As we mentioned in one of the last posts, we decided to head to Chile after Ecuador instead of Bolivia. Seeing as we didn't plan on Chile, we had to figure it out on the fly a little bit. We started off be spending two days in Santiago exploring the capital. It is a nice city, but of course it is a big city. 40% of Chile's population lives in and around Santiago. We enjoyed the nice architecture walking around downtown, including the government buildings, the central cathedral, and the Plaza de Armas. We took the funicular up Cerro San Cristobal, where there are spectacular views over Santiago and towards the mountains surrounding the city.
One of the highlights of Santiago included visiting the Museum of Memories and Human Rights. This museum describes what happened during the 1973 US-backed coup that allowed Pinochet to take control of Chile. It also documents the atrocities that occurred during Pinochet’s rule, and talks about the large number of people that were tortured, executed, or simply went missing during this period. A very somber experience, but well worth it.
After Santiago, we decided to head south to the lake district. We weren't planning on going south, but we were very glad we did. We ended up renting a lovely cabin just outside the city of Pucón. It was such a wonderful area to spend a week. Our cabin had views of the Villarica Lake, as well as the Villarica volcano that is close by. This is apparently one of the most active volcanos in South America. The last eruption was in 2015, and lucky for us, there weren’t any eruptions while we there!
The area around Pucón is beautiful, and we were able to do lots of hikes in the mountains and up to small mountain lakes. It is autumn here, and on one of the hikes Milo and John started collecting the large pine nuts that are in season. These "piñones" fall from the Monkey Puzzle pine trees, which are Chile's national tree. We roasted these large nuts and ate them in melted butter and salt....mmmmm.
After enjoying a week in Pucón, we drove to the small village of Pichilemu, which has become a surfing hot spot. We were very fortunate again as we rented a spectacular cabin only 200 metres from the beach. The area was so quiet and peaceful, and it was wonderful to listen to the waves all night long. The water is not warm on the coast there, but the kids had a great time playing on the beach of course. They also took a couple of surf lessons and loved it! All of them were able to get up and ride some waves. They may not be surfers yet, but they are definitely working on the hair to look the part.
Next stop, the Atacama Desert!