Published on December 5th, 2011 |
by Daniel Boyle
Going up Cerro San Cristóbal on foot
I have been up to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal a couple of times. Having an enormous statue of Mary on top, it’s practically impossible to miss. The park surrounding it is also one of, if not the largest green space in town, so it’s nice for a walk, to say the least.
So anyway, the previous times I’ve been, come to think of it I’ve been up two times. The first go around was with Doug, we were both new in town, so of course you have to go and see the main tourist sights.
Here’s a picture of me the first time round. Over the course of this year, walking up hills has been something I have gotten right into. Living just near the pathways to Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura meant there was no effort in actually getting to the start of the walks, which I think is the biggest discouragement.
Actually, I had a bigger discouragement midway through the year- spraining my ankle on our first day in Nepal. Of course the main activity in Nepal is hiking, and we still did get a bit of walking done, but of course, it caused plenty of discomfort.
The second time was with the family. It was their first day in town, so there was no doubt they were struck down by jetlag, so we just took the furnicular up and back. When I went up with Doug, we had walked across town to get to Bellavista, then took the furnicular up, and walked back down to pop out in Providencia.
The best place to go to head up the hill is in Bellavista. This suburb is an interesting mix of students, tourists, actors and hopeful actors as well as your every day Chileans, many of them heading to this area for the eclectic mix I already mentioned. So most people, they are probably only in town for a few days, they will just get in the furnicular and head up, say a few Ave Marias and get back in the little train, to go on their merry way.
Today I decided to walk. It is something I have been meaning to do the whole time we have been here, but that part I mentioned before, living close by has put me off. I have started my internship not too far away, and finished earlier than expected today. You could say the hill was calling my name. It wasn’t really, that would have been creepy, it would be like the voice of the statue of Mary at the top of the hill.
I started my ascent and there were a reasonable amount of people on the road for a hot day when you catch a little train up the hill for about 1,000 pesos ($2). I wasn’t concerned with company though, I just wanted to walk up and see the view. The benefit of walking up against the furnicular is that you wind your way around the hill, so you look down to the other side of Santiago, rather than over the central areas of the city.
I was surprised to find some way up the hill, at the zona picnic, a number of asados in full swing. Why I should have been surprised I’m not too sure, it seems Chileans are suckers for a barbie, probably even more so than Australians, and that’s saying something. From there I went off road, onto the track that led towards the top. Once I reached the main area, rather than paying a visit to Mary, and saying a few rosaries, I took the road and headed back down the hill.
I’m sure many Chileans, being an extremely Catholic country have been making the journey up and back over the past month. This month is Mes de Maria- the month of Mary, which ends with a holiday (of course), this Thursday for the Immaculate Conception. I thought there were a lot of public holidays in Australia, but along with the BBQ, I think this may be something Chile does better too. Last month there was a holiday on a Tuesday. It was a celebration of All Saints Day. Of course no one would go to work on Monday, so that was declared a public holiday too. This holiday falls on Thursday, so many Chileans will consider Friday a holiday as well!
Anyhow, I decided to skip Mary for today. The idea of more uphill was not appealing to me, and the descent, which was quite easy when I went with Doug, sounded a whole lot more appealing. Of course I didn’t just take the same easy path I took the previous time. In some sort of mix of well established tracks and tracks more suitable for goats. There are two options in this situation, getting to the end with no worries, or staring over a cliff and feeling lost. Unfortunately the latter signed time to turn back. The most unfortunate part was that my view was over the big pool at the Sheraton, where of course people were probably drinking cocktails and having a nice time, not a worry in the world.
What I was really surprised to find though, was that there are people living in the bush. I’m not so sure they’re meant to be there, but they have little tin shacks and had their washing hanging out to dry. There were a few dogs in these areas too. Having had a dog try to attack me earlier in the morning, I was very suspicious of these dogs, but it must have been too hot for them to bother to stir.
It wasn’t too much longer and I popped out into open space. I’ve got to say that was a relief. When I found myself staring over the side of a cliff, I thought- I’m never going to get out of this hill. The normal way brings you out at Pedro de Valdivia, however I wasn’t quite that far, so I walked a couple of blocks over into the city, and found a bus stop to take me home.
I ended up getting a microbus back. I was amazed at all the old ladies on the bus, who of course you are expected to give your seat up for…every single one took their position on the outside of their two seats, so nobody would sit next to them. It was a pretty empty bus, which made this act seem to defeat the purpose, but I really felt like just going up to each one of them over the course of the 15 minute journey and saying “oh hey, can I sit here”.
I got home and Francisca really wanted to go and see New Order (more like Old Order…), they are playing here tonight, but considering that, particularly because I don’t have a job or any money, and also because I’m not that much of a fan.
To conclude though, Cerro San Cristóbal offers a great view of the city. Depending on the smog situation, which of course can be quite bad, you can see for a long way. The easiest way is to catch the furnicular, however walking up to the top will give you a bit of extra exercise and a variety of views over the city.