 10km left to get to our camp for the night. The last bit, to me, was a stroll in the park compared to the climb through the Salkantay Pass earlier.
As soon as I was able to find my tent, throw my bag down and half organise my things, I hopped through the ice cold shower. When I say ice cold, I mean so cold that when you dunk your head under, you get a big time brain freeze. And for some crazy reason, I decided to wash my hair that night.
Happy Hour is supposed to be a light entrance to dinner time. Us ravenous Inca Warriors, however, hungrily devoured the popcorn, sweet potato chips and the delicious hot chocolate. By the time the extravagant dinner arrived at our table, we had all satisfied our hunger on the Happy Hour. The dinner was almost untouched. I really felt bad, because all the hard work on dinner was left unappreciated by the now satisfied group.
I slept very well that night, huddling in my warm sleeping bag, under the low roof of my tent, knowing that I had walked a total of 22km and climbed 530m.
The night before we had ‘agreed’ (with many moans and groans) that we would be at breakfast at 5am. However, it took a little longer than estimated to pack up all our belongings and make our way to the breakfast table. A few times Ricardo came to our group of tents to ‘remind’ us that breakfast was ready. We ended up walking about an hour later than the first group. Our track was along a dirt road with high rising cliffs to your right, and sharp, dropping cliffs to your left. Along the way were farms with large plantations of granadilla and other fruits, scattered across the mountain side. We refreshed ourselves at a small road stall with many tropical fruits, meeting a few local dogs on the way.
We were all pleasantly surprised when a van dropped by to pick us up. I don’t think any of us really understood what was going on, but if this meant lunch earlier, we were in. We had about a 15 minute ride before we arrived at our beautiful little campsite, much earlier than the rest of the groups. It felt like cheating because we had taken the van, but still I could not help but feel pleased. Some of our team members were planning on going to nearby hot springs, but as we had been before, we decided to stay and use the valuable time to do some washing and organising.
Dinner was served later than usual, never the less, it was still one of the best. We ended the feast with a traditional toast, also saying goodbye to our wonderful chefs, as they would be leaving us in the morning. All the adults (the entire group except us four children) got a glass of Maracuya Pisco Sour, and us four non-alcoholics, a small bowl of gelatina. The rest of the evening was concluded with a bonfire. Only a handful of members from each group were amongst the lashing flames. The rest (including me) wend straight to bed and within a short while were fast asleep, exhausted by the third day of crazy adventure.
The van ride had cut our trekking time quite short. I realise now that this is because we were a bit lazy and heavy footed this morning. We have trekked for only 14km, mostly descending. Anyway, that is still enough to make you tired, especially when you find out that wake up time is at 4am tomorrow!
Surprisingly, everyone was around the breakfast table on time today. This enabled us to have enough time to have a short rest at one of the nearby coffee makers. We were explained the entire process the bean goes though and then had a chance to taste the freshly brewed coffee.
As we started to enter the rainforest area, I was becoming very grateful that I had short sleeves on today. This was by far the hottest and most humid day throughout the tour. It was also quite steep! When rounding every bend, we would all silently hope that it would be going down, but unfortunately, it never did. It just seemed to go up.
After a long time, the rainforest seemed to end and we entered a little village, called Hydro Electrica. We went into a little local restaurant to have our lunch, and then had only another 10km left to walk to get to the town where we would stay the night. We were all very disappointed with the food. This is when we realised that this was normal standards. In the jungle, we had been served the most amazing food by our exceptional chefs. However, we were quickly forced to readjust again, and decide to conclude our meal with some long craved ice cream, something we knew could not possibly be different to what we expect.
For most of the 10km we walked beside train tracks. Little track stalls were quite frequent, selling almost anything imaginable. After a while though, the quite large town of Aguas Calientes (meaning ‘warm water’) came into view. Soon we had all refreshed ourselves at our hostal (with warm showers- what a luxury after 4 nights in the jungle) and headed down for dinner. I decided to try Alpaca for the first time, as it was highly recommended by some of our group members. I must admit, I was a little disappointed. It was very chewy, and very salty. Apparently, though, this was not very well prepared, but still, I’m not really keen to try it again.
Day 5- Machu Picchu
It was so good to sleep in a normal bed! This was the first in 4 whole days, and I slept wonderfully. Well, I had to, because we had to leave to get to the gate to enter Machu Picchu at 4am! There was barely enough time to scoff down a small bowl of oats and a slice of buttered bread. It was still very dark, and quite cold when we were lined up in front of the gate.
As soon as all six of our passports and tickets had been approved, we bounded through the gate, anxious to get to the ancient city. The steps up were extremely steep. Ruzow and I were ahead and determined to get to the top as fast as possible to rest with a view of a lifetime. In total, it took us six 35 minutes to get to the top. Although it hadn’t taken us an hour and a half as predicted, my knees and legs were aching, and I was very short of breath. Other than that, all was fine and I was extremely pumped to glimpse Machu Picchu for the very first time.
Our passports and tickets were checked again and we slowly emerged to the location we had been climbing for.
Machu Picchu! – At long last.
Finally, the ancient archeological site stood before my eyes. Never in a million years did I dream of being here in this place. I couldn’t believe it! After many pictures and a packed breakfast on the grassy lawn, we headed towards the city to have a tour with Ricardo. I don’t know why, but I always pictured Machu Picchu as kind of like a pyramid structure, never an entire city! This was a surprise.
We set out to explore the city and discover all it held. It was all very fascinating to me. I loved the history and the cultures, the Incas and the general sight of the well built walls that had managed to stand for so long. Many people wished to stand here on these rocks and ruins and here I am, at age 13 with my entire family drinking it all in. I am so privileged!
Later, with one of our team members, Joyce, now adopted into our crazy family, we set off to climb Mach Picchu Mountain. And I tell you, climb we did! The steps were so steep and narrow, that when we came down we had to turn our feet sideways to be able to descend. Our feet couldn’t fit on the narrow steps!
We were out of breath when finally we reached the top. At 3061m altitude, we decided to have lunch, consisting of fruit, crackers, cold meat and cheese. It was lovely! We took some pictures, and being very high above the city of Machu Picchu, we had a spectacular view of it. It was definitely worth the climb!
We got to the bottom with many aching knees and seven exhausted trekkers. A rest on the grassy lawn was in order. Only for five minutes, though, because the six crazy JvR’s, instead of going back with the rest of the group, were going to walk back along the train tracks to Hidro Electrica, where they would meet Daniel in order for more adventure! If that is even possible?!
Well, that’s it for now, but I’d really like to say a really big “Thank you!” to Ricardo our wonderful tour guide and friend, and also to our amazing group, including my five travel buddies. I’ve had so much fun and have made so many unforgettable memories. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing experience with me… the trek, and experience of a lifetime!
Another crazy, dangerous minibus ride took us to Quillabamba where we spent the night in a local hostel. Three friendly American ladies shared the first part of our ride. We talked non-stop and exchanged detail and experiences. During the final leg of our journey, there was very little conversation. We were exhausted. A quick meal at a local eatery, followed by a cold shower concluded a long, eventful day.
Early the next morning marked the start of our jungle adventure. A drive in an old 4×4 truck – kids and backpacks on the open back – took us into the jungle where we would spend three unforgettable days.
We were dropped off on Goyo’s farm. Here we met Vicky, our lovely hostess, her old mother, her sister, her brother-in-law, her nephew, two dogs, four cats and a kitchen full of guinea pigs. A whole new world opening up to us in the hours and days to come. Shocking, fascinating and beautiful.
We visited different farms and families on foot. Each receiving us with great amounts of foreign food and drinks. Each struggling to make a living, yet willing to share all they have. Nobody speaks English, but we somehow were able to have long conversations around many a kitchen table. Each with a fire for cooking and guinea pigs for food. And cats to catch the mice and rats and dogs to sound the alarm upon unwelcome visits. A different world! Nothing is wasted and nothing is thrown away, not even the pellets in the gut of the slaughtered guinea pigs.
Mother’s Day in the jungle was a very special occasion. Families go from house to house, presenting and receiving food. Every new guest or home implies a massive plate of food. And you can’t refuse. You have to eat and drink it all. Stretching, humbling and totally wonderful.
At home I had to help prepare our special meal. I had to hold the bag as Vicky and her sister grabbed six guinea pigs from the kitchen. I watched as they were put to sleep and then had the “joy” of dunking the bodies in boiling water before stripping off the fur. A more difficult process than you might think. I also learnt how to take the entrails out and clean and cook these. The guinea pigs were marinated in the special mix of garlic and spices which I was grinding and mixing between two large stones earlier that morning. This was preceded by a breakfast of home made hot chocolate (we did everything from getting the beans out to grinding and boiling the cacao) and hairy potatoes.
Three of our guinea pigs were roasted on sticks and the other three were fried in a pot. All on the fire in Vicky’s cozy kitchen. We also boiled potatoes and rice and green bananas.
In the jungle we got to harvest coffee with big bags tied around us. It was rather difficult trying not to slide down the muddy slopes while pulling down the branches to get to the coffee. Loads of fun, though. We then emptied our bags into a large trough where we washed the beans before putting it through a mechanical peeler. From here it goes into another trough where it ferments overnight. The next day it is spread out on a slab of concrete to dry in the sun. Every afternoon it is scooped up and stored, just to be spread out again to dry the day after. This process goes on for three to five days, depending on the weather.
I really enjoyed the roasting process. This is done in a ceramic pot over an open fire. The smell is to die for! Then, as soon as the beans are sufficiently cooled down, the hand grinder turns those dark brown beans into rich grains of coffee. Hot water is filtered through the grains in a special coffee pot to produce coffee extract. This black liquid is added to a cup of boiled water to create the perfect cup of coffee. Rich and delicious! I had way too many of these!! Coffee in the jungle is all but instant. I loved the process as much as the freshly brewed coffee.
For three precious days, we were lost in a world previously unimaginable to us. For three precious days those jungle families worked their way deep into our hearts. We were sad to say goodbye and very sad to leave. Our lives have been enriched and our hearts have yet again been extended.
The next leg of our adventure entailed the scariest 20 hour bus ride in the history of mankind. Lima to Cusco. Nightmare is a huge understatement. Sitting on the second level right in the front only made it way worse. I am relieved and amazed that we got to the other side in one piece. No sleep and no school work done. Staying in your seat being the biggest aim and accomplishment.
Cusco, the cultural capital of Peru, is alive with markets, street vendors, local people dressed in bright traditional cloth and lamas on leashes.
Our host, Daniel, and his son Danny picked us up from the bus terminal and took us to their home in the suburb of Santiago. Up on a hill, overlooking the city, we found three comfortable rooms with a clean shared bathroom. The comfortable beds saw way too little of us. Only three precious hours.
We attended a compulsory meeting with our trekking company in the city centre. Here we met our tour guides and companions and received duffel bags for the trek. After quite an ordeal with administration issues and struggling to draw money to avoid the 8% credit card fees, we finally walked home (quite a significant distance) to re-pack our bags. By midnight we flopped into our beds, only to be up again by 3am.
Our Salkantay trekking company picked us up at 4am. Not the best way to start a five day walk. And a difficult one too. In true van Rensburg fashion, we went for the longest, hardest Inka trail.
Our family made up exactly half of the trekking group, excluding the two guides. Suffering up the mountains at high altitude on day one is the perfect way to turn 12 strangers into family and friends. The care and concern for one another was something truly special. Especially when altitude sickness kicked in for a few of us. Not fun!!! Hiking at high altitude was a new experience for our family and most of our group.
The five day trek took us up glorious mountains and through stunning valleys. The scenery ever changing. Our two chefs did an incredible job of creating delicious, artistic platters of food in the middle of nowhere for every meal. Being woken up with coca tea every morning was another little treat. We mostly slept in tents on thin mats and narrow sleeping bags. I hate to have my feet closed in! But, it was very cold. So, in the interest of maintaining some body heat, I happily disappeared into that narrow cocoon every night.
Every morning was an early start. Every day was flooded with special moments. Every hour brought people together and saw connections made. What a wonderful blessing! I will forever look back on this time with fond memories of breathtaking beauty and precious conversations and people.
Our final day started at 3am. Our family climbed the many, many stairs to the entrance to Machu Picchu in a record 35 minutes only to wait in a line for nearly an hour. After a two hour tour and strong coffee for all, we started our climb up Machu Picchu Mountain. Not for the faint hearted!! And no small feat in noon day heat!! But we did it with good attitudes and much silliness and laughter. Our family of six plus our adopted member, Joyce, enjoyed a little lunch at the top with a perfect view of Machu Picchu. Going down was rather difficult with all those narrow stairs. A last little hangout with our trekking family, followed by big hugs and sad goodbyes concluded our Salkantay trek.
We had only minutes to catch our breaths before starting the decent to the town of Aguas Calientes. We met a lovely Australian couple with whom we instantly connected and we chatted all the way down to the town. There we exchanged detail and made a date to meet up upon return at the end of November. They live on the Gold Coast, only an hour and a bit from us. How good is that?!
Another 10km walk (less than two hours) brought us to the town of Hidro Electrica, where we met our host and guide for the next several days…..
Our introduction to Peru was a drive from hell in a taxi from the airport to our apartment in Lima. No speed limits, no safety belts, no one seat per person, no lanes, no rules. The bigger the vehicle, the more right of way. Everything from busses to tiny motorcycle cars weave and hoot and miraculously survive the chaos. Our driver belly laughed at our kids, who stared in shock and astonishment with open mouths, letting out involuntary gasps. Jarik and I put on our bravest faces and made conversation in our broken Spanish between holding on for dear life and dealing with whiplash.
I was surprised about the utter third worldness we encountered for three quarters of our first trip in the capital of Peru. I somehow expected it to be more developed. Half built houses, mixed with shacks of all shapes and substances sprawled out as far as the eye can see. People everywhere – on top, inside, hanging out. This is what I expected to see in India.
As we got closer to our apartment in Miraflores, the chaos got more organised and the dwellings more “normal”. The man at the gate where we were dropped off spoke no English and didn’t look as though he expected us. Kali got rather worried when he wanted to take us upstairs while leaving Jarik’s passport at the entrance. In the end we convinced him to give it back and all was well. The apartment has ocean glimpses and spreads over three levels. A very interesting place. Three nights and much exploring later, we were rather sad to say goodbye and hand out hugs at the gate.
On our last day in Lima, we took ourselves on a tour to Barranco. What a gorgeous, fascinating place! The architecture is incredible and the laneways are colourful and alive with character. We enjoyed coffee at an art gallery. Best coffee yet!
We strolled through Bajada de los Bañ (a beautiful walkway through Barranco) all the way down to the pebble beach. From here we watched the sun set over the ocean. Absolutely spectacular! As the waves crash over the large pebbles, the pulling back of the tide creates the most beautiful sound. Pebble music. Love, love, love!!!
We walked for miles in the dusk and later dark, all along the ocean. Our reward: massive pancakes under ferry lights, overlooking the dark ocean. Super special.
We’ve had an unforgettable month in Chile. As I’m sitting on the small plane to Lima, Peru, my heart is full of precious, priceless memories. It has been an eye opening and both a habit and perspective changing experience.
Those who know me would be shocked to learn that I’ve exchanged my leave tea in potfuls for black instant coffee. I’m sipping it out of our little flask lid as I’m writing this. We were able to carry food, hot and cold water and our own can of coffee powder all the way through check-in, customs, the security check and onto the plane. And this is an international flight. I like it!!
The biggest adjustment was not the dirty dwellings, disgusting clinging shower curtains or having rock-hard white buns with a tiny slither of cheese served for breakfast, but the fact that toilets in South America cannot flush toilet paper. That is all I am going to say about that.
Our Chilean adventure started and ended in the capital city, Santiago. Upon arrival we chose to stay in the old city centre. Excellent choice! We very quickly discovered a colourful world, light years removed from our everyday existence in Brisbane, Australia. We ventured into interesting neighbourhoods with beautiful people, sometimes quite significantly off the beaten track. What a wonderful way to start our adventure!
When we returned to Santiago after a month, our biggest aim was to find new shoes for four out of the six pairs of feet. We opted for the modern side of the city for this reason.
Track running shoes is the compromise for being unable to have both walking boots and running shoes. Kali and I have destroyed our Asics running shoes over the hundreds of kilometres of walking over the course of a month. We ran a lot too, but that’s what they were made for. Ruzow’s shoes held up remarkably well, considering they were of no significant brand or price range. But one month was the absolute maximum he could squeeze out of them. Esto had his first shoe replacement in El Calafate, Argentina at an exhorbitant amount of money. It lasted him only three weeks, even though they looked better than the first pair towards the end. He completed the last two days of our Torres del Paine track in shoes with more hole than sole. And he had to wear them for two more days, walking long distances with his backpack, as one was a Sunday with no open shoe stores and the next was a public holiday in a different country. Eulain already had a shoe replacement and Jarik bought brand new trail runners just before we left Brisbane. The only surviving original pair.
We arrived back in Santiago on none other than a public holiday. That means EVERYTHING is closed. So the next day and our last in Chile, was dedicated to shoe shopping. After many miles of walking and many confusing bus rides, Kali, Ruzow and myself had fancy new Salomon trail runners and Esto the sturdiest hiking boots (which he will just have to run in too) we could find. These have a one year guarantee. Mmm… We shall see.
Jarik and I celebrated Chile with a bottle of the most delicious Syrah we acquired during our “shaky” day out in the Casablanca wine region. We’ve seen breathtakingly beautiful things, had incredible experiences, met beautiful people and made many precious memories. Our children’s eyes have been opened and their horizons broadened. We are better people for having encountered Chile.
We spent our first three days of our world adventure in Santiago. I saw many interesting old buildings, ate interesting food and met interesting people. As you may have noticed, I had a very interesting time.
One of the interesting buildings that I saw, had the exterior of a small corner shop, but the interior of a beautiful restaurant. Full of old furniture, and chandeliers. There were many small stores and stalls in the streets, these were full of weird and wonderful things for sale.
I saw some amazing street art. Some told a story and others were just colour to the street. But they were all beautiful contributing to making the street lively.
The busses in Santiago, are old and rickety. They look and sound like they are going to break down at any given moment. The rest of the traffic is also very busy, for example, we were walking down the street, when suddenly, a motorbike came darting towards us at a huge speed. People were scrambling to get out of its way. Also we were in an Uber on our way to the airport, when a taxi came rushing past us a top speed, it looked like it was going to slide off the road any second. In Santiago, pedestrians do not have the right of way, cars just rush past. Other than that, the traffic is not too bad.
We walked through many smaller streets, that were full of old buildings and street art. There were also little stalls with fresh fruit, fresh fruit drinks and fresh food. These were all relatively cheap and very good to eat.
We stayed in the old part of Santiago, it is the more lower class, but still very beautiful. Just two short bus rides away, is a huge modern city with big shopping centres and skyscrapers. You see a massive contrast when going from the old part to the new part.
I learnt a bit more basic Spanish, so I could at least communicate the basics with the local people who mostly do not understand a word of English.
To me, Santiago is an amazing place to visit, but I would probably not decide to live there permanently.
Shaken While Home Alone
Mum and Dad went out to the wine land for the day. We had just finished our school work and were about to put on a movie, when suddenly everything started shaking………………………….
It was about 12 PM, when the windows started rattling, furniture shaking and Kali panicking. She shoved the electronic devices between the pillows on the couch and ordered us to run to the beach. We all followed her.
We ran to the beach under Kali’s command. She had mum’s phone with her and started to try and contact Dad. Unfortunately, the phone did not work, which made her stress even more.
Strangely no one else came running out. After about ten minutes, we decided to go back inside. Everything was quiet and calm. We put on our movie, and waited for Mum and Dad to arrive.
Later when they were home, we found out that these earthquakes happen regularly in the area. “Only run if you see the locals running”.
Back In Santiago
We left our beautiful beach-side apartment in Concon at about 12:15 PM. After a short bus ride to Vina del Mar, we got on the bus to Santiago. The bus ride was pleasant, although, it seemed that every time I was writing something important on the iPad, we would go around a sharp bend or over a bump in the road. Other than that, it was fine.
When we arrived in Santiago, for our third and final time, we went straight to the nearest local bus stop. We had planned to go to the shopping centre as soon as we arrived, because we could only check in at our lodgings at 6 PM. We needed to take two busses. Huddling into an overcrowded orange bus, we completed the first part of the way. We got off the bus and waited for the next bus to arrive. After about fifteen minutes of waiting, it finally came into view. I got aboard but the driver abruptly motioned to me to get off. There was something wrong with the bus. After another ten minutes of waiting, we were allowed to get on.
On arrival at the shopping centre, we noticed that none of the shops were open. Of course………… it was a public holiday. We were all disappointed as we walked towards our apartment. But to our surprise, as we walked through a large park, we saw hundreds of people all having picnics, playing sport and just chatting to each other.
According to the GPS on Dad’s phone, we still had 2.2 kilometres to go. We arrived twenty minutes later with our heavy backpacks. We went in and dropped them on the floor. It was a brand new apartment, we were the first people to stay in it!!!
Dad and I went outside to find something to eat for dinner. We walked down the road, nothing was open except, an extremely expensive café and a pizza restaurant. We went back to our apartment and told the others. We decided on pizza, and went right away. We were extremely hungry!!
The pizza restaurant was completely empty when we got there. We walked in, sat down at a table and started talking to the delighted chef. He spoke a little English, so between him and Dad’s translator, we managed to figure out the menu and order our pizza.
After about 20 minutes, we were served our freshly baked pizzas. As we were eating, we noticed, that the chef took the blackboard menu out onto the sidewalk. The restaurant was only supposed to open now. No wonder there was no one else in the restaurant!
After dinner, we went back to our apartment. I could not wait to get into my warm bed.
Picture perfect is the view from our beach villa in Concon. The stunning blue ocean dotted with sailboats directly in front of us and an impressive number of big yachts in the marina a little to the left. Top this off with clear blue skies, sunshine and a gentle sea breeze and you have our Saturday afternoon captured.
The boys’ fire is almost ready for our barbeque and the bubbles ice cold and ready. Life is wonderful!!
We took a local bus from Valparaiso and travelled about an hour down the coast. First we passed through Vina del Mar, a modern city with many high-rises and shops. Very neat with a lovely boardwalk and park along the shore over a couple of kilometres. Next down the coast is Renaca and then Concon. All these places, from Valparaiso to Concon, are intertwined. It’s impossible to see where one ends and the next starts. From one end of the bay to the other, it looks like one sprawling city from the ocean up the hills and around the bay.
Our arrival in Concon was not exactly uneventful. Not only did we have to walk for miles with our backpacks and food, but we did so in the wrong direction. Not all that difficult to accomplish when your host speaks no English and doesn’t provide you with a proper address. It’s a bit like hit and miss. And a loooooooooooooong walk!! But we got there in the end. Hot and sweaty and tired and hungry (we are always hungry!!). Our host was super nice, though, and drove 2 hours all the way from Santiago to personally welcome us to his holiday villa. His wife joined him and saw to it that we were surprised with a lovely clean place. Finding clean accommodation has not been the rule, but the exception, unfortunately. All very character building, so we can’t complain too much.
Our friendly host took us up to our fourth level villa in the cable car lift. The kids LOVED it! Between our almost non-existent Spanish and Ricardo’s translator on his phone, we manage to connect and have a few laughs. Amazing how language is an important, but only small part of communication.
It’s been three glorious days of soaking up the gorgeous views and we all feel like we could stay here forever. Jarik has even spotted an old dilapidated oceanfront building we could fix and turn into a hostel, bakery and penthouse apartment. We’ve been running along the narrow, winding ocean road every morning. So beautiful and special. And dark!! Especially the second morning. Sunrise is only at 8am, so if you’re running between 6 and 7, you don’t even get to see the light dawning until you’re back on your porch. And it makes for a very interesting run, especially in those areas without street lights. Just ask Kali, who tripped over a rock and left some skin on the pavement.
Yesterday Jarik and I left the kids at home to do some school work, while the two of us explored the Casablanca wine region. We both love cool climate wines, so we were in the right spot for a good experience. No sooner were we getting into our first tasting session or an earthquake shook the place so violently that I thought the wine bottles might end up on top of us. We all had to run outside where we had to decide whether we would move our tasting venue or go back into the cellar. In the meantime, the kids back home experienced the same quake. Two by the time we got in touch with them – they outside on the beach after their evacuation and us back in the cellar. Not much that you can do in a situation like that, other than to stay calm and enjoy the excitement.
The kids finally made their way back into our villa and managed to do a surprising amount of school work. Jarik and I continued our wine tasting, had a beautiful entrée with a delectable, heavy, buttery chardonnay and moved onto the next winery. By the time we got home, we were all laughing about our earth-shattering day and were ready for a night out on our ocean town.
Concon turned out to be a stunning holiday for our family. Love, love love it!!