Cerro La Campana

Just a quick post, because I’m almost 100% sure I’ve written about this hike before: I made it to the summit of Cerro La Campana! (Why they call it a hill, I will never know. La Campana is 6,170 feet of increasing difficulty.)

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On the other side of the summit, the Pacific ocean can be seen. It was incredible, even if my legs are hating me for it today. The last part of the hike was almost entirely free-hand rock climbing (no, seriously, it was just big boulders we had to get around with red poles letting us know where to go). It was one of the more difficult hikes I’ve done, 8km by the end but with serious incline, but it’s also one of the hikes I’m more proud of for finishing.

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A side note for this photo: Darwin came to Chile! Darwin is my favorite scientist, and I love his work, and learning that he’s hiked the same mountain I have made the trip all that much sweeter.

Viva la Viña

This week, one of the girls in my study abroad group turned 21; naturally, despite being in a country that doesn’t care about being 21, us Americans wanted to go overboard to celebrate with her. So, today, to celebrate Caroline’s birthday, us girls went wine tasting.

In one of the best countries in the world for wine.

We went to Viña Santa Emiliana, which is a vineyard in the Casablanca region (there are several vineyards in that area; however, to my knowledge, Emiliana is the only vineyard that is entirely organic. I may be wrong, but that is what I’ve been told). It was gorgeous, and being a little cloudy, the perfect day to do it.

My friend, outside the restaurant in Emiliana; this restaurant serves everything that pairs with their wines.

My friend, outside the restaurant in Emiliana; this restaurant serves everything that pairs with their wines.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of communication and bad translation, we did not reserve a tour. So when we arrived, we were an hour and a half early for the next available tour; what we did instead, I’m sure I would have much preferred to a tour anyway. (Debatable, actually – if it had been 70 and sunny out, I’d have loved the bicycle tour they offered). We decided to do the wine tasting they offered, complete with chocolate, which differed depending on the four wines we tasted.

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Afterwards, with none of us particularly wanting to leave, we bought a bottle of wine (one of the reds, pictured above) and went to the upstairs level, drank, and talked for two hours before returning to our city. Needless to say, it was a fantastic day, with great wine and greater company.

Coffee O’Clock

Having likely admitted my (probably unhealthy) obsession with coffee and cafés, I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite places to get (real) coffee in Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. If you happen to be traveling in this region of Chile, you’ve got to check out one or all of these. Keep in mind my love for coffee, so bear with me; this may be a long post.

My first favorite is Fika, hidden near the beach in Viña. This is an ideal place for studying or reading, and I’ve come here several times to attempt my Spanish homework. Fika has two floors and a balcony, so it isn’t often crowded; when it is, you can get coffee to go (which is a rarity in Chile and therefore worth mentioning).

Caramel cappucinos with a strawberry cupcake: heaven. On second floor of Fika.

Caramel cappucinos with a strawberry cupcake: heaven. On second floor of Fika.

Another great café in Viña, and much more centrally located than Fika, is Della Fé on Libertad and 6 Norte. Here, I am a bit biased: I made friends with the owner. The first time I visited Della Fé, the elderly owner (a man who lived in San Francisco for several years and is fluent in English) lent me his favorite book in English; the next day I went, he gave me a free espresso and invited my friend and I to a BBQ. The people who work at this coffeeshop are incredibly friendly and 80% of the fantastic atmosphere. Also, they have great butterscotch cappucinos.

My friend in Della Fe.

My friend in Della Fe.

My last recommendation for Viña is Café Negro Cafetería, off of Ave. Libertad. The owner was incredibly sweet to us when my friend and I visited, and the coffee was great. I’d suggest a mint cappucino if you visit.

Bonus: I visited on National Coffee Day!

Bonus: I visited on National Coffee Day!

Moving on to Valpo! An award-winning coffeeshop that tourists will likely visit (and a place I most definitely have mentioned in a previous blog post) is Café de Iris on Cerro Concepción. I had the Beethoven cappucino and have never been more satisfied with an order in my life; everyone else was happy with their choices, too.

The handmade menu at Iris, ft. their free appetizers (heart cookies).

The handmade menu at Iris, ft. their free appetizers (heart cookies).

Last but not least is a coffeeshop I was introduced to today: Café Incontrí. Visit hungry, because you won’t be able to avoid buying a dessert. I had cheesecake, after a difficult decision made while drooling over the choices. It’s fairly priced and located just outside the heart of Bellavista, Valpo’s cute and popular bar-hopping area. I wish I had the address of this place, but you likely wouldn’t find it unless you asked a local anyway. (Oh, the charm of Valparaíso.)

Vamos, Chile!

I ran a 10k in Chile today! Nothing went according to plan, but I did it, I finished, and it was a great start to the morning. (I was originally supposed to run a half marathon today, but as I drastically overestimated my ability to train for a half marathon in two months during a study abroad, I ran a 10k instead).

My friend Amy, who was registered for the half marathon with me, and I went to the bus stop at 5:45 in the morning. We were there until 6:20 or so, at which point we had fully realized there would be no buses coming our way and we hitchhiked with other racers that stopped their car when they saw our shirts. (In Chile, interestingly, everyone wears the free shirt given to them beforehand. We were a mass of neon orange on the beach this morning.) Being tired still, I hadn’t actually realized we were in the process of hitchhiking until we were leaving Viña for the area in which the race started.

Amy, who was committed to doing the half marathon, finished in 2 hours and 20 minutes. She kicked ass, basically, and I’m extremely proud of her. My goals changed drastically when I reached the start of the race: namely, do not walk. I had run a total of maybe three separate times prior to this morning, all of which were three mile runs, and I hadn’t exactly kept up a training diet either. I expected it to be rough.

But it wasn’t. I don’t know if it was the crowds of people, the unbelievable oceanic view, or what, but I finished my race without stopping or walking. It was a 12-minute mile, not my best, but not my worse. I managed to do it by myself and without music, too, which was the newest and most interesting challenge for me, having never done either before in a race.

If I had time, I would absolutely do another race in Chile.

Amy & I after our runs.

Amy & I after our runs.

 

Nick Miller, “Isn’t It Pretty To Think So?”

Travel is little beds and cramped bathrooms. It’s old television sets and slow Internet connections. Travel is extraordinary conversations with ordinary people. It’s waiters, gas station attendants, and housekeepers becoming the most interesting people in the world. It’s churches that are compelling enough to enter. It’s McDonald’s being a luxury. It’s the realization that you may have been born in the wrong country. Travel is a smile that leads to a conversation in broken English. It’s the epiphany that pretty girls smile the same way all over the world. Travel is tipping 10% and being embraced for it. Travel is the same white T-shirt again tomorrow. Travel is accented sex after good wine and too many unfiltered cigarettes. Travel is flowing in the back of a bus with giggly strangers. It’s a street full of bearded backpackers looking down at maps. Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was. It’s the rediscovery of walking somewhere. It’s sharing a bottle of liquor on an overnight train with a new friend. Travel is ‘Maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home.

Surf Capitol of the World (Without Surfing)

This weekend’s travel excursion took me to one of the most beautiful corners of the world: Punta de Lobos in Pichilemu, Chile. It’s a tiny surf town (widely considered the best place to surf off the coast of Chile) about six hours south of Viña. I say it’s about six hours, because I don’t really know: the bus we took from Santiago (after the hour and a half bus ride to Santiago) kept stopping to pick up and drop off random passengers, and take probably unnecessary detours into what arguably were or were not a series of towns on our way to Pichilemu.

Punta de Lobos

Punta de Lobos

However, as can be seen from the photo above, the drive was completely worth it, and this weekend was easily one of the best weekends I have had since my arrival in Chile. Although it was fairly cheap for surf lessons, bike rentals, or whatever you wished to do in Pichilemu, I did basically nothing. And I loved it. Punta de Lobos, where I stayed, is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from Pichilemu. My friends and I walked the entire length of those 6 kilometers, on the beach, to Pichilemu the first night for a fantastic dinner at Pulpo (a pizza joint on the ‘main street,’ which is essentially the only street that holds a bank and gas station).

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For anyone visiting, I would highly recommend the hostel I stayed at in Punta de Lobos,  the hostel Sirena Insolente. Even though Pichilemu is a sleepy, beach bum town, Punta de Lobos is even more beautiful than Pichilemu and far enough away that you feel you’re in your own little paradise. (And you get eggs for breakfast, which is practically a miracle in Chile, where 99% of all hostel breakfasts are bread and cheese slices).

The world's comfiest hammock and a dog, Leon ('lion'), who followed us back from the beach.

The world’s comfiest hammock and a dog, Leon (‘lion’), who followed us back from the beach.