20 October 2011 – 28 October 2011
I made it out of the airport in Santiago as the sun was rising through a thick haze. The haze covered any chance of seeing the mountains and I soon realized it was the famous Santiago smog, even worse than LA. I took the bus from the airport to Pajaritos, where I got on another bus to Quintero, having no desire to stay in a big city. I can sum up the first eight days of the trip in rather a short fashion, as I primarily relaxed by the beach, read books, drank wine and slowly came to the realization that I was actually in South America. This section of the Chilean coastline is remarkably similar to California, where I was raised. Eucalyptus line the dirt road that leads from Playa Ritoque to the town of Quintero, and beyond them are fields blooming with California poppies. Horses and cows linger underneath the sun and a cool breeze blows in from the ocean. Along the seaside, iceplant hang precariously from steep slopes that plunge into the ocean. I am reluctant to mention the hostel I stayed at, reserving at first a bed for two nights, and gradually extending my stay to eight. My hesitancy is much like that of finding a great hiking trail, the fear that it will be found out. Unfortunately I also developed a strong liking for my hostess and so want to see her succeed. So here it is, the best thing to do after a long flight, bus ride, or really before or after any possible activity, is to book a stay with Angie at Ritoque Raices. The hostel sits outside of the town of Quintero at the end of a dirt road and is right smack on the beach. It consists of three houses, each with a kitchen and common area. The house highest on the property has a dorm room with sliding glass doors to a patio that looks out over the ocean. I would lie comfortably in my bed at night staring through the glass at the stars, incredible. There are fire pits, hammocks, the smell of the ocean and the sound of birds. You need to get food from town before you come in as the restaurant next door is only open on weekends…unless they are persuaded otherwise. The best part of the hostel however are Angie and Morris, who make a point of creating a communal atmosphere that is incredibly welcoming to their guests. Breakfast is included in the stay, and it will remain available until you drag your lazy butt out of bed. Many of the days a large group would pile in to Angies van to go to the town or a different part of the coast. They offer surf lessons, yoga classes, sea kayaking and horseback riding if simply relaxing on the beach and taking nice walks are not enough for you. In the evenings I was there, it was common to have a bunch of people cooking and everyone sharing meals around the fire. Many days the Pan Man (insert Bat Man theme song here) would come by with fresh made bread and treats that he prepares in his stone oven…yummmmmmmy! Rainbow and Paltita, the hostel dogs, are great for cuddling and taking walks with, and truly, this was one of the hardest places to leave. I had to force myself to continue exploring Chile.
You can check them out here: http://www.ritoqueraices.com
Here are some pictures of Quintero and Ritoque: