Our original plan was to spend a few days in Santiago before heading north to San Pedro de Atacama and Arica. However, our plans changed all of a sudden and we ended up staying close to a fortnight in beautiful Santiago! On our first day, we arrived at the airport at 3pm and got picked up by our family friends. They live a bit further out from the city, close to the Andes mountains. We spent the afternoon settling in and playing with their dogs. We went to Sushi House for dinner, a bit later than we had hoped, but we had forgotten about Chilean time. It was around 10pm that food started to come out, and we got home around 11.30pm. The next day Max adventured down to the supermarket, which took about 4 hours (as he went the wrong way) and I stayed at home as I was really tired from the trip and the heat. He made a delicious spaghetti bolognese for dinner, which was a bit spicy! Yum!
The next day I was bed bound with a really sore tummy. We didn’t think too much of it and thought we could still make our flight the next day… But unfortunately I got worse, with diarrhea and vomiting, so we went to Clinica las Condes (as it was recommended by our family friends). I was diagnosed with a bowel infection, which had spread right through my colon, due to the bacteria campylobacter. I was hospitalised overnight, but luckily Max could stay with me, and we had our friends to translate. It was a pretty terrifying experience, especially when a fast talking insurance man comes and tells you to pay $5,000 USD right then and there all in Spanish…luckily (or unluckily as it turned out) our friend was there to sign a form saying the cost will fall on them in the event we didn’t pay. This became an ongoing battle for the next 3 weeks between the insurance company and the clinic. The following days for me were spent recovering, eating bland food and sleeping (as I found it difficult sleeping with a drip in my arm and being woken up every 2 hours by nurses while in hospital).
After a few days, I felt strong enough to venture into the maze of Santiago city by bus and metro. We went to Plaza de Armas, did a free walking tour of Santiago city (based on tipping the guide, which was recommended as $5,000 CLP per person or $11 NZD), we walked through the Bío Bío markets, and met friends in Providencia for breakfast and went to the top 25 ranked ice cream in the world.
We did some cooking while at our friends place; I made a kiwi version of lomo saltado (a typical Peruvian dish with my own twist), and a Thai chicken curry, and Max made chicken carbonara. All a bit different from our normal as the ingredients here are a little different than in NZ. Delicious nonetheless!
We went to a bar called La Victoria with our new found Santiago friends to experience a real Chilean night of food (Chorrillana), wine (fresita), music and dancing (cueca)! It cost $5,000 CLP each to enter (approx. $11 NZD). Typical of Chile, we left late, arriving at midnight, which was lucky as the show started late anyway. We didn’t leave until 3.30am, when the third band had only gotten through 3 songs!
We had an unexpected return to Santiago 3 weeks later to pay the hospital bill…between ringing/emailing our insurance in New Zealand and our friends talking with the clinic in Spanish, it was an utter disaster. To cut a long story short, they never managed to get in touch with each other and we had to drive 850km from Valdivia to Santiago on a Friday night to go pay the bill on Saturday morning so our friend wouldn’t get sued on Monday. Damn! Currently, we are still dealing with our travel insurance to cover the costs of the hospital visit which ended up costing us a small fortune. Ouch!