Our family drove into the coastal town of Pichilemu in a pea soup fog. Moments before we’d been cruising along in the bright sunshine on a ridge overlooking the ocean on one side and rolling forested hills on the other. Below us sat a cloud so dense it looked like you could cut it with a knife. We descended into it, watching the trees and buildings around us practically disappear.
It’s kind of weird what fog can do to a place. Coming into this popular town, Pichilemu seemed eerie and uninviting. The roads transitioned from paved to bumpy and finally to dirt and mud. We checked into our cramped (even by our new “smaller-is-better” standards) apartment and tried to decide what to do with the rest of our day. From the onset this did not seem like the kind of place I wanted to spend some of my last days in Chile.
Less than enthused, we went down to the beach anyway. That’s when things started to take a turn for the better. The fog turned out to be pretty cool, fun and very memorable. The girls loved running around in the haze, the sunset was bizarre, and we even found a cute restaurant for dinner complete with a friendly owner and some fellow American patrons.
The next morning everything changed. A whole new Pichilemu revealed itself. We spent the day at the world famous surfing spot, Punta de Lobos, watching the waves, the surfers and even some seals. We liked Pichilemu so much we even wound up extending our visit from two nights to three. It just goes to show you…you can’t judge a town by its weather.
After leaving Pichilemu, we headed north and soon had a decision to make. Do we add a couple hours of driving to hang a left and stay our last night in Valparaiso or do we turn right and go back to Santiago to find a hotel near the airport? The information online about Valpo said it was a great town to “wander around the chaos of the steep city streets.” Not great advertising for people with three kids in tow. Plus, we hadn’t had the best weather in Santiago when we flew into Chile, so maybe we should give it another try. Hmmmmm…decisions, decisions. Santiago probably made more sense, but…what the hell, we figured. When’s the next time we’ll have the opportunity to see Valparaiso, Chile? To the left it is!
And we’re so glad we took that left. Valparaiso was a very pleasant surprise. We did spend a lot of time “wandering around the chaos of the steep city streets” but they really weren’t that chaotic in most places. The urban art in this town is phenomenal, so every time we turned the corner there was something new and different to see. While we only spent one night there, it was definitely worth the extra time in the car. The only downside to the day was when we stopped at an outdoor cafe for a drink and a pack of several local dogs gave our girls a rather crude sex education lesson right in the middle of that crowded square. “Stop staring at them, Ali! Just look at something else!” (Don’t worry, we won’t be including any gratuitous photos.)
It was definitely a unique 24 hours in this eclectic city on a hill. We drove out of Valparaiso glad we’d come and ready to start our 3-hour drive to the Santiago airport. As we made our way east we had no way of knowing it would be on this fateful day that an issue which had plagued us for the last 6 months would finally come to a dramatic resolution…to be continued.