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31st March
written by Hazel
We were so excited to see my dad, Nigel, that we arrived at the airport really, really early.  It didn’t help that we had thought his flight got in an hour earlier than it actually did.  Everything went smoothly though and after a nice coffee at the airport cafe we met my dad and got our rental car!  I was amazed how much energy he had after a long flight and we set right off for Valparaiso, a town on the coast where we were spending our first three nights.

On the way we stopped off at a nature reserve for the first of many birdwatching expeditions.  My dad is an avid birdwatcher and we were determined to help him see as many of Chile’s birds as possible.  He was full of interesting information.  For example, there is less species variation in the southern hemisphere, so in all of Chile there are not many more species than on the small island near Seattle where he lives!  We took an informed bet as to how many species we would see in ten days.  I guessed 93, my dad guessed 115, and Justin was optimistic with a guess of 119.

This first stop was at the Reserva Nacional Lago Peñuelas and we had some good sightings.  There are additional bird photos if you click any of these for the link to the gallery.

Horses in the reserve

One of my favorite birds

Black Vulture with Chimago Caracaras in background


The roads were good, and after our birding stop we headed right on to Valparaiso (only about 2 hours from Santiago).  The driving was easy until we made it into the city of Valparaiso, which is a city built on several hills with the narrowest, windingest, most poorly signed streets.  It was an adventure finding the hostel, to say the least and we were very relieved to arrive! 

We stayed at the Luna Sonrisa hostel and were really impressed.  My dad had a nice single room with a bathroom and he treated Justin and I to the total luxury of the hostel’s apartment. That first night we had an absolutely awesome meal at Jaiba y Cordero (Crab and Lamb).  I can’t find a website for them, but the food there was so, so, so good.  It was also the first of many Reineta fish dinners for us.  Reineta is a local fish which googling doesn’t turn up many results for.  It tastes quite like halibut and is available all over the place here, very fresh and very delicious.
The next day we took the recommendation of the owner of the hostel (who also happens to write guidebooks) and headed about 45 minutes south along the beach to the small town of Quintay.  This town is very scenic and is the home of a historic whalery, some seafood restaurants, and some really pretty beaches.  We explored the old whalery first, had another delicious seafood lunch at the Miramar restaurant, and then checked out the Playa Grande (Big Beach).  It was a hot day and the beaches were beautiful!

Old whalery

View from the lighthouse

Unusual lighthouse

Cute beach town

Miramar Restaurant - right on the beach!

Birdwatchers at Playa Grande

Foosball at the beach

Enormous dragonfly!

We had one more birdwatching spot left for the day, Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), just outside of Valparaiso.  The laguna is quite a bright green and leads out to the ocean, and turned out to be full of birds!

This guy was fishing

Caracara ON a horse. I'm surprised the horse allowed this!

Tons of gulls

That night we went out to a Thai restaurant, the first we’d had since leaving the states.  It was called Samsara, in Valparaiso, and was also incredibly delicious.  We were pretty excited to have something that tasted so different (and so good)!

The next day was our one year wedding anniversary!  We celebrated pretty quietly, but had a really fun day.  First we walked around Valparaiso and took some pictures of this very unique town.  There is a ton of cool street art and funkily painted houses.






We had cazuela for lunch.  It is a traditional Chilean dish and it was our first time trying it.  It is basically a broth soup with a bunch of tasty things in it.  This one had veggies, corn, a giant lump of chicken, and potatoes.  Delish!

Anniversary Cazuela

We enjoyed seeing more of the city and that evening my dad joined us in our apartment for cocktail  hour (this turned out to be dinner as well, since we were all feeling pretty overfed at this point).  We had some nice Chilean wine (more on this soon), our leftover thai food, and some tasty bread and cheese.  We also got some alfajores (a kind of cookie filled with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate that are very popular down here) so that my dad could try some.

Anniversary Cocktail Hour

The next day we headed off into the Andes to a very different kind of terrain!


  1. Bob D

    So what was the final bird tally?

  2. Mom

    what a beautiful place–nothing like what i expected!! i have to tell you that the horse that you took a close up of looks just like Casey!!!!(did you see that?)
    lots of mediums in those pictures, and a few large—what was the red mediums name??
    have fun and love you
    Happy April fools day!!

  3. Hazel

    I see it now you mention it! Didn’t notice at the time because that horse was only about 13 hands ;)

  4. Hazel

    I’m keeping the suspense for a few more posts, but I haven’t forgotten about it!

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