A FEW PRACTICAL INFORMATIONS
(Chile - Talca - Mai 2008)
Located 240 km south of Santiago, Talca is the centre of the most important wine area of Chile.
The Altos de Lircay Natural Park lies about 60 km East of Talca.
Basic information :
- Lonely Planet "Chili et Ile de Pâques" - 2006
We went from Paris to Madrid to Santiago with the same airline (Iberia/LAN Chile), in order to change planes only once and to minimize the risks of losing our luggage. The Madrid-Santiago flight is a bit tiring, as it lasts almost 14 hours... In Madrid, the transfer is through the new terminal 4. No problem during the flight and on arrival : our luggage was on the plane, which was right on time.
Hotels in Santiago :
- when we arrived (two nights) : the Happy House Hostel. Very friendly, in a very nice environment. However, the windows of our room opened on the street, which was rather noisy on Saturday night... ( $72 for a double with bath, including buffet breakfast. Very friendly and very clean. Perfect). In Santiago, many shops selling artisanate (Pueblito Los Dominicos et Centro Artisanal Santa Lucia). Excellent quality of the products, at reasonable prices.
- when we left (one night) : the Bellavista Hostel, which belongs to the same owners as the Happy House : same friendliness, similar environment. $94 for a double with bath, including buffet breafast.
Hotel in Talca : Casa Chueca (see above, page 4). $72 for a double with bath, including breakfast. Meals are served in the evening : excellent, but strictly vegetarian. The problem is, if you want to have dinner in town, you need a car (or a taxi)... The owner, Franz Schubert, used to be a guide in South America before investing in the hotel in Talca : he knows perfectly the area (he even wrote a guidebook for mountaineering and trekking in the Andes). The Lamalodge belongs to the Casa Chueca.
Trekker, an affiliate of Casa Chueca (and located on the same site, a few km from the town of Talca) rents campers, and could also rent a small 4WD (which we used for a few days).
Public transport : Buses are said to be of an excellent standard, at reasonable prices, but we took the train to go from Santiago to Talca. The train was of a standard quite similar to that of the French trains (not the TGV), except that the controller helped us load our luggage... Reasonable price : $25 per person, 1st class (class "preferente") for 240 km in 2h 40'.
The Santiago metro is much more modern than Paris' metro... but there are only few lines.
Restaurants : excellent, at european prices (almost...). Of course, the meat is superb, as well as the fishes. And the wine also is excellent... One should absolutely taste the "pisco sour", a delicious grape alcool and lime cocktail.
Agencie for trekking/mountaineering : being aware of the references of the Casa Chueca, we used their services. Perfect.
Whenever possible, we try to trek with a local guide and a pack animal : on one hand, we do not care much carrying the heavy packs which are required for a multi-day trek, and on the other hand, the trek is a good opportunity to get to know the Chileans. But this trek could perfectly be made without a guide : the path is clearly indicated, and maps (simple but sufficient) are available from the Park wardens. Note that camping is prohibited near the Laguna del Alto, unless you are with a local guide.
Cost of the trek :
$27 per day for the guide, and $22 for the pack horse. Knowing that we could rent a tent, sleeping bags and matresses from the Casa Chueca, we did not take ours along : $11 per day for the tent, and $8 for the sleeping bag and mat. The tent was perfect, but the sleeping bags were much too light : even completely dressed, we were quite cold, at night, by the Laguna.
Of course, the guide expects a small gratuity.
- The costs of the services is somewhat inferior to the costs in Europe, but not that much... The quality of those services is comparable to the quality of the services we have in Europe.
- The actual costs were sensibly higher than the prices quoted in the guidebook : inflation ? cheap dollar ?
- Some expenses (Casa Chueca, for instance) may be reduced by deduction of the Value Added Tax (approx. 20%) when we pay the bill using US dollars. Not knowing that, we did not take advantage of that reduction, except in the Casa Chueca.
- Paper US dollars are fairly often accepted (not always). As elsewhere in South America, the bills have to be absolutely new...
- In Santiago and in Talca, we had no problem to find ATM's (in chilean pesos). Of course, your bank will charge a commission.
We loved the contacts we had with the Chileans : they are very straight and friendly. We were never pestered by aggressive merchants, and we always felt quite secure.