Let’s start where I left off previously in Coquimbo just after the eclipse. The vibe (and I truly hate using that word, but it is appropriate here) was electric. Everyone was excited by what they had just witnessed. My small group stayed a bit to watch the Moon slowly leaving the Sun and to let some of the crowds disperse. After packing up the gear we decided to head back to the condo where my mother had watched the event - I wanted to check on her and hear her experience. Along the way, it almost felt like a carnival was in town. There were street vendors, tons of people and even a group of skydivers coming to land on the beach. I assumed they were hired by the local government, since they were landing near a beach bar that was blasting loud music. The final diver had a weighted Chilean flag which looked amazing as the sun was setting on the beach. We swung by the condo, and my mother confirmed that she had an excellent (and crowd-free) view of the solar event. Addiel, Kelly and I headed out to dinner at a crowded restaurant (they were all full of eclipse tourists) and I took a few photos of the sun setting for the second time that day. After food and a few beers, we settled in for the night…and I worried a bit about driving back to Santiago in the morning.
The group had a lazy start to the day and after breakfast we headed south, back to Santiago. I got gas in Coquimbo because gas stations are few and far between on the route, and I was imagining a lot of traffic going back to the capital. Getting out of Coquimbo was easy, and about 15km outside of town we saw the first gas station with a line bleeding back on to the road. I was happy I had a full tank but I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy going South as it was coming North. Between a wreck, construction, and the many cash-only toll booths that contributed to the congestion, our 5 hour trip South took about 8 hours going Northbound.
In Santiago, we stayed at Matildas Hotel Boutique, an old colonial building that has been renovated and turned in to a nice hotel. I booked it with travel points on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card and I couldn’t have been more pleased. We booked triple room that I shared with my mother and girlfriend - Addiel had his own accommodations.The room was comfortable and spacious, but I was mostly just happy to be out of the car after a full-day of driving. Kelly and I got some food at a nearby burger place and went to sleep in Chile’s capital.
We only had one full day in Santiago so I wanted to make the most of it. I’m a big nerd, so for me that meant seeing cool museums and trying to find a photogenic place to watch the sunset. My mom decided to stay at the hotel and rest so it was just Kelly and I. We walked the 30 minute walk over to the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. The museum had great artifacts and loads of information in Spanish AND English. Its central location, close to the Plaza de Armas, left us in a prime spot to be inundated by Santiago’s history after seeing the museum.
The next stop was the Museo Historico Nacional. The museum is in a former palace and houses a ton of amazing objects from Chile’s past. The one that struck me the most were Allende’s famously large glasses, broken during the coup and his assassination. There was a no photography rule, which I respected (so no photos to share). Unlike the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, all the placards were in Spanish. Here is my plug for Google Translate. If you don’t have it, download it. Not only will it translate words you type in, but if you select the camera icon in the app and then hover over text, it will also live translate the text from one language to another. In my case, this was Spanish to English. There were some quirks with the translations, but it was pretty amazing to see and use. It does all of this offline as well!
After leaving the museum, we found ourselves back in the Plaza de Armas with no plans and nothing to do. Kelly wanted to go to the home of one of her favorite poets, Pablo Neruda, which is now a museum. The only other activity I wanted to do was be at a high place for the sunset. I had done some research and landed on the spot, Cerro San Cristobal. Neruda’s home was close to the hill, so I figured it would be a good chance to scope the area out, and we had plenty of time. Addiel joined us and we made the ~30 minute walkway from the downtown city center and through some really interesting and vibrant neighborhoods. We arrived at La Chascona, and they asked that no bags or cameras be taken in, so both of mine were stashed. Aside from being the home of a famous poet, the house itself was an interesting study in architecture. There was, of course, tons of history about Neruda, his life, and how Pinochet’s coup affected him. Ultimately, his home was ruined and then restored to show that freedom prevails in Chile.
As we left the house I realized that the Sun would be setting within 2.5 hours. I am someone who like to be at my sunset spot 20 minutes beforehand so get the warm glow before it actually goes down. I only had my small RX1 point and shoot camera with me. I was concerned because I wanted to get my a7rIII, a tripod and several lenses. The walk to the hotel and back would be 45 minutes each way. I hadn’t considered bringing my big kit because of the extra weight and larger bag. I also hadn’t considered that the Sun would be setting at 5:45 in the evening. At home in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun was setting around 9 pm - I didn’t account for the fact that I had left Summer in the Northern hemisphere for Winter in the Southern hemisphere.
We made it back to the hotel, grabbed my gear and took a taxi back to the bottom of the hill. You can elect to walk up the spiraling road that goes up the hill or take the funicular. We were pressed for time, tired of walking and the funicular was only a few bucks for a round trip ride. We got to the top just as the sun was setting, so I set up my tripod and began to shoot frames of the light falling off the buildings. It was beautiful in every direction, a perfect place to watch the sun go down on Santiago. We were up there for over an hour, only leaving once twilight was fully over and it was night time. Since we spent the money on the taxi over we decided to walk back to the hotel, the exact same route as we did earlier in the day leaving Neruda’s house.
We met up with my mother and decided to eat dinner somewhere nearby so we didn’t have to walk too far. Everyone’s palates settled on what we thought was just a regular old steak house…boy were we in for a treat.
The restaurant we found a few blocks away was called Los Vikingos. From the moment we walked in the door, I knew it wasn’t going to be a typical restaurant. It was a Nordic-themed steakhouse that was like no place I’ve ever been. The walls were finished out with wild decor, swords, murals of blonde women and dragons and it appeared to have a dungeon theme to it. There were Viking hats on the backs of the chairs for the diners to wear while they ate. I was taken aback, honestly. In the corner, there was a TV playing some kind of dragon movie. Our waiter came introduced himself and and referred to us as “warriors” in Spanish the whole time. I will say, the food was pretty good… the service was a bit spotty, but what can you expect from a Viking. I really can’t put into words what this place was really like, so please look at the photos. It was one of the oddest dining experiences I’ve ever had.
The next day was departure day and our flight left in the late afternoon, so we hung out in the library of the hotel until it was time to head to the airport. This was a mostly uneventful day. The most exciting thing was driving the rental car through Santiago, filling it up with gas and returning it. I was not looking forward to this part and I was stressed out driving in busy traffic, but everything worked out well. We got to the airport early, and got through security.. We were flying overnight so after the meal, I took a Xanax and woke up as we were making our final descent. All in all, you can’t see everything Santiago has to offer in 24 hours. but I enjoyed my limited time in the city.