Archives for posts with tag: chile

The town of Coñaripe is an interesting place. Located about 700 km south of Santiago, it sits on the shores of Lake Calafquén and in the shadow of Villarrica Volcano – one of South America’s most active. Coñaripe is a popular holiday spot for Chileans who can’t afford to stay in the flashier town of Pucón, on the other side of the fire breathing mountain, which caters to international tourists.

While Pucón has a neat grid of boutique hotels, bars and manicured parks, Coñaripe has a pot-holed main street that is dotted with cabins for rent and cheap-but-cheerful restaurants that churn out traditional favourites like pastel de choclo and cazuela. One thing both towns have in common is tourism companies. Lots of them. You can’t go for a five minute walk without being asked if you’d like to climb the volcano, go rafting or relax in the termas (natural hot springs).

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Cerro Renca: a high point of Santiago.

During my 12 months in Chile, I came to see Cerro Renca, or Renca Hill, as more than just a prominent landmark. Located on the northern side of Santiago, the pointy peak rises sharply out of the ground, separating the municipality of Quilicura, where I lived, from the rest of the city, which lies sprawled out to the south and the east. From the start, the hill dominated my views and my imagination and very quickly, I learned to use it as a reference point. Whenever I saw it, I knew I wasn’t far from home. A few months into my stay, I had already decided that I wanted to climb it.

Cerro Renca stood out for three reasons. The first one was its size. According to Wikipedia, its summit sits at 905 metres above sea level and a good 300 metres above the rest of Santiago, making it the highest point within the city’s limits. It’s big. The kind of big that makes you want to stop what you’re doing and climb to the top.

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The backpack in happier times.

The taxi driver popped the boot open without moving from his seat and Leo and I shoved our backpacks in. After a 26-hour bus trip, we were finally back in Santiago. We had been on the road for almost three weeks and it was nice to be back among the city’s familiar landmarks. The statue of the Virgin Mary perched above the San Cristobal Hill glowed spotlight white against the dark outline of the Andes while the Mapocho River trickled a silent welcome.

But as well as being excited, we were also weary. It was approaching 1am and most of the city had already fallen asleep. We wanted to join them as soon as possible.

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Chile’s Memory and Human Rights Museum is a big, green box that sits suspended above a sunken courtyard. Its crisp lines contrast sharply with the other public buildings in the Quinta Normal district, two metro stations west of downtown Santiago.

It’s a neighbourhood dominated by old churches, schools and an imposing national history museum. Dating back to the 19th century, these older buildings are decorated with tall steeples, bold columns and ornate cornices. Although they bear the scars of earthquakes past and graffiti present, they stand tall and resolute, refusing to betray their proud beginnings. They are grand buildings, built for grand purposes: glorifying God, marvelling at his creation and educating his creatures. Read the rest of this entry »