Santiago de Chile

January 2020 – I am sitting on the plane after a sleepless night, listening to Billie Eilish’s Everything I Wanted and wondering what the next three weeks are going to be like. It’s still dark, I’m tired and very nervous. How can I not be nervous – I have never been to South America before and everyone have been telling me that it’s not safe there, especially for solo female travelers. What was I even thinking when I started planning this trip? Why can’t I just settle for a simple beach holiday somewhere in Spain without having to scare myself to bits?..

It’s amazing when you tell yourself that something needs to happen and if you persist, the dreams turn into reality. It was January 2019 when I decided I would have to drag myself to Patagonia for the next big holiday and after some planning it all fell into places.

My first stop was Santiago. Before landing I got my first glimpse of the Andes and I could feel the excitement boiling inside me, with no way to express it (who wants to be that crazy person on the plane haha).

I got my hostel to arrange a pick up and a very friendly driver Patricio was waiting for me at the airport with a big smile on his face. He chatted to me in Spanish the entire time we were in the car and I surprised myself that even after over 20 hours of traveling with barely any sleep I could understand most of what he was saying (different story with me having to respond…. ).

The next day I woke up and decided it was time to go for a wander and explore the city. I was still nervous since someone told me that protests were not finished yet and the city was not entirely safe. I was super cautious at first until I realised there was nothing to be afraid of. Everything felt so European and I seemed to blend in so well that nobody even noticed me. Apart from that one person who came to ask me for directions!

Coming from winter in Scotland to summer in Chile was a big shock. I was so hot that I didn’t know what to do with myself. However, I quickly learned that Chileans loved ice cream, which is my favourite food on the planet, and they were amazing at making it. I could treat myself far too often with an excuse that it was boiling hot outside. My favourite place in Santiago was Auguri Milano, with the tastiest ice cream (in my opinion) and the nicest owner.

I spent my first day just wandering and exploring. I am not religious, but I love the atmosphere in the churches and the silence there, so I stopped at the cathedral to appreciate its beauty.

I met a really nice Canadian professor Luc in my hostel, who recommended visiting Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. For someone who loves art it was an absolute treat. I spent hours there looking at beautiful pieces or art, reading about different cultures and history. It was all so new to me and I could not believe that the Chinchorro mummies (Chinchorro people lived in Northern Chile in ~ 5000 BCE) were the oldest examples of artificially mummified human remains, approx. two thousand years older than Egyptian mummies!

I also stupidly decided to go up Santa Lucia Hill that afternoon. It was really hot, so I didn’t stay there long (and it was a bit depressing to see so much smog from up there). I imagine it would be a really cool spot to hang out on a bit cooler day though.

I then decided to head back to my hostel. It was quite a walk but I felt like walking rather than taking the metro. Well remember I mentioned that the protests (google it if you have no idea what protests I’m talking about) weren’t over yet? I accidentally got to experience it all. I got close to Centre Gabriela Mistral, where I saw people exhibiting weapons that were used during the protests and some of the photos. I thought – wow how interesting and it’s great that people are not giving up even if these are just peaceful exhibitions. I continued walking down the road and realised there was a crowd throwing rocks at the police vehicles. The police in return were spraying water at the protesters. Someone told me it was time to run. So I did. However, I was curious and stupid and because I needed to head past the place the protests were taking place, I walkout round a block and still got to see a glimpse of the fight taking place. It was their fight and I had no intention in getting involved, but I felt extremely impressed of how people refused to take everything that politicians were throwing at them and demanded what they deserved.

I got back to my hostel safe. Someone told me that in the area I was staying the protests weren’t happening, but couple of days later the protesters showed up there too (although they were a much more peaceful crowd). Still, seeing the armed police vehicles caused a sense of unease.

The next day I headed to Valparaiso and I’ll write about it in my next post. My last day in Santiago before heading to Patagonia was extremely relaxed (I refused to deal with the heat) and I spent a day just relaxing and eating amazing food (you know, I had to save my energy for the hike I was about to do). Santiago de Chile turned out to be an amazing city, quite an opposite of what I expected before getting there. Never listen to people who try to scare you, especially the ones who never visited those places themselves.

Billie Eilish’s Everything I Wanted became a part of my journey too. I listened to the song during various moments of my trip, remembering how scared I was while sitting on the plane and comparing it to the beautiful sense of adventure and happiness I was feeling during the trip. I still listen to the song from time to time, which really helps me to remember the tastes, physical sensations, different environments and my moods at various moments in the last few months. It helps me during this Covid-19 crisis by reminding that this moment is just like that dark plane and soon I’ll be enjoying life the way it should be enjoyed.