Having mostly travelled east, our PR Manager, Stella Blackwell, decided to change direction and see what Chile had to offer:
"Until recently, the majority of my travel experiences seem to have drawn me east, towards Asia and Australia. Rarely have I turned right out of the UK and, until a few months ago, I had never set foot in South America. That’s not to say it wasn’t somewhere I was interested in visiting. Friends had waxed lyrical about the continent and its cultures and scenery had always appealed. I suppose I’d been put off by those people who say that you really must be able to speak Spanish if you are to get by – the German and French of my school years would be of no use to me here!
My first visit to the continent took me to Chile and I can certainly say that, if there was ever a country to convince me of a continent’s virtues, this is it. Without meaning to sound clichéd, as well as the friendliness of the people, the food and drink were a massive highlight for me – my favourites were the mouth-watering ceviche and tasty empanadas, washed down with a fruity carménère or a (sometimes too) refreshing pisco sour.
Our visit to the Atacama Desert was another major highlight. Specifically, I will never forget the sunset at the Salar de Atacama – the largest salt flat in Chile. It was the most peaceful of spots with just the sounds of the lively wader birds and the whispering wind. Seeing flamingos in the wild and at close proximity didn’t disappoint and I will never forget how the pink of their feathers contrasted against the bright orange light of the setting sun, reflected in the flats. I also loved our visit to the El Tatio Geysers – an early start, but well worth it. Visiting this largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere at sunrise was spectacular as the steam plumed and danced out of each geyser, condensed by the crisp morning air.
Reflecting on this trip, it is safe to say that Chile has well and truly got under my skin and I can not wait to return to explore more of this extremely special country…And how did I manage with my lack of Spanish? Doubtless, it would be a significant disadvantage if I decided to embark on months of independent backpacking across the continent. Luckily for me, visiting as part of a group complete with tour guide meant that I could happily, and more to the point, politely, get by on the pigeon words and phrases I picked up along the way"