After hiking in Patagonia, we took it easy going back up north, spending time in Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas, Santiago, Valparaiso and Easter Island before coming home to the States. The following is a brief account of some of the thinhgs we liked about each of these places.
by TwoIdiots on September 19, 2009
After trekking in Torres del Paine, we took the bus to Puerto Natales to return our rental gears and refill our stomachs with king crabs. We booked ahead of time at Hotel Laguna Azul which is at the edge of downtown nearby the bus stop. Fortunately, Puerto Natales is a town small enough to practically walk everywhere. By the way, there were plenty of vacancies in the center of town in late January. We enjoyed walking along the waterfront with its peaceful view of sunset, mountains and swans. We supposed that tourism was winding down in late January, the gift shops were empty but interesting enough to keep us entertained for a day or two. And the locals had this fabulous idea of turning trash cans into metal sculptures (see photos).There are many restaurants in town severing up fresh and simple food. We even found a funky vegetarian restaurant called El Living on the eastside of Plaza de Armas. It’s like a cross between a restaurant and a café. La Ultima Esperanza is a good quality seafood restaurant, though lacking a view like some of their competitors along the waterfront. But we preferred it here.
Punta Arenas was where we connect our flight to Santiago. We spent a couple of nights here at the very colorful Hostal Oro Fueguino nearby Cruz Hill. Punta Arenas is much bigger than Puerto Natales, we get around by Taxi and walking. We followed certain guide book’s recommendation and went to Mt. Fenton in Reserve Forestal Magallanes for a panoramic view. They charged us US$15 to go up the hill regardless of whether we hiked or took the chairlift. It was a clear windy day, the view was so so, the wind was strong, and the walk downhill was muddy. On the contrary, the Cruz Hill Lookout (Mirador La Cruz) was free and much more interesting with its colorful neighborhood. The view up here sure beats the one on Cerro Mirador at Mt. Fenton. Another interesting place to visit is the Municipal cemetery, about 20 minutes walk from Plaza Munoz Gamero. Here, the wealthy built fancy mausoleums for their families while others adorned the graves of their dearly departed in personal and colorful style.
by TwoIdiots on September 20, 2009
Valparaiso is just a two hour bus ride west of Santiago. This colorful seaside town offered a variety of interesting places to sleep, from very comfortable bed and breakfast inn with ocean view to our minimalist ‘green’ room at Hostel Pilcomayo. Many artists live in Valparaiso. Murals and carefully painted windows and entry ways were everywhere, so do handicraft vendors.There were lots of restaurants with hanging terraces or outdoor patios for us to relax, enjoy the view and sip afternoon tea. When we got tired of the lazy, breezy atmosphere, we took a short trolley ride south to Vina del Mar for the lively bar scene.
The Central Market in Santiago was fun. The taxi driver dropped us off at the touristy end of the market; we then crossed the bridge and went to the section for locals. The place seemed to be a pick pockets’ haven since we were warned by both our inn keeper and the police patrolling the market. There were blocks after blocks of vendors, the deeper we went, the cheaper the price, and more serious the shoppers. We bought several kilos (they only sell by kilo) worth of strawberries, peaches, apples, cherries, banana, oranges... That’s what we ate for lunch, dinner, and breakfast.Museo Chileno de Arts Precolombino is a world class museum. The collections were well organized and presented even for someone, like us who were clueless in Pre-Colombian Art. Across the bridge in the Barrio Bellavista neighborhood, there were art galleries to browse thru for the entire afternoon and many trendy restaurants to choose from for dinner.While in Santiago, we stayed in the atmospheric Barrio Paris Londres district. It is not far from anything and has many choices of hotels and restaurants. It felt particularly romantic in the evening with its antique street light and old buildings.
Our last stop in Chile was Easter Island. Of course, we went there to see the maoi, and our favorite site was the quarry, Rano Raraku. There, at the wide open quarry, without a single tree, we got up close and personal with hundreds of maoi lying around in different stages of completion.Our February visit to Easter Island was coincided with the local annual festival, Tapati Rapa Nui, a two week long celebration of local culture and traditions. Everyday there were events, competitions, or performances took place at different locations on the island. Our favorite was the group singing competition. There were two groups: one dressed in yellow, one dressed in white, with a lot of beautiful Polynesians girls as well as handsome dudes. Each group took turn singing local songs until one group repeated a song that was already been sung and thus lost the game. They started at 10 pm and kept going strong till 3 am when the judges had to put an end to it. Otherwise, we could have been singing and dancing till dawn. That was partying at its best.However, our stay at Chez Maria Goretti was another matter. The experience was so irritating to a point that is hilarious. You can read all about it in our hotel review section. But we need to be fair to Maria, her B&B was nice and clean - that is if you ever get to sleep there.
El Living is located on the eastside of Plaza de Armas. The décor is colorful with equally colorful cuisine. The atmosphere is casual and relax. It’s like a cross between a restaurant and a café. One can lounge around here all day. On our visit, we ordered bread and soup (see photo). The orange one was pumpkin soup and the red one was beet soup. Perfect for a windy day.
We heard about La Ultima Esperanza in a guide book raving about its seafood and formal dining. Nonetheless, we showed up in our hiking clothes. The location of the restaurant was nothing special but it was down the street from where we sent our laundry. The price was above average but the freshness of the food was well worth it. Make sure to order their soup. It's divine! In our opinion, it is the best seafood restaurant in town.
We booked and pre-paid Hotel Laguna Azul before we arrived. On their web site, they claimed to be located in downtown Puerto Natales. Well, that is debatable. It was nearby the bus stop and there were money exchange, markets and travel agents right outside the hotel. However, it was not anywhere near the Plaza. Fortunately, Puerto Natales is a town small enough to practically walk everywhere. By the way, there were plenty of vacancies in the center of town in late January.We stayed here twice for our transit to and from Torres del Paine. The quality of the room varied greatly even though we paid the same price. Breakfast was complimentary and decent. It was sure convenient to have before the early departure to Torres del Paine. We got the room on the ground floor for the first night. How should we describe it? Imagine yourself walking into a corridor of a building with small shops lining both sides. Each of these shops has a display window for their merchandise. Now instead of small shops, these are the hotel rooms with curtain covering the display windows. Needless to say, the room is small and stuffy. Oh well, good enough for one night.When we came back the second time, we were given a room on the top floor for the same price. Wow, what a difference – a sizable room with window facing the street. We enjoyed the bright and airy feel. However, if we were to come back, we’ll stay somewhere closer to the waterfront.
by TwoIdiots on March 27, 2008
We arrived on Easter Island in Feb. after a couple of long flights from Punta Arenas. It was raining when we got off the plane, and Maria swiftly took us and another European couple over to where we thought was our hotel. We were given welcome drinks and hurried into our rooms. We felt a little funny because the place did not resemble the photos on the web site but we were too tired.We slept on the dusty bed sheets for an hour or so, and decided to take a shower. That’s when the real horror show began. There were dead bugs on the towels. When we opened the shower curtain, cockroaches went running in all directions. The water coming out from the faucet was rusty and cold – no hot water. Frustrated, we opened the drapes in the room only to find out that our tropical garden view include a rusted out water heater as a centerpiece. No wonder there was no hot water! We tried to sit down on the sofa but it was dirty with curious stains, so we flipped the cushions over. Yikes! There were numerous little holes on the other side of the cushion with little bugs crawling out of it. We took a good look around the room, all along the bottom of the walls had flood and termite damages. That’s it, we had enough. THIS COULD NOT BE THE PLACE WE PAID FOR. We looked for Maria, but she was no where to be found. We’d rather go sleep under the stars than staying in this dump. We took our backpacks and went out to the street. We asked a pass by taxi driver to take us to Maria Goretti’s place. He told us to walk down the street and make a right turn. Ah…ha! WE WERE SCAMMED. We marched over to her place, show the staff our payment receipt, and demanded them to give us the room we paid for in advance. Finally, we were led to a double room that looked exactly like the one on the internet. However, the story did not end happily here. Next morning, we ran into Maria. The first thing out of her mouth was, "Why are you here?" Hey, we should be the ones who do the yelling. We didn’t stay for breakfast. On our way to town, we ran into the European couples from the day before and found out that they too had been scammed. We took them to the real Chez Maria Goretti and they demanded a discount for their lousy room.Other than these, the place was average. The meals were good, the garden was beautiful, and the cats were cuddly. But they did not change our towels or bed sheets for the whole week we stayed there. Hot water was lacking but we enjoyed cold showers in hot weather anyway.
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