Monday, January 17, 2011

The Coast for a Day -- El Quisco, Isla Nega and the Home of Pablo Neruda

A daytrip to the coast to visit Pablo Neruda's house and do some exploring started with an 8:45 am bus in Santiago.  Julia and I arrived in El Quisco around 10:30, a small, dull beach town about 2.5 miles north of Isla Negra (and Neruda's house). After a breakfast of turkey and cheese sandwiches on the beach started our way south along the rocky coast toward Isla Negra. The path included scrambling over large boulders and through marshy fields of flowers and brush, talking to some locals about how to get to Isla Negra, relaxing on a large rock to take in the sight of the powerful waves, and walking about a mile along the main, paved road until we arrived at the signs pointing to Neruda's house.  In between we stopped at a restaurant on the road to fulfill my desire for a steak and share a liter of beer.

Neruda's house (and the accompanying museum/gift shop) has a less-than-stellar review in the guidebook.  Visitors must take a tour to see the house, at a cost of 3,500 pesos (USD$7) for the English tour and 3,000 pesos for the Spanish tour.  We took the Spanish tour, which was led by our guide with a theatrical voice and presentation of the elements of the home.  The house was filled with trinkets and ship memorabilia, namely sculptures of women and other objects that were at one time affixed to the bows of ships.  There were also large collections of other unique objects, masks from Africa, musical instruments, a large bug collection (with some GIGANTIC bugs), shells and a life-size wooden horse for which Neruda threw a house-warming party.  The doors and hallways were very small (like a ship) and the views of the ocean and coast from the large windows were breathtaking (especially from the second-floor bedroom).

Overall it was a worthwhile trip, and the experience at Neruda's home far surpassed the lame review in our guidebook.

View from the bus, traveling east from Santiago.
Long walk along the rocky coast, very large waves here.
Artsy bus stop, made partly of glass bottles.
Path down to Pablo's house.
Neruda's house.  We weren't permitted to take photos inside.
The house, built like a ship with small doors and tight hallways, had an amazing view of the rocky coast and powerful waves.
Front of Neruda's house.
Fitting meal:  empanada with mushrooms, chicken and cheese. 
Cruising back to the bus station.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Years in Pichilemú

As New Years Day approached plans were made to travel to Pichilemú, a small beach town about 4 hours south of Santiago best known for its surfing and super-casual vibe.  Our destination was Hostal Verde, an eco-conscious hostel a short taxi ride out of the main city center (if you can call the main dirt road and small number of shops a city center).

When we arrived we were greeted by Rodgrigo (aka Pete, pronounced "Peh-teh"), the young hostal owner and his dog Flaite (see caption).  We soon learned that Pete was known for his cooking skills and the large breakfast that he served every morning (b'fast included in the price -- nice!).  We made the decision to stay at the hostal for the New Year's celebrations, after seeing the large bonfire and spread of food for the guests.

As the Friday evening went on we sat around the campfire, passing around meat, fish and other good food cooked by Pete and others and chatting with guests from Chile and Belgium.  Just before midnight most of the group made their way to the main beach to watch the fireworks show.  Some of the group stayed behind to enjoy the starry sky and fireworks show from the large hostal balcony.

The next day included a hike along the coast toward the main beach, followed by a surf lesson and surfing for the afternoon.  We ate some bad pizza later in the afternoon, and spent a relaxing evening on the hostal hammocks, taking in the dark night sky filled with stars.

View from Hostal Verde front porch/balcony.  You can see and hear the crashing waves in the distance, and the patio made for a decent view of the New Year's Eve fireworks off in the distance.
Hostal lounge area.  Very comfy.
Campfire circle.  Good food and good times were had around the flames.
The hostal dog Flaite (a common Chilean word for "shady one" most-typically used to describe young thugs who linger at night in large cities).  Flaite was a gentle, but ferocius dog, who could differentiate a hostal guest from a crook with his nose.

On a walk to Pichi's main beach.  The rocky areas were good for exploring.
Taking in Alejandro's surfing instructions.  His talked included about 5 "cachái"s a minute (the Chilean "know what I mean?").
Catching one of my first waves (with a little help from Alejandro).

Strong anti-smoking government regulations.  A real buzzkill (and I don't smoke).
Big Sunday morning breakfast.