A list of “Firsts for Natalie” that happened this weekend, presented in (more-or-less) chronological order: viewed the Pacific Ocean, saw an otter, climbed a sand dune, ran down a sand dune, saw sea lions, went to a club, slept in a hostel, and swam in the Pacific Ocean. All of these things occurred in the context of coastal towns, Viña del Mar and Valparaiso.
Viewing of the Pacific Ocean: My whole program group went on this trip to the beach, so I caught my first glimpse of the water from the tour bus. We pulled over at Las Dunas de Concon to get a closer look. The ocean amazes me every time I look at it and think about just how much mass is in front of me… So I ventured out onto the rocks. My experiences with the ocean have been the Atlantic Ocean (dark blue/brownish, cloudy) and the Golf of Mexico (light light blue, crystal clear). This water was such a lovely lovely blue-green color that I didn’t know was real, and you could see straight through to the rocks and weeds underneath. I would have been quite content to just sit all day and watch and listen as the force of the water crashed against the rocks…
The otter: …But then I got the bonus of catching sight of a little furry guy squirming around the rocks toward his little seaweed home! A highlight of the day, for sure. And while I’ve seen dolphins before so this didn’t belong in the list, we did see a dolphin’s fin bobbing around the area as well!
Climbing the sand dune: Being in Las Dunas de Concon, we figured it was necessary to do as tourists do and make our way to the top — easier said than done! It was crazy steep and, as its title might imply, just sand and sand and deep sand. So we climbed (most of the way) to the top and collapsed to enjoy the view of the ocean and the coast and the cities lining the coast off to our left.
Running down the sand dune: I would definitely exert the effort to get to the top of the dune again if only to run down it a second time! It was like skiing, except with sand in between my toes. I highly recommend the experience.
The sea lions: After doing a walking tour around Valparaiso in the blazing sun for a couple hours, our group got on a tour boat to see the city from off-shore. As we made our way around the harbor-like area, we drove by buoys (with sea lions on them), rocks (with sea lions on them), and old stone docks (with sea lions on them). Those guys were just lazing around, sun bathing and “arfing” and waddling and rolling over. I was quite tempted to go cuddle one, but I’ve been told they’re not actually so fond of that…
Going to a club: Our tour ended around 6:00pm, so we split off for the night. After finding our hostel, eating dinner in an adorable little cafe with all-natural beers and killer sandwiches, listening to a man singing at a back-road barbecue, and going to a nearby square to catch the end of a music festival, we figured it was time to pack it in for the night — until we talked to an American (North Carolinian) who works at the hostel. Because of the music/arts festival going on, some clubs were doing promotions and handing out free-entry wristbands, so we collectively decided that the night was young and we should check it out. So we went to this four-story (including the rooftop) night club called “Woo’s,” we danced a little, we got drinks spilled on us, we saw some other students from our program, we sang to some of the American music, and we left. I would rate the experience with a 6 out of 10. ‘Twas pretty much what I expected.
Sleeping in a hostel: It was called Casa Volante Hostal. I would really consider going back. It was pretty cheap, we got free breakfast, it was clean, it was adorable, and all the workers were super nice. All the other guests were also super friendly. There was a kitchen that was available for anyone to use. Breakfast was marraqueta (classic chilean bread) with jam and dulce de leche, cereal, yogurt, and fruit.
Swimming in the Pacific Ocean: We woke up on Saturday morning, ate our complimentary breakfast, and checked out. After wandering around Valparaiso (such a cool town full of beautiful graffiti and art shops and cafes and such) for a bit, we headed to Viña del Mar for an afternoon at the beach. We ate empanadas and chocolate covered strawberries. I didn’t have a towel so I lounged on my grounded hammock. It was a pretty cool, overcast day with a cool breeze. The waves were massive. And so strong. It was a red flag, so you weren’t supposed to go all the way in, and I really wouldn’t have wanted to. Standing ankle deep, I had to fight the water a little as it crashed and returned. When it was a little more calm, though, I jumped in — so refreshing. I love the beach! Just as I would’ve been content to watch the water crash around the rocks the day before, I would’ve been content to stand on the shore all day long and watch the walls of water rush toward me and crash just far enough away from me to make me feel invincible.
But instead we had to catch a bus back to Santiago.
Peace and Blessings and Salty Air x
(From the Chilean Coast)