Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead is a day in Chile where family and friends gather to remember and pray for loved ones that have passed away - a celebration in connection with the Catholic All Saints’ Day. Quite a nice idea really and from what we observed it was not so commercially based but truly about visiting graves and gathering with family and friends.
With the Monday off school we decided to escape from the city to the beach in search of some warmer weather - Friday reached a measly 10 degrees which is tough going when you only own jandals and other light summer attire.
Ritoque is a gorgeous secluded beach located about 2.5 hours north west of Santiago. It is a small beach off the gringo trail where locals frequent to surf, fish and ride horses. With no shops, a short row of houses and many stray dogs this secluded spot was the ideal contrast from the smog filled Santiago.
With the long weekend traffic we arrived on the beach in the dark and after some scrambling along the sand found our hostel located literally on the beach front. Once settled we headed to the small shack-like restaurant next door and ordered crab pie - the only option on the menu, but it was delicious and fresh.
The next morning we woke to the sun streaming through our curtain-less room that looks directly onto the beach. Breakfast of home-made organic bread and strawberry jam was served outside in the morning sun. The hostel was a collection of 3 colourful bachs each with its’ own kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms with beach views.
Later that morning we ventured into nearby Quintera to visit the supermarket and vegie market for some fresh produce to consume over the weekend. There was a great small group of us that were staying at the hostel for the weekend so we cooked our meals together. This included a roast chicken served with freshly baked bread from the next door neighbour’s clay oven and homemade traditional Chillan desert of dulce de leche, flaky pastry and cream.
Our days were spent reading on the hammocks in the sun and enjoying the company of the loveable dogs that have no homes but seem to be very fat! The sun felt even more intense than at home - the ozone hole stretches to this part of the world also. Feeling like we had had a weekend of relaxation we headed back to the big smoke on Monday for a short week of school.
We now have our routine well sorted and we are actually enjoying having a bit of structure to our days. It takes 45 minutes to walk through the centre of the city to our school located in Barrio Brasil. Class is from 9 am until 1.30 pm, with a 10 am break at the cafe next to the school so all the students can mingle and speak Spanish together. By the time we have visited the supermarket we arrive home by 3pm for a bit of a siesta, a couple of hours of homework followed by dinner and bed. It is certainly a different mindset from others in the hostel and is difficult at times to stay motivated but it is all good.
We still manage to enjoy a lot of the fantastic vino that Chile produces and have met some fantastic people this week staying at the hostel. As most people seem to be ending their travels in Santiago we have been provided with loads of advice about the good and the bad through various parts of South America. This will help us formulate our plans when we leave here at the end of November. The Spanish lessons are going well though we definitely have our ups and downs. One day we felt so frustrated that we wanted to walk out of class yet the next lesson we were elated at how far we had come. Needless to say our teacher is incredibly patient and committed. We will see.