Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Would You Ever Want to Travel to Chile?

There are a lot of reasons. Just because it is there? Because you have never traveled to South America? You have heard it is incredibly beautiful? These reasons, and more, prompted a two week vacation in Chile. We have good friends who had been to Chile previously, and encouraged us to join them for a joint driving trip starting in the capital Santiago, and then south through the Central Valley, the Lakes District, and onto Puerto Montt. We selected traveling during our spring, so it would be fall in Chile, hopefully similar to our October trips to Europe.

It is easy to fly to Chile. All the flights are overnight so the trip does not seem too long. You arrive about eight in the morning at a beautiful modern airport. Visas are not required but there is a $100 entry tax in retaliation to U.S. entry fees. All of you who travel know the drive into a new City is always exciting because everything is new and interesting, and a little scary. This held true in Chile. We stayed in a delightful boutique hotel in the upscale neighborhood of Los Condes. From there we explored by private tour, walking, subway, and our rental car. Santiago is a beautiful, modern, clean, crime free and culturally diverse city. It has skyscrapers, historic sites, state of the art subways, wonderful people, great restaurants, excellent shopping and a boomtown atmosphere. Beyond our sightseeing we enjoyed meeting and dining with a native Chilean family and their friends. As an example of the excellent economy and education of the population, the family children were currently in medical school and law school.

So off we went on the driving adventure. Chile is long and skinny. At no point is it more than 110 miles wide and if it was stretched across North America it would extend nearly from coast to coast (2700 miles). After reading all those old Pan American road trip books, it was quite a surprise to find that Chile has a brand new 4 lane, limited access toll way all the way to Puerto Montt and Chiloe Island. This is no third world country operation! You will recall from some of my past adventures that driving in a foreign country is sometimes an exciting adventure for me. This drive presented some different challenges. The first obstacle was getting the luggage for four of us into a midsize sedan. As we progressed and bought more and more “stuff”, each morning became an exciting event. Hotel staff had to be strictly supervised as all the suitcases would fit only in a certain order. Overflow ended up between our wives in the back seat. My friend Les, was the navigator and I soon found out he was excellent at map reading. The challenge however, was that he is direction challenged – can’t tell right from left. After several near misses, I always checked twice.

Our travels took us to the wine country of the Central Valley to a wonderful 5 star hotel who arranged our wine tour. Checking on the wine was, of course, only an academic exercise to bring back information to our local Washington State wine growers. Next we were off to the Lake District and exploring the volcanoes and learning about the Mapuche Indian culture. Crossing the country (3 hours) from the Andes to the ocean we stopped in Valdivia, to enjoy the fishing villages and beautiful Pacific coast. We then headed for the fascinating resort areas of Puerto Octay, Frutillar, Puerto Varas, and Puerto Montt. This is gorgeous lake and mountain country. Our final leg south was on to Chiloe Island where we encountered the only real steady rain of the trip.

On the return trip we spent time in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, the main port of Chile and summer stop for the residents of Santiago. Valparaiso, which is also the location for the Chilean parliament, is built on steep hills descending to the Pacific Ocean. It was great fun touring the hills (fortunately with someone else driving on a private tour) and exploring the ascensores (the funiculars and cable cars) going up and down the hillside neighborhoods. We stayed at a wonderful ocean-side hotel in Viña del Mar enjoying the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean on the rocks below. This was a great way to finish up a delightful two week adventure in a new country. Now how do I get all that “stuff” back home? Give Chile a try!

This article was published in the Fall 2004 ABA Judicial Division Record newsletter.

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