One of the best thing about travelling – particularly about travelling with a backpack and over a long span of time – is that you meet amazing people. People from all over the world with different kinds of backgrounds, different motives for their long journeys and first and foremost with amazing stories and adventures they share with you. I was very lucky to having met great people from the first week I arrived in South America – Ann, a great American girl with 100& positive charisma and amazing energy, Johnny, a Canadian who left everything he had at home to travel the world, spending 1 year in each continent, Hassen, a very nice French guy who I ran into over and over again (even 2000 km later after our first encounter – in the middle of a hike in the National Park Torres del Paine. Running into people you have met before happens so often here, no matter how big the distances are, it is amazing) and Ron and Susan, a couple from Holland who I ended up sharing the same travel route with for about 2 weeks. On my 3d day in South America I met Michel from Holland who is travelling for 8 month on his motorbike throughout the whole of South America and 2 weeks later we ended up meeting again on the 4-day ferry trip in Southern Patagonia. Since we have the same route, going from South to North and we share the same interests and enjoy the same style of travelling we decided to do parts of our trip together. So I decided to join him and his friend Ronnie from South Africa for New Year’s in Santiago. We met there on the 29th of December and stayed until the 2nd of February, having a really relaxed and slow-motion time (with very little sightseeing but rather recovering from the long travelling-hours and lots of sightseeing of the past few weeks). We stayed at a little Swiss B&B and spent most of our days having nice dinners (although it was almost IMPOSSIBLE to find a place that was open over the holidays..and I thought Santiago would be wild and crazy!), chilling in a hammock in a little yard and exchanging stories of our travels. Ronnie is doing a 3 year trip on his motorbike throughout 100 (yes, hundred) countries in 1000 days. He is in his 3rd year of travelling now and the wild and absolutely fabulously crazy personality he has he kept us laughing and entertained throughout the day with amazing and fun travel stories. On the 31st we first wanted to go to Valparaiso which is supposed to have one of the most amazing fireworks but being 1,5 hours away and then getting back in the middle of the night just seemed to stressful to us so we decided to have dinner and then go dancing. It took us forever to find some little open restaurants (where obviously EVERY single tourist in this town headed to) and had some steak and seafood. It was an awkward atmosphere on this little road, extremely quiet and not nearly as lively as I imagined it would be. But as the hours progressed we were in a really good mood and didn’t need much entertaining. It was one of the most relaxed New Year’s evenings I have ever had – and after dinner we went to a local disco (we were the first ones there at 1.30 a.m.!!) which first played only hits from the 80s (with quirky videos) and then only some sort of Latin American music..a bit hard to dance to but we ended up partying on the dance floor until 4 am together with the locals and it ended up being a really great evening.
The rest of our time in Santiago we explored downtown, saw a beautiful church there and then went to the local market, a huge hall filled with hundreds of colorful fish stands..amazing odors (or aromas), people and all the seafood you can imagine for a tenth of the price we pay in Europe.
After 4 days in Santiago I headed North to La Serena, one of the most popular beach towns for Chilean people t go on their summer holidays. I was stuck there for almost 3 days because all the buses to the Atacama desert were fully booked. So Michel and I spent a day on the beach (not swimming though because the Pacific is nothing for wimps;(), eating some of the best seafood and watching the sun set. There was not much else to do and the next day I spent walking around downtown, looking at some of the nice churches in town and mentally preparing for a night in a hostel which was so for the lowlight of my trip (something like a prison, but that you had to pay 9 Euro for it..at least I was able to leave again:)) and for the 16 hour bus ride starting at 5.20 in the morning. But eventually I made it and arrived with a square shaped behind that night at 11.15 p.m. in San Pedro de Atacama, one of the places I was looking forward the most on my trip. Tomorrow I will write a story about the great places and sights I have seen here in the Atacama desert.
P.S. this post is dedicated to all the great travelers I have met throughout my journey and also previous journeys – you all made and make my travel much richer.