We arrived in Santiago mid Feb to blue skies and 30 degrees C, but a gorgeous dry heat which made it completely bearable and a great contrast to the driving rain that hit Vancouver the day we left. We did get stiffed on the taxi fare but that is par for the course!
Things we discovered in our first few days:
Foreign cash points sometimes work differently (see Travel Tips for South America)
Learning Spanish would have helped.
Pisco sours on an empty stomach make for a cheap night.
Flip flops are preferable over hiking boots, even if you get blisters between your toes.
The next three or four days were spent getting settled, finding storage for our skis etc and starting to look for a van. It didn’t take long before we wanted to get out of Santiago, if only for a short while, so we booked a trip to Valparaiso. This is a Unesco World Heritage site, so had some point of interest there at the very least – Santiago itself isn’t the most beautiful of cities. As it turned out neither was Valparaiso, but what it had was the most amazing murals decorating the walls – Chile does turn out some extraordinary street artists and with five universities in the city there is no shortage of artists to decorate. Somehow they can do this to a World Heritage site but have to make all repairs in the colonial style – makes little sense to us but that is legislation for you.
One day was enough for the city, so we had a trip up the coast to Concón for a little bit of climbing on the coast. Of course that day it decided to rain a little bit but we did get to meet a few Chileano climbers who spoke excellent English. Not helping when learning Spanish!
Hunting for the base vehicle for our camper van build started in earnest when we got back to Santiago. The preferred option was a Peugeot Boxer high top, and there seemed to be a few around so we got out and started viewing. The second van we saw seemed perfect, with everything in order and the price was talked down to 4.2m Pesos (about £4,300). There was a bit of an oil leak from somewhere but it didn’t seem too bad. Tom went back the next day to check the chassis and engine number and try to figure out where the oil leak was coming from… it turned out the oil was nice clean oil from the gearbox and we decided not to buy the van. We would continue the search once we returned from Rio Carnival.