After the smogginess of Santiago we were keen for some fresh sea breezes, so we headed to Viña del Mar, which is a few hours away on the coastline. We decided to stay put here for the final 2 months of our trip (with one final excursion to come before we fly home).
We were lucky to find a beautiful apartment 5 minutes away from the beach, with lovely sunset views each night. Nelly and Clementine started another pre-school, and as usual they flourished and thrived amongst their new friends. In fact, some weekends they actually complained that they'd rather be in school than hanging with us on the beach...
We occupied our time by starting work on some new side-projects, snoozing on the beach, and sampling the local restaurants a few times a week.
All in all, it was a fantastic spot to spend some time for the last stretch of our 12 month adventure.
We had originally intended to stay in Valparaíso with the kids, but were convinced to stay instead in nearby Viña del Mar, and commute over to see the sights on the local bus.
This turned out to be excellent advice as the city is definitely scenic and atmospheric, but also very hilly, a bit dodgy in places, and quite piss-smelling!
Instead we headed into Valpo a every few weeks to walk amongst the graffitied walls, and to have lunch in some excellent restaurants. Here are some of our favourite street scenes.
One of the first things we noticed about Santiago was the pollution.
Sitting at the base of the Andes, the smog of this capital city has nowhere to go - it just hangs around. So, although there were plenty of parks and green spaces to hang out in, we were reluctant to spend too much time in the haze of the city.
We ventured out of the city to get our outdoor fix and did a good hike at the foot of the Andes, where the air was thankfully much cleaner.
Now we've moved to the coast at Viña del Mar - but more on that next time...
A few months ago when we were in San Miguel de Allende we met Dave and Suzanne, who own an eco-resort in Bocas del Toro, a series of islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama. So we decided that we had to make a side-trip there while we were in the area.
We were definitely not disappointed! We spent the first week or so in the main Bocas town, which is a backpacker-friendly town which reminded us a lot of our time in Thailand. Then we headed up to the northern, quieter part of the island for a few days by beautiful Playa Estrella, or Starfish Beach, where there were indeed many starfish.
Finally we headed to Dave and Suzanne's amazing resort Casa Cayuco, which was definitely a highlight of our trip so far. We spent a week lazing by the beach, taking walks through the jungle, and looking for animals - we spotted sloths (or "lazy bears" in Spanish), caimans, sharks, stingrays, lobsters, octopuses, and many more creatures.
Nelly and Clementine loved playing with their friend Mina again, and we even got a chance to spend some time together snorkelling while the kids played. All in all, it was a great way to end our time in Central America.