First night out of La Serena took us to Socos "Hot" Springs. It wasn't far from La Serena, but we weren't far from Santiago, either, and we had a couple of days to fill before meeting Mike's parents there. Camping at Socos was expensive (seems to be a trend for Chile...) at almost US$10 per person! It seemed worth it since they had a nice big open air pool next to the entrance. When we came back after setting up our tent, we found out that their hot tubs cost a lot extra (US$7 for half hour), so we just went swimming. In a very cold pool. There was no hot about it. Cold. It was cold. Booooooooo. (At least the guard warned us about "goat-dogs" (when translated literally), since they did attack the trash can where our food packaging went.)
The next day at Illapel we asked around about a place to stay. The cheap looking places in town were out of our range. A gas station attendant recommended a place on the edge of town, Casa Blanca. The cleaning lady that met us was extremely nice, but told us a room would US$80. Yikes! She called around town and found us a US$60 option, but still. Then she called the owners to see if we could camp on their grounds. No dice. (But instead of telling her/us that on the phone, they made us wait 20 minutes for them to arrive, and then still didn't want to deal with us.) So on to the coast in search of camping...
We eventually found it at Pichidangui, a super sleepy little coastal town. The Camping el Bosque was cheap (US$10 for one night, no charge for second) and literally on the beach - perfect!
Arriving in Santiago was a bit overwhelming, but we were able to find moto district, which made us feel a bit at home. There we picked up some parts (plugs, fuel line and filter, grease), machined out the front sprocket cover to let it breathe/clean easier, and found a nice shop that let Mike change the oil. For anyone interested, moto district can be found on Lira (GPS: S33 deg 27.423 min / W70 deg 38.217 min) and if you are in need of a shop, check out Oscar's place. He had plenty of big Hondas and a KTM in for service and was highly recommended by locals:
Tele 634 7244 / Cel 08 570 8491
GPS: S33 deg 27.172 min / W70 deg 38.102 min
Seeing Mike's parents for a bit over a week was great - a much appreciated vacation within our trip. It had been a long time since we've seen any family, and it was really nice of them to make their way all the way to Santiago to visit us. We had a fantastic time. Here are some highlights:
(it was Christmas time in Santiago, and this tree outside the train station was the most decoration we saw...actually quite refreshing compared to countries that display a more commercial side to Christmas. And aside from that, please note that the statues on top of the train station are of the elusive llama-dragon. Yes, llama-dragons.)
(Jill and Mike in Valparaiso)
(Pablo Nerudo's house in Valpo, La Sebastiana. It was interesting to tour and see all the random stuff this acclaimed poet collected. Stories about him were also interesting as he was quite eccentric and very social - a fun combination. We tried to ride the funicular up to his house, but since it was closed got some stair climbing exercise instead.)
Back in Santiago, we tried for some more funicular riding, but it just wasn't meant to be. So we spent a few days walking around different neighborhoods and seeing a couple of museums.
(street art in Bellavista, Santiago)
(the Contemporary Art museum had some interesting exhibits)
(this museum is highly recommended to visit - The Human Rights Museum. It presents a hard story to tell about Chile's past. The candle light room on the 2nd floor facing a huge wall of photographs of the disappeared was especially moving.)
(we ate on the outskirts of the central market, much cheaper than the very center, and still incredibly good. The pastel de jaiba is delectable.)
(I thought it was cool that they had libraries in their subway stops)
We also took a one night trip to the Colchagua wine valley, which was a phenomenal experience. We toured/tasted wines at 3 different wineries that were quite distinct from each other in size, how they operate, and what they are after. Each produce a find product as far as we can tell.
(the place is an architectural masterpiece, using gravity to feed the wine through 7 stories of processing)
(this little guy helps out with the process)
(Hands down best lunch, best meal even, that we've had on this trip.)
That afternoon in the town of Santa Cruz there was a little bit of rain, which brought the snails out.
That evening we toured Neyen winery, one of the oldest in the area.
(gnarly old grape vines)
(the tasting is, of course, the best part)
The next day we checked out Viu Manent after missing our scheduled tour at Montes. While Montes would've been interesting to check out (they play Gregorian chants in one of their rooms to provide sound energy for their fermenting wine), they were less than accommodating when we were a few minutes late, especially given that we were the only ones there... So we went on over to Viu Manent where the staff was super friendly and we got a nice tour for a fair price.
(quality control lab. But mostly still done by taste...)
(quality control sample)
Once back in Santiago, it was like Christmas. Mike's parents had brought some parts for the TA, a couple of new shirts to replace ours with holes, and they even brought Jill some beef jerky from IA. On top of that, Mike's nieces had made some very nice gifts that were sent along as well:
Mike's dad helped out with some random moto maintenance (adjusted fork oil level, new fuel line and filter, inspect fuel tap, new screws to replace stripped float bowl screws, new speedo drive and cable, new foam air filter). It was nice to have an extra pair of hands and eyes for all of that.
And then before we knew it, it was time to part ways. When Mike's parents flew back to the states, we decided to head directly back to Argentina to take advantage of the traveler friendly environment. Off to Mendoza...