Our first hospital trip (and a week in Santiago) 09/10- 18/10

So the plan was to leave the lodge the morning after our trek finished, however I was up all night with what will we euphemistically call upset tummy, and going no where at seven AM. By three that afternoon I was OK on my feet, so off we went.

Still feeling a bit shakey we went to explore the following day, only for egg to get bored of looking after me and decide to get sick himself for some attention. He was then vomity for around 24 hours. I was nice and did the looking after. So after a day of rest we set out again and made it to the most touristy thing in Santiago, the funicular up San Cristobal. And there I blacked out in the queue, which was both terrifying and embarrassing. Not thinking straight I insisted we still go up (we were next in the queue!), and spent the journey sat on the floor trying to neither faint not throw up.

Quick pop to hospital, first iv drip, lovely doctor to find out I don’t have diabetes or any kind of poisoning, but probably just a bad virus. More rest and limited diet prescribed.

Finally we were able to go and enjoy Santiago! And I love it. Actually I think we love it. Beautiful and green, lots of bars, cafes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, galleries, big hills and pisco sours.

We did a walking tour of Santiago, which I thought was a bit pants to be honest but egg liked (we found out that tear gas is still routinely used to break up protests which surprised me, and experienced its effects even after 24 hours had passed since it was used, horrible). We went to Bandera, a street full of second hand shops which made me super happy and I treated myself to a skirt for two pound.

We are some really good food, kind of a repeat of our Buenos Aires week; there was incredible ice cream from Emporio La Rosa (chocolate and hazelnut and raspberry and mint were my favourites, we tried alot), ceviche in the central fish market, chorrillana in the biggest food market I have ever seen, sushi and we found an asian food shop so managed to find gluten free soy sauce! There was also an area of bars and restaurants in Bellavista called patio Bella vista where we age a couple of times, mainly salads for me but also really good yuca fries and decent drinks offers before nineish. Our most extravagant thing by far (excluding the hospital) was a trip to the American/Chinese chain PF Changs. From one blog or another I found out they had gf Chinese food so we hoiked to the very very nice part of the city as this was too good an opportunity to miss. It was delicious, and I got my left oversee in one of those adorable cardboard take out pots which was awesome.

We visited NAVI, a visual art museum, Bellas Artes and the contemporary art museum. Despite Bellas Rates being literally a fine arts museum, it was our favourite. Lots of interactive pieces and interesting work. I’d like to go back again for longer (we thought we wouldn’t like it and only went in a couple of hours before closing because egg wanted to use the loo!) We always went into the big cultural centre which was good in itself, but also had a festival going on where you could watch twenty or so artists making arty through out the day.

Also, the tallest building in south america is in Santiago, the newly finished Costanera centre. I wanted to go to look at the big building and we were told it was being used as a shopping centre so of we went. This is not strictly true, the public access part is only six floors, but there is a balcony at the top which had an amazing view. It also happened to be the food court, so obviously we had some nachos and guacamole and frozen yogurt.

We wandered alot around the city and found the areas we liked and the areas less so; egg found a very shoreditch looking cafe and stayed there for a couple of hours while I got all of my hair chopped off, finally being brave enough to do something I’ve thought about for years. Beauty stuff is very cheap here, so maybe I’ll change it every month or so.

Also this post, we climbed up San Cristobal and the smaller Santa Lucia hill, I ate a twister dog, we discovered cinema is cheap in Santiago, we stayed in two great but very different hostels, I made so many gf pancakes, egg enjoyed the generous Chilean hostel breakfasts.


A month at Tumuñan Lodge

A short train from Santiago (one of the very few trains in south america, it was nice) is San Fernando, and a short bus from there is Las Penas, home of Tumuñan Lodge, our home for September.


We arrived on a cold, misty day but were immediately impressed by the Lodge, it is intimate and beautiful, the main room dominated by a roaring fire. Upon meeting our hosts and the lodge’s owners Will and Carolina we were encouraged to do the trail around the property- it’s big! I had no idea when we signed up that there was so much land, or a vineyard, or a river. Even on a misty day it is pretty incredible when you get up to the peak of the trail, mirador, and can look out across the valley.

There weren’t any guests for our first week, so we and Andrew, a Wwoofer, set to work pruning the vineyard and dredging the irrigation channel. Unfortunately that week was wet and cold, and the wellies had holes in so we were counting down the hours a bit. I had numb fingers and the shower was on the blink so it was a bit miserable. Towards the end of the week guests appeared, which meant we were treated to the amazing food the guests are served here. It seemed worthwhile to be wet through for the three course dinner at the end of the day.Photo 17-09-2013 09 16 25

The next week brought a holiday in Chile, and with it the sun and lots of guests. This meant we were introduced to the hospitality side of the job, serving meals and all things related to that. This I enjoy alot, and I haven’t smashed a single thing in three weeks. The guests at the Lodge are largely gringos, so language is no problem, although there have been some Chilean families and my Spanish is holding its own. Egg is a bit more back of house, his hands are showing wear from being at the sink too much. His natural clumsiness is shining through, as he bangs pots and pans down, making a ruckus and disturbing the guests relaxing meals. This had prompted me to remind him frequently to try to be a bit quieter, to which he finally replied that asking him to be more quiet was like asking jack the ripper to be less murdery. How we laughed.

So generally time is split between guest duties and out doors stuff. The weather has been good for a while so pruning the 9000 vines is actually quite a nice task. It’s nice having the chance to get good at something, we have done breakfast so much we are very organised (egg does fruit salad and fresh juice, I lay the table, prepare the cereal, bread, coffee etc.) and can both cook perfect eggs and bacon en masse (would that be scrambled or fried?).

Having a couple of days off every week, we hiked up to a waterfall in a neighbouring property, where it snowed, which was pretty

spectacular, and visited a nearby town Santa Cruz, which has the Museo de Colchagua (the name of this region). It is a really impressive museum, one of the best in Chile and had a fascinating exhibition on the rescue of the Chilean miners from 2010.

TheSAM_0451 lodge offers adventure treks on horse back up into the mountains and, as a treat, SAM_0442we did a 2 day one to finish our time here. So a day of pretty challenging horse riding, taking in some incredible surroundings, then a very authentic camping experience, then up early for a second full day of trekking. Our horses Rana and Charlie were very interesting; egg’s would not stop eating and had a top speed of 2 mph and mine had a fondness for steep downhill sprints that I didn’t share. It was an amazing experience though and the lamb and lentils cooked over the camp fire tasted even better because we had the most beautiful array of stars to gaze at. WeSAM_0432 agreed that we have never been anywhere so remote, where so few people have stood before, the whole time we didn’t see another person. Just some cows. We had brought lots of layers for the inevitable drop in temperature in the evening and had super, warm sleeping bags, unfortunately it was really warm all night, and we both got a terrible night’s sleep.SAM_0389-1 The wine may have been an issue too. But walking up to look over the snow covered mountains and wash in a crystal clear stream made up for that and I can definitely recommend doing it to anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of bum pain.

Time has passed pretty quickly here and we found ourselves spending a week longer than planned at the lodge. But tomorrow we leave, to properly explore Santiago.


Also this trip: ‘i was enjoying looking for mountain parsley, imagine how much I’m enjoying the rest of the trek!’, Bernard the st bernard, applying for English Opens Doors, I discovered I actually can bake (sorry to everyone from the farm, I’ve left the dark days of crispy polenta cakes) and have made gf bread, chocolate cake, beetroot and orange cake and cornbread, and regular apple doughnuts.


A week in Mendoza

A hop, skip and a jump from San Juan is Mendoza, wine central in Argentina. We arrived quite late in the day and (after an aborted hitchhiking attempt) were very dusty and tired, so the first night was spent in a hostel and was only notable as there was a BATH!

Once we left there a little bit cleaner, we headed to veteran couchsurfer Eliana’s swanky flat. This was a little piece of luxury for the week. Eliana and her little girl are lovely and kind enough to share their beautiful, large flat with us. Not only is the company and flat incredible, but it is under 5 mins from the main square in Mendoza. And her daughter likes Glee! Every night we ate together, taking it in turns to cook. Valentina, another couchsurfer from Columbia, was also staying so we had someone to play with during the day. And they bought me gluten free goodies!! It really was good here.

Mendoza itself is pretty cool. There is a central square with a pretty fountain, and then four smaller squares built around it, each with their own personality. Our favourite was plaza españa, as there were beautiful tiles benches for me to nap on. There are also a shed load of ice cream places, the best of which gave my tub of banana split and ferrero rocher ice cream a melted chocolate bath, which nearly made up for not being able to eat a cone.photo

So we wandered around the city a bit, bought our self some new Spanish novels to read and wondered if pizza in a cone would be any good. Probably not.

We had two really great day trips from Mendoza, one for white water rafting, the other to Maipu, to do a tour on bikes of the vineyards of the area. (Actually we went to Maipu twice, the first time we just got hopelessly lost and walked around in the sun).

So rafting first. As it is winter here most of the snow has not melted in the mountains which means the water level is lower and the ride is a lot less challenging and dangerous. After bobbing along for a while in our 6 man raft I found myself thinking how I wished it could be a bit more exciting; shortly after this I fell in.SAM_0208 And yes, it was cold, and no, noone else fell in. But not scary, just a shot of adrenaline, an embarrassing number people hauling me in like a whale and the onwards. I really really enjoyed rafting and egg and I want to try again later when the water is higher. It was also pretty cheap, £20 each for an hour of rafting, all your gear hire and transfer to and from the city.


The Maipu biking day (take two) was also a great day. Egg, Valentina and I got the bus to Maipu earlyish, and rented from Bikes and Wines at about midday. The map of the area details 12 places you can visit, in a 12 km roundtrip. Some are wineries, others make liqueurs, chocolates, olive oil etc. If you go to the tourist info hut you can get a map with even more places to visit but you will really struggle to get them in.

When we started we knew we wouldn’t do all twelve, and aimed to at least visit a couple of wineries, a chocolate place and just take our time and have fun.

The first place we visited was nine kilometres away, and a beautiful family vineyard with a self guided tour and a terrace restaurant. As this was our first stop we wanted to start the day properly, and ordered a full tasting, including the fancy expensive wine. We can conclude that no one liked the Merlot and I adored the Cabernet sauvignon, and egg liked the Syrah.


A bit more tipsy we rode on to the next, and did another tasting. This time there was a real homey feel to the vineyard and the owner talked us through each wine. Again, really, really nice wine.

Our third and final wine stop was for lunch at a pristine boutique vineyard restaurant. Unfortunately the lady sever was a right grumpy pants, but the food was nice. Definitely feeling a bit worse for wear now I steered clear of the wine this time, except for a teeny taste. At this point Valentina’s bike got a flat, so we lounged in the sun waiting for a replacement.


As we cycled the 10 or so kilometres back, already 15 minutes late returning our bikes, I couldn’t resist a short detour to a chocolate  maker’s. We caught them just before closing and sampled the jams, olive spreads, chocolates and liqueurs. The chocolate was so so so good and the man was so friendly that I was extra happy as we returned the bikes.

The bikes by the way were terrible. Considering you cover some distance they are uncomfortable, don’t have gears, have bad steering, have poor brakes etc. There are a few companies operating but from what I gather they are much the same, I would use a different company next time just because everyone else had a basket and I dearly wanted one too.

So that was pretty much Mendoza. We liked it. I’d go back. Egg probably not but only because he likes moving forward.

Next up was meant to be a couple of nights in Santiago, but the Mendoza to Santiago border crossing (los liberatdores) was closed due to snow and we were stuck. When we finally managed the crossing we were a day late to our next workaway place in San Fernando, Chile so exploring has been postponed until later.

But the crossing itself is breathtaking. 6000m up through the Andes it is one of the most enjoyable bus rides in South America (apparently, I haven’t done them all). Except for the five hour wait at the border which made it an eleven, not six hour journey!