20.08.2014 - 20.08.2014
Up early in time to leave for Valle Nevado at 8.30am. During this time it was still rush hour and when we finally got out of the city traffic we took off on a narrower and tortuous road leading up in the mountains. The road was edged with cactuses (!) that during winter were covered in snow… but due to the warm weather lately there was no snow now. Mainly two types of cactuses grew here; Prickly Pear Cactus and another species that reminded a lot of Saguaro cactuses. The road almost crossed itself every now and then winding uphill and we were getting ourselves from 520 meters up to 3000 meters above sea level.
My friend Michelangelo visits Valle Nevado regularly during the winter season and he told me we would soon arrive to a checkpoint where the police randomly select cars to check if the drivers brought any snow chains. Michelangelo had not brought any snow chains today since it was a rental car but also because of the warm weather and it was barely snow outside. And also he had not been selected by the police in ages and the cops have been busy with other cars or just sitting inside their booth doing everything but checking cars. So after a while we arrived at the checkpoint but today we got randomly selected by the police. Yeah, what are the odds for that? Since we didn’t have any snow chains with us we had to turn around even though the lack of snow was obvious. A little disappointed and half way there to the ski-resort there was nothing we could do. And driving all the way back to the apartment to get the snow chains and drive back would take too long so the time to ski would be too short.
Well, well. So we had to come up with other plans for today. When we got back in Santiago we stopped by at Alto Las Condes, a shopping center with 3 floors. It reminded a lot of Costanera Center in terms of fashion, a lot of sportswear and branded clothes. It felt a little weird walking around in ski clothes but my friend said that the Chileans would consider us as cool people since skiing is a sport that only a few percent of the population can afford. I managed to find two nice shirts that I bought.
And since we had the rental car all day long (and we wanted to take advantage of that) we drove up to Cerro San Cristóbal (San Cristóbal Hill) and all the way up to the parking lot by the Virgin Mary Statue. From the parking lot you have to walk uphill for a while to get up to the statue itself. And as for many tourists this statue was one of my top-10 attractions to visit here in Santiago. Well not only because of the statue itself but also for the fantastic panorama views over Santiago that you get from up here. I got a little disappointed over the Virgin Mary Statue since I had imagined it to be much bigger than it was in reality. But I think I probably compared Virgin Mary to the Christ the Redeemer watching over Rio de Janeiro…
San Cristóbal Hill rises about 350 meters above the surrounding Santiago. You can get up the hill by hiking, driving or riding a bike or taking the old funicular. But be aware of all the street dogs around here if you plan to walk or ride your bicycle. From most of the outlooks on top of San Cristóbal Hill you can orient and point out important landmarks like the Andes and Cordillera de la Costa for people that are new to the city. If you plan to visit Santiago during the winter you will have the best view from up here after rainfall since the air will get cleared up from the smog (which otherwise is like a lid over the city). During the summer you usually have great views from up here every day. Many people say that the sunset is spectacular to watch from up here.
And for those of you who thought I had enough of shopping for today… no, no. I had time for a trip over to Costanera Center again in the afternoon. I never bought anything though except dinner and some frozen yoghurt. I was mighty impressed by the girl at the yoghurt place because she spoke very well English!