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Our Santiago hosts offered us the opportunity to stay at their apartment in Renaca, Viña del Mar, about an hour and half out on the western coast. It’s this ability to make last minute decisions on where we travel, based on local’s advice or other traveller’s experiences, that have provided us with such rich experiences.

Travelling by bus, our journey was delayed by a truck accident right in front of us. Watching the emergency operation, over a couple of hours, swing into action was like watching a TV set!

Viña del Mar sits just outside the more popular beachside resort of Valparaíso, which used to be an important shipping port before the Panama Canal was built.

In Renaca, apartments are staggered at a diagonal angle behind the beach.

From our apartment we could see out to the Pacific Ocean (wow!) and down to the main centre of Viña del Mar.

At dusk, we experienced some of the finest sunsets we’ve seen on our travels.

By day, we loved watching the wetsuited surfers ride huge fast waves (there’s probably a technical term for them!), and wistfully remembered our Australian surfing days.

Viña has some interesting places to visit, and we were particularly enthralled by the natural history and shrunken heads in the unusual Museo de Fonck.

The natural history section features a stuffed animal collection reminiscent of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, including a little two-headed lamb, pumas and a condor (which we haven’t yet witnessed in the Andean skies, but hope to!). There’s also an extensive moth and butterfly, and insect collection.

This cabinet of curiosities that kept us slightly frightened, but intrigued to discover more about the world of cabezitas jibarizadas. If you happen to have an enemy’s severed human head on hand, you’ll want to boil it first, then dry it out in sand. Don’t forget to remove the skull before the drying process!

There, we learnt about Easter Island (Rapa Nui is its native name). A Maoi statue stands proud outside the museum; these monolithic human figures, with oversized heads, were carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island between 1250 and 1500. Hundreds were transported from and set on stone platforms around the island’s perimeter. The moai are chiefly the living faces of deified ancestors, and gazed inland across their clan lands when Europeans first visited the island in 1722.

It’s a wierd and wonderful place; there’s so much packed into such a tiny museum, not all grotesque, it was well worth the education we received on Chilean history, culture, and fauna.

Walking along the promenade, we dodged the spray from crashing waves!

Further along, we found the sadly closed Castillo Wullf, a museum of art overhanging the ocean.

If you look closely, can you see the pelicans on the roof?

The massive birds glided around us, it was mesmerising to watch them!

Taking us by surprise, a sea lion danced in the waves beneath us, yippee, we didn’t expect that! Terrible photo..!

Before we finish this post, we’d like to make a special mention to a delicious item! Worthy of note, because we’ve eaten a lot of them, are Chilean avocados! Rationed in Australia and New Zealand due to the high cost, this fabulous food is produced in Chile, in abundance and cheap. Joy!

Catching an early morning bus, we were bound for La Serena and the Elqui Valley. Our next post will reveal our star gazing and horse riding antics!