Our South American adventure has begun! We arrived in Santiago to 36°C heat and took the Centropuerto bus from the airport to the Los Héroes metro stop for around US$3 each. From there we had a nice sweaty walk to our hostal opposite Cerro Santa Lucia, a hill and park with fountains and staircases provding views of the city. It was a great central location in walking distance to the nightlife barrios of Bellavista and Lastarria, which we explored on our first night.
Travel without advance planning is bliss. Though the city has many charms with its Andean mountain backdrop and friendly residents, the hot temperatures called us to keep our time in Santiago to a minimum. It will still be there when we return at the end of June when we intend to spend a bit more time. But so many attractions lie at Santiago's doorstep that it was difficult to choose a place to move on to. We're due in Pucón on the 11th so it made sense to start heading south.
Before we left, however, we were treated to a visit with Rob and Angélica of SouthAmerica.me who hosted us for some afternoon beers and introduced us to Eileen from Matador Network. Rob went out of his way to take us on a tour of Chilean craft beers, which John was especially appreciative of. They have some enviable panoramic views of Santiago from their rooftop deck and it was wonderful to meet them all and enjoy some fun conversations about life in Chile and travel.
The next day we took Santiago's very clean and convenient metro to the Universidad de Santiago stop and the Terminal de Buses. Many bus companies operate out of Santiago and we didn't need a reservation to hop on one to our chosen destination: the coastal town of Pichilemu. If we could do it over, however, we would have arrived a bit earlier to the station because the bus taking the particular route we wanted had sold out already. While many long-distance buses operate out of Santiago, the service we took worked more like a local bus. It wasn't full when we left the terminal but we learned quickly that many people were waiting to be picked up along the way.
We stopped only a minute or two away from the station to pick up passengers from a nearby terminal and then at least two dozen times on the way to Pichilemu to pick up or drop off more. It became comical, as we stopped on the side of freeways and highways, in towns, at the end of dirt roads and alongside ditches to let passengers get on and off. At each terminal stop vendors would take turns getting onto the bus and selling everything from jugo (pronounced HOO-go, meaning juice) to hardware. There was even a little boy selling children's books.
It was a fun first bus experience but it took us five hours to reach our destination! On arrival at our accommodation we learned that we can't get a direct bus to Pucón or anywhere even close from here. We've been advised by the owner of the guesthouse to go back to Santiago and take an overnight bus to Pucón from there. Missing out on all that scenery along the way and having to backtrack is not on the cards for us, though. We plan to take the long way to Pucón by local and regional bus services, stopping in towns along the way.
When we first started to plan our time in Chile we wanted to take in a wine festival but had a lot of trouble finding out what our options were due to the major earthquake that hit this area last year. We found out about the Colchagua wine festival too late to get accommodation, though we did see it passing through Santa Cruz. But we don't need a festival to check out some Chilean wine along the way!
Do you prefer to take a slow leisurely pace or the direct route when reaching a long-distance destination?