From Santiago it was an hour and a half bus ride to Valparaiso through a company called Turbus for 3,000 pesos ($4.80). After almost three months on the road we were working our way fast down South America so it was time to slow things down a little bit. Matts parents were going to be arriving in Santiago in two weeks and we knew we needed to find a place to settle and save money before they arrived. We signed up for a website called Workaway that is a directory to finding work at different hostels, houses, farm, etc in exchange for free accommodation and sometimes free food. When we checked out the city of Valparaiso there were many options for places to work at but unfortunately most did not respond or wanted us to stay at least one month. After much researching we settled on a hostel where we would work 28 hours per week in exchange for a private room.
Our job for two weeks was at Hostel Mariposas and it located on one of the many hills that make up this city. For 9 months of the year it is a communal house for 20 people who were mostly all university students. Every corner of this hostel was unique. All of the nightstands, desks, dressers and decor all were recycled furniture and covered with character. The owners daughter made almost all of the paintings that covered all three living room areas and there was nothing minimal looking about this place. It was exactly my style of home. We were not provided any free food for the work but we had a private loft room that had a skylight and we decorated it with all of the fabrics we bought in Bolivia and Peru. Everyday we would have to work from 10am to 2pm and we thought it was a bit unfair we didn't get any days off but it was only a two week stint. Anyone that wants to do a workaway, some advice is to make sure to request only to work 4-5 days a week to work.
The daily routine went as followed. I would wake up around 8am every day and go in the living room to make the fire to heat up the house in the morning. From there I would make a cup of coffee and stretch and do some computer work and have some alone time before 9am when others would start waking up. Matt would wake up around 9:15 and we would make a huge breakfast to start off our day that would usually be a vegetable scramble with some potatoes or bread. One of my favorite parts about the hostel was going to the rooftop deck, eat our breakfast and wake up to the city view, it was complete bliss. At 10am we would meet with Kent, Allen and Karen (the owner and two long term volunteers) and we would discuss what tasks we would do that day. It ranged from painting, cleaning, roof work, gardening and sometimes hard manual labor that I couldn't do because of my back. There were always projects that needed to be done around the house and around the neighboring buildings Kent owned. After the work day ended at 2ish we would shower and head down all of the stairs into the city to explore the different boroughs. There are so many different areas that are all found by just walking either up a lot of stairs or going down a lot of stairs and all had the most beautiful street art I have ever seen in my life. Literally every corner on every street had beautiful murals and you can walk down the same street 50 times and still see something new or that you never noticed before.
Two of the tourists neighborhoods/cerros are called Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre that I would recommend to anyone that is visiting here. There are coffee shops, restaurants and the most famous street art in these neighborhoods including the piano step stairs. I strolled through this neighborhood many times looking at all the different stores full of art, decor, knick knacks and clothing. If you are looking for the best empanadas in town find where the place called Delicias Express is located. They have 80 different types of empanadas that are all prepared on the spot by two woman and we ate there at least four times. Want to end the day with something sweet? The best ice cream shop we found was called Emporio La Rosa that would make you want to savor every bite. A unique feature about this city is that there are antique funiculars or trams that take you up up into the hill sides. They are located all over in almost every cerro and cost 100-200 pesos for a ride. (That is less than $.20 cents USD). I would recommend to ride any that you see, because it will always take you to a good view point. We have learned to embrace the street food all over South America and in this city you will find some of the best. From pizza, empanadas, sweets, nuts and mystery meat. The best part is all the sauces that some of the street food vendors have. We would just order meat and stand by the cart and put a different sauce on every single bite to fully enjoy it.
After a week and a half working at the hostel we met another volunteer that turned out to become a great friend. His name is Finn and he showed us many tips to backpacking on a budget and his spirit on living a good life. One of the first nights we all hung out he took us out to the Saturday market (also on Wednesdays) that is located on Ave. Argentina. When all the stalls close at 9pm they will throw away a bunch of vegetables and fruit that are about to go bad that they can't sell. Finn taught us about “recycled” food where we just go to the vendors and ask if they have anything to recycle that is about to go bad and they just give it to you! Oh man it was an amazing concept and saved us money! You could tell the vendors were used to it because some saved the scraps of food in a box for us to just rummage through. We just took one of the many wooden crates that are all over the market and filled it up the two times we did it. It also made us become more creative with our cooking since we would just cook with anything we received free from the markets. Don't feel awkward or ashamed if you want to try this yourself. Basic spanish and a smile will get you far.
On Sunday Finn took us to this little gem of a bar at the end of some residential road that was actually someone's backyard! Finn knew all of the workers since they all were apart of one family and we sat there for hours drinking Sangria and just chatting and eating. Finn has this way with people that I have never seen from anybody else. He can have a conversation in Spanish, English and French and can turn a stranger into a friend in ten minutes. There were little firepits lit around the yard once it got colder and a band came out to play music and the little dance floor came alive! I just kept thinking I was at a friends celebration party or something and truly was just so content with life in that moment. Finn also did me a favor that night and forced me to speak Spanish to locals even though my Spanish is still basic, I had to try. That really woke me up and made me realize that I need to speak more even if I am scared and nervous if I sound dumb.
As our time at work was ending and it was time to meet Matts parents the following day in Santiago we had one last barbeque on the roof of the hostel where we grilled all of our vegetables we had leftover. We watched the sunset on one of the hammocks on the roof and just reflected about how grateful we were for our time in this city. This city is my favorite in all of Chile so far and would recommend any traveler to spend a few days here.
5) Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Sacred Valley
6) Machu Pichu
1) Copacabana and Isla Del Sol
2) La Paz
1) San Pedro De Atacama
4) La Serena
5) Puerto Iquazu
6) Buenos Aires