We have been in Chile for nearly 4 weeks and although being expensive we had a lovely time. We spent most of our time in the desert then the last week in the forest and wine territory. We spent christmas and new year in chile and hired a van to drive to Santiago, here are our highs and lows.
What is your favourite city or town and why?
Mum: I feel like I need to write a little summary about all the places, they were fab!
San Pedro de Attacama. It is so hot and sunny, it also had a chilled out feel to it.
Iquique is the Southern California of Chile. It has the most beautiful weather, stunning sunsets and sunrises and very cool citizens.
Pan Y Azucar. Seriously, this national park and beach was paradise! Deserted and beautiful white sand beaches with clear blue water.
Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. They are on the pacific coast and felt a bit like Brighton. The cool funky city of Valparaiso with the more sophisticated town of Vino del Mar just next door!
Santiago. It could have been New York City, with wide tree lined avenues and smart urban happy people. Obviously, it also had perfect weather, which made it feel all that better!
Dad: My favourite was Pan y Azucar. Camping there was a version of paradise and it made me realise how much I want to surf all day, grow a sweet man bun, (as that is what cool surfers look like), and just hang about on the beach all day. The kids do not agree with the man bun idea……
Alex: I really liked Iquique, we stayed in a lush apartment and we could drink from the tap and shop in Wal-Mart (remember we had come from Bolivia, the 3rd poorest country in South America). It was modern and reminded us of Brighton. It was hot but not humid and we even went to an actual shopping mall!!
Georgie: I loved Chile as a whole, although my three favourite places were Iquique which felt really modern and new, which I love, (I think it helped coming from a third world country like Bolivia). I also loved Santiago, because I really like cities and the temperature was perfect, we hadn’t been in a city for ages so it was fun to be around loads of people. It didn’t feel too touristy and I liked that, we also did some great things. However my total favourite was paradise, Pan Y Azucar. We named it paradise and after that I couldn’t remember its proper name, but I decided it was paradise as it was soooooo lovely!!! The turquoise water and white sand are exactly the kind of beach I love; plus we played on a big orange inflatable in the surf which was really fun and I loved it.
Dylan: I loved Iquique. The apartment had massive TV’s and I watched Star Wars with my dad every morning in bed. It also had an awesome beach called Cavancha and it had a cinema. The people were really nice too.
What was your funniest memory?
Mum: In Peru we bought some bangers. All the kids seem to have and play with them here but we hadn’t really found the right place to use them since as Chile was a bit more upmarket and less kids playing with dangerous small fireworks! Anyway, our kids were not ones to forget such a fun/dangerous item so can been banging on about them ever since. We finally agreed new years eve would be a good time as there would be plenty of other noise. Down at the beach at sunset , everyone was soo excited! However, as partially expected. Dylan got extremely worried and upset. On one hand loving the thrill but panicked about hurting himself! Me and Matt loved it and went crazy; lighting loads all in one go! Such crazy kids! We seriously know how to treat ourselves on a new years eve!! The whole thing was pretty funny and I think we have had our banger fix for a while.
Dad: Pootastrophe or Poomageddon….. Two members of the family, (who will remain nameless), were caught short on the beach in the desert and we had to shield them while they passed their load. Very wild camping in the desert, very few toilets, loads of fun!! (Mum: Dark times and we are definitely over sharing as a family!)
Alex: My funniest and scariest memory of chile was when mum and dad did there naked photo:( I had to take it and trust me i was horrified when i saw my mum and dad naked in public. We have seen them naked before as we have been living very closely but still. I did laugh when i looked back at the photos. It is amazing what they will do for $60 off our camper van rental.
Georgie: My funniest memory was on the last night in chile we had gone out for dinner in a really nice sandwich bar the food was lush and once we’d finished I read out the desert menu to everyone and it was the weirdest menu in the world there were loads of random things on it but the strangest was caramelised carrot and quinoa. I mean this was a DESERT menu!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dylan: I loved swimming and sliding on mums ‘beach sofa’. ( its a blow up beach seat). We took into the sea on paradise beach. Also, in Iquique before Christmas there is a tradition for groups of cars and vans tot ravel in convoy blasting out Christmas music with people dressed up as Santa and throw sweets out the windows to passing kids. It’s really load and there was an actual traffic jam of Santas till well past midnight, it was hilarious!!!!
What was your best meal and why?
Mum: Food in Chile was delicious and a nice change from Pollo al plancha, (basically grilled chicken, rice and plantain)! We had lovely sushi in Iquique which Matt and kids enjoyed, even the ones with avocado, this is a mega big deal for Matt! Probably the most memorable food was ceviche scallops on the beach in Baha Inglesa they were still wobbling around, I wasn’t sure to start with but they were amazing and tasted so fresh and sweet. We also had a great meal in Santiago. It was late and the menu was not really what anyone fancied but in the end it was fab and we all had fabulous sandwiches. It was such a busy, buzzy restaurant and we all loved it. Matt and I realised we hadn’t been anywhere like that for ages. We bored the kids for hours about our previous lives as chefs and waitresses and how much fun those times were for us!
Dad: Kate and I had some ‘Osteiones’ or fresh live scallops in Baha Inglesia, they tasted so fresh and sweet, I much preferred them to English oysters. We also had an octopus empenada which was pretty cool.
Alex: For our last meal in Chile we went to an amazing sandwich restaurant and I had the best sandwich ever. It had steak in it and had a great bread also I found out mayonnaise is OK. In Iquique we went to a takeaway sandwich place and we had a great one there too. Meat sandwiches are Chiles favourite food.
Georgie: Chile does epic cheese empenadas. Fried gooey goodness with the best melted cheese. I also loved our last meal in Santiago. I wasn’t sure to start with as all the sandwiches had extra weird stuff in them which I didn’t want but it was actually really nice and we all had a really good time together.
Dylan: In Iquique there is a big mall called Mall plaza. It had a big food court and I had chicken and chips from Doggies. It was really really yummy. I also had a hot dog from Copec, (a petrol station), which was great. It had loads of ketchup and was like a normal hotdog and not a weener! ( Mum: as you can tell, the kids have embraced foreign foods and we are eating like kings!)
Your best memory and why?
Mum: It’s hard to beat just arriving in Chile. Within thirty mins of being over the border from Bolivia we felt in a different world. Arriving in San Pedro was so cool. The place has a really great trendy vibe and was hot and sunny. My eyes welled up as I started to believe it was going to be hot, (we had spent two months in the cold at altitude in Peru and Bolivia), I said to Matt ‘ I don’t think it rains here a lot!”, the whole place was desert! Immediately, I started stripping into shorts and flip-flops. Similarly, arriving in Iquique to the cleanest, lightest apartment we had seen for months felt like total luxury. Memory foam pillows, beautiful sunset and sunrise views and even hot and cold drinkable fresh water from a tap! We were seriously excited. I loved that feeling, of enjoying such simple things. Unfortunately, like all good things, those feelings wear off and by the end of our two weeks in Iquique, we were ready to leave and start some fresh travel challenges. We had started to take the little things for granted and were walking around big shopping malls sayings things like, “we must have this, we really need that!”. No we didn’t and it was time to leave.
Another highlight in Iquique was Paragliding, it was immense and something I had always fancied doing, we were told Iquique is one of the best places in the world to do it, some lovely family and friends and contributed to the Christmas fund so we treated ourselves. It was a very peaceful and tranquil experience, not at all scary and I was especially proud of all three kids who did it with me.
Dad: I refer you to my worst moment below…
Alex: Paragliding, it was memorable and I conquered my fear of flying. I will never forget the views and the stunning, twinkling sea far below me. The massive outdoor swimming pool in the middle of Santiago on top of a mountain were awesome.
Georgie: Paragliding. I felt so amazing flying. It was just so good and when we told Alex and Dylan about it, even though there were scared they wanted do it too, which they did the next day.
I loved Pan Y Azur; playing in the water all day and I really liked San Cristobal. It’s a big park in Santiago and there is an outdoor swimming pool there. It was massive and the views of Santiago are fab. We had a really fun afternoon there.
Dylan: Paragliding. It is my best memory because you get to fly. It wasn’t too scary and I would love to do it again.
What was your worst memory or thing?
Mum: The second night we had the van, we parked up on a mountain with the clouds below us. It was a bit breezy but beautiful and totally deserted so we decided to camp there. At around two am the wind really picked up. It was so noisy and the whole van was really started shaking. Matt and two of the kids were still up in the tent on the roof and we were seriously worried. We decided we all had to snuggle in the main van to keep safe and not blow away and Matt and I battled 100 mile per hour winds to take the roof tent down! Luckily all was ok and actually, we all managed to squeeze into the main van and just about settle down and sleep for the rest of the night. There was something incredibly comforting realising that everything we needed in our life was in a tiny two meter by four meter space!
On starting our decent down the mountain to what we thought was going to be a lovely road trip along a coast road me and matt realised we had quite an empty petrol tank. No big worries we thought, it looks like their is loads of villages/ towns along this route. Massive wrong. These ‘villages’ were one or two shacks on a beach. Definitely not anywhere we could get petrol and even when we did try and ask, we were starting to get pretty worried we would run out in extremely deserted northern chile no one bloody understood us, or us them. We tried to reassure ourselves that at least we had food and shelter but it definitely took the edge off what should have been a beautiful coastal road trip. See Matts story for the ongoing saga……
Sleeping in a COPEC car park …all five of us in the back van bit as too frightened/couldn’t be arsed to put up the roof tent wasn’t really a high point..but it was free so I guess worth it! Also we were woken up at 7am by a worker at the station , telling us to move. We then hung out in Chile’s equivalent of a Birmingham motorway services for 5 hours while we decided what to do and where to go on the only wet and drizzly day we had in Chile.
Dad: The moment my suspicions were confirmed that we had put diesel in a petrol van! The engine backfired then stopped. We were in a tiny village on the coast and I thought we were going to have a very long and expensive delay. Luckily the people of the village were amazing and a local guy drained the tank, cleaned out the engine and got us back on the road after three hours. He only asked for £40 too, needless to say we gave him a god tip and few beers as well. This turned from my worst experience to my best once we were on the road again. I think we will be remembered as the crazy English family in that village for a long time. It’s these kind of bitter sweet experiences, that you have whilst traveling, that always live with you. We were completely helpless, the situation could have gone totally wrong but the goodwill and kindness of total strangers reminds you that humanity really is good and people can be really awesome.
Alex: In Iquique me and dad were playing in the sea and suddenly I looked over my shoulder and saw a MASSIVE wave coming hurtling towards us. The lifeguard kept whistling everyone back to the shore and I was totally scared, Dad had to literally shove me under the water so we didn’t get smashed by the wave and luckily he did, otherwise I would have been catapulted into the floor and even though we were lying near the shore the current still was really strong. There were about four of these waves all about seven or eight feet high but afterwards when I saw the waves I was buzzing.
Georgie: I felt quite upset when the van broke down. I was worried what was going to happen and I didn’t know what we were going to do. Also the night before, it was really windy in the roof tent which was pretty scary. The whole thing was flapping around so I bailed on dad and went down into the van with mum. I felt a bit bad but at least i was safe!
Dylan: When we had to give the camper van back in Chile. I loved being in the camper van and felt sad to finish our trip.
Mum: Chile is definitely worth a visit in South America but its EXPENSIVE. Like south coast England expensive. We did not realise that and as such has taken a big dent in our budget! Well worth it for the beautiful coast , desert, cities and weather though.
Dad: When driving in any country, ensure you know the correct words for “unleaded petrol” and “diesel”. It may save you a lot of money and hassle!!!! Don’t worry about not speaking Spanish in Chile, the dialect there is impossible to understand anyway…..
Alex: Go to Iquique, it is really fun and out of the way but has some great sunsets and a chilled vibe. Also eat a beef sandwich from a sandwich bar. They are A-MA-ZING!!!
Georgie: Definitely go to Santiago. Its a really nice big city. It wasn’t too ‘capital cityish’. It was just really nice. Not too busy and there was loads of stuff to do.
Dylan: Get a Wicked Camper van and do a road trip. Its loads of fun!
Items lost: Dylans Swimming Shorts
Dylan : another 2 hats. Lasted approximately 2 days; arghhhhhhhh
2 cups camping; blown away in storm winds
All our dignity after posing nude for photos and having to deal with bodily functions whilst wild camping
Illness had: Broken Toe: Dad; Trying to be epic surfer in crazy big waves on Cavancha beach.
sunburnt bum; Dylan
Worst row or strop: Alex in the Camper van. She got very defensive when we discussed doing a workbook and the moaning and whinging went on for ages!!! She was trashing about like a crazy person!We had to shut the windows to protect peoples ears outside!