Overseas Walks: A trail of two cities
If you are planning stopovers in Santiago or Lima, Jim Tully recommends these city trails for those who enjoy exploring a city on foot.
Santiago is a sprawling city of 5.5 million in a basin about 570 metres above sea-level, its eastern edge brushing the foothills of the Andes, which form a dramatic backdrop to Chile’s capital – at least on a smog-free day when snow-capped peaks loom large.
It’s one of my favourite cities and after six visits I thought I knew it well especially the leafy streets of Providencia, an upmarket commune popular with tourists and the diplomatic community for its cafes, restaurants, shops and cultural attractions.
Santiago’s immaculate, efficient and cheap metro has you in the CBD in a few minutes or, for the flat rate of about $1.20, you can go to the eastern end of the line and the highly regarded Los Dominicos artisans’ market with 200 stalls set in the peaceful grounds of a former monastery.
For serious walkers (and mountain bikers) San Carlos de Apoquinda National Park, just 6kms from Los Dominico station, offers excellent trails in the foothills of the Andes.
Our hotel was close to the Manuel Montt metro station. By coincidence, our two nights coincided with the visit of Pope Francis who was staying a little further up Avenida Providencia. As a result, this normally bustling avenue was fenced off and there was a heavy police presence. We saw El Papa three times being driven to and from the city and although not of his faith we felt the wave of excitement that washed over the crowds waiting for a glimpse of him.
We decided to explore Providencia by heading off in a new direction, about 300 metres up Avenida Manuel Montt to the Mapocho River, which begins in the Andes and splits Santiago in two. We set ourselves up for a days walking with breakfast at Coffee and Me, a great little café on Manuel Montt, where the barista, who lived in Melbourne for nine years, makes excellent coffee.
We turned right on to a walking track overlooking the river which at this point is usually a trickle in a canal, whose stone walls are a popular ‘canvas’ for street artists and political activists. Dozens of cyclists were taking advantage of the public holiday to mark the Pope’s visit by riding the cycleway between walkers and joggers and the tree-lined Avenida Andres Bello. Thanks to a group of cycling enthusiasts, who persuaded President Michelle Bachelet to support Mapocho Pedaleable, this path will be significantly upgraded and extended by December 2019.
As we walked on through Parque Uruguay with its well-equipped exercise station up ahead, with a backdrop of the Andes, was the towering 300-metre Costanera Centre, the tallest building and largest mall in South America and the second-tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. Opened in 2012, it absolutely dominates a city that has many skyscrapers despite its propensity for earthquakes.
After about 3kms we reached the centre, crossed the river and headed back towards Manuel Montt through Parque Republica de Ecuador and the wonderful Parque de las Esculturas, a sculpture park featuring the works of more than 30 renowned Chilean artists and an exhibition hall. The park was created in 1982 to restore an area of gardens badly damaged after one of the worst floods in Santiago’s history. It is a photographer’s delight.
We crossed the river to where we had started at Avenida Manuel Montt then walked about 3kms following the river to the central market through a series of parks – Avacion, Balmaceda and Forestal – enjoying the shade on a hot Santiago summer’s day.
Just past Parque Balmaceda at Plaza Baquedano, it is worth deviating across the river to Barrio Bellavista, which travel books usually label Santiago’s” bohemian quarter” with its restaurants, bars, clubs and boutiques. It’s a great place for handicrafts especially jewellery made from the distinctive blue lapis
Bellavista is at the foot of Cerro San Cristobal, which rises 300 metres above the city offering a stunning panorama. It’s about a 40-minute walk to the summit where there is a 22-metre high statue of the Virgin Mary, a chapel and amphitheatre used for masses. The summit is accessible by road or a funicular adjacent to the Chilean National Zoo.
If you continue through Parque Forestal past the National Museum of Fine Arts you reach the central market (Mercado Central). From here, it is a short walk to Santiago’s main square, the Plaza de Armas and Ahumada, the busy pedestrian thoroughfare in the city centre.
Turn left on to Augustine and after 500 metres you are at the entrance of Santa Lucia, the 70-metre remnant of a volcano where Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia announced the founding of Santiago in 1540 and established a fort. Now, it is a most attractive park with ornate buildings, stairways and
fountains. Santa Lucia metro station is on the red line and just four stops from Manuel Montt.
We did not divert to Bellavista or Santa Lucia on this walk as our main aim was to follow the Mapocho River from Providencia into the city centre. In our experience, it would be worth devoting half a day to Bellavista and Cerro San Cristobal and a couple of hours to Santa Lucia.
Unlike land-locked Santiago, Peru’s capital Lima is on the coast sprawling across the arid valleys of three rivers that flow into the Pacific. For many, this city of 9.7 million is a brief stopover before heading to Lake Titicaca, Cusco and Machu Picchu.
There is a desert-like feel to Lima, which has just 6mm of rain a year but its constantly high humidity sustains plant life. It also generates a constant grey haze from May to November, which locals call panza de burro – donkey’s belly. The weather in late December was perfect for walking.
There was no panza de burro when we arrived at our hotel in Miraflores, an upmarket district about 10kms south from the city centre, popular with tourists and noted for its parks and green spaces. We stayed, as many Kiwis have, at Hotel Tierra Viva on Calle Bolivar a short walk from the hub of Miraflores, Parque Kennedy. Another bonus of the location is across the street – True Caffé where they serve great coffee from breakfast until late.
Surrounded by shops and restaurants, Parque Kennedy was named after President John F Kennedy in thanks for the aid given to Peru during his presidency. It has become famous for the more than 100 stray cats that live there with the blessing of the Municipality of Miraflores.
You can buy handicrafts at a small market in the park but nearby on Avenida Petit Thours at the mercado indio dozens of artisans’ shops sell alpaca products, silver jewellery and Peruvian handicrafts.
We had tasty, fresh sandwiches at La Tiendecita Blanco, a Swiss café overlooking the manicured grass of the Miraflores Oval adjacent to Parque Kennedy and then joined Avenida Jose Pardo, which has a most pleasant walkway down its middle, so we could join the Malecon about 2kms away.
The Malecon is a superb 10km walkway along 70-metre high cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Down below are beaches popular with surfers
including Makaha and Waikiki, so named by Carlos Dogny, a Peruvian sugarcane heir who returned to Lima from Hawaii in 1942 with a surfboard. At the bottom of Jose Pardo, we crossed to Parque Grau, the northern Above left: The clifftop Miraflores walkway is the premier paragliding sport in Peru. Above right: Seventy-metre cliffs stand between the Pacific Ocean and the Miraflores walkway. starting point of the Malecon, which follows a series of parks to Parque Amendariz. Along the way, there are impressive sculptures, notably, at Parque Del Amor, Peruvian artist Victor Delfin’s powerful depiction of lovers in an embrace. The wall on the seaward side of the park features mosaics inspired by the Spanish architect/artist Antoni Gaudi in which quotes about love by Peruvian writers are embedded.
Parque del Libro is dominated by a seven-metre high, colourful totem, Silencio, by Jose Tola. When it was installed four years ago it provoked controversy with some locals calling it a monster that would frighten children.
More likely to get your adrenalin pumping is paragliding- year-round - from the clifftop at Parque Antonio Raimondi. For shoppers, it is hard to go past the Larcomar shopping complex on Parque Salazar.
After a most enjoyable walk, we found our way up Avenida Jose Larco to Calle Bolivar and a much-needed coffee at True Caffe.
Above left: The larger-than-life sculpture, The Kiss, is a feature of Parque del Amor on the Miraflores walkway in Lima. Above right: South America’s tallest building, the Costanera Centre, dominates the Santiago skyline.
A trail of two cities