Friday, April 11, 2008

Ciao, Santiago

When I went to bed last night, I left the curtain open slightly so that the morning light would act as my alarm clock—I don't currently own one. At about 8:15, I got up, showered, figured out where the closest FedEx office was, gathered a few things together that I wanted to send home, hopped on the subway, and arrived just a few minutes before they opened at 9:00.

About 12,000 photos—probably around 150GB—are headed to Tacoma on a FedEx airplane. They are my only copy of those photos. I hope they make it.

After returning to the hostel, I packed my backpack, had the hostel call a cab, and had a parting chat with Craig from Newport Beach, CA. He was in the real estate financing business before quitting his job to travel in Latin America. He may change states and jobs after completing his travels. He has ideas for a new career and for his travels, but he's largely winging it. He mentioned floating A scupture in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, Chile down the Amazon with me, which would be great. We'll see. He has to head back to the states first for the Indy 500, however. That date is dictating when he leaves Latin America. He hasn't missed it in about 30 years and has also gotten several friends hooked.

The cab arrived minutes later and whisked me away to the bus terminal. I made it with about ten minutes to spare. We're heading to Temuco, at which we'll arrive some twelve hours later. After arriving in Temuco, I'll hop another bus to Pucón, where I'll spend a couple nights. That's the idea, anyway. I woke up to inclement weather and it's raining right now, so I might head out after just one night. I want to be in Puerto Montt by Sunday evening. I have to be down at the water by 10:00 A.M. Monday morning to board the cargo ship which will sail during the following four days to Puerto Natales.

After I found my seat on the bus, a woman sat next to me—María. She's several years older than I am and is headed to Temuco. This will be the farthest south she's ever gone. As it turned out, I sat in the wrong seat, but the bus isn't full, so I just stayed there, chatting with María.

After a couple hours, we pulled into a bus stop to pick up more passengers. I hopped off to get some food. I ordered a churriso and fries and ended up with two Cokes. I wanted a bottle of Coke, but the meal came with a can, and apparently there's no way to just get the churriso, fries, and a bottle of Coke, so I ended up with both Cokes. I looked out the window of the small restaurant at the bus and saw people shuffling back onboard. Not wanting to be left behind, I Some kids messing around in the park grabbed my two Cokes, headed out and got on the bus. I was planning to drop the two Cokes in my seat, then tell the bus driver that I need to grab my food. He began to pull out and I told him that I'm waiting on some food. Apparently, we're on a critical time schedule, being in Latin America and all, so he just kept pulling out.

I walked back to "my seat" to find that it's been occupied by another passenger, so I sat in my real seat, next to a guy who was sleeping—and taking up half my seat in the process. If he gets up to go the bathroom or adjust his body position, the armrest is coming down.

Before closing this post, let me just give an update on the last couple hostels I've stayed in.

In Buenos Aires, Avenue Hostel was a mixed bag. The people who worked there were nice, but the place left something to be desired. The private restrooms were okay, except for the showers being tiny. I had to shower with the shower curtain open to avoid having it stick to my body. There was no room to move around until I opened the curtain. This worked out okay, since the whole bathroom was tiled and there was a drain in the middle of the floor. Everything got wet, but no big deal. The public restrooms were a disgusting mess. I won't elaborate. The mattresses were terrible. There was also a lot of noise. For A scooter squeezing between the tour bus and a car several of the nights I stayed there, there were loud, obnoxious people in the room next to mine. Also, there is a large central courtyard which spans the height of the entire building—about five floors. All the rooms are around the perimeter of this central area. There are three TVs on the bottom floor in the courtyard. They are on until late into the morning and you can hear them loud and clear in most rooms. If you're going to stay at Avenue Hostel, you need earplugs. Or, if you are traveling just to party in other parts of the world, you might not get home until 3:00 in the morning, in which case things might begin to quiet down just when you are going to bed. WiFi was sketchy. There was a period of several days in the middle of my stay there where it didn't work. The location is excellent.

Artwork on a concrete wall in a park As far as Hostal Forestal in Santiago, the situation was better, but certainly not perfect. WiFi worked perfectly and the beds were fine. There was noise a few nights, but my earplugs did the trick. The staff was great. The downstairs toilet wouldn't flush, for all practical purposes. The water temperature in the shower was nearly impossible to keep consistent. The private room was tiny. Overall, a pretty good experience.

As we head south to parts colder, windier, and remoterer, I await clear skies and churriso and fries. I know there will be challenges ahead, but the last couple days have been slightly annoying. Wish me calm seas.

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It's a couple hours later now. The skies are clear and I have made peace with my seat mate. He woke up, lowered the armrest, and sat up. I offered him some cookies. I'm splitting my eyes between Casino Royale on the TV in the bus and watching the beautiful scenery go by, as I listen to my new favorite group, El Cuarteto de Nos, an alternative rock band from Uruguay. Don't bother with the album Cortamambo. Just go straight for Raro. It's excellent.

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One last update for the day. It's 9:00 P.M. and I'm sitting in my bed in a small motel in the downtown area of Temuco. A taxi driver met me at the door of the bus and we had a chat. I said I wanted to go to a hostel—someplace cheap. He said "Twenty thousand pesos?" I said "No. Ten thousand." Well, he brought me to this motel. Ten thousand pesos on the nose. That's right around $22. About my speed. Very quiet, a big private room, TV, WiFi, and a nice bathroom. Now that's the ticket.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I noticed the guy on the scooter folded the mirror to "squeeze" by the car and the wall. Don't think I would try that though. Nice shot.

Mike

Jay said...

Yeah, most bikes in Latin America are 250ccs or smaller. You see hardly any bikes like in the States. The other day, I saw what I think was a 900RR, but that's very rare. You'd have a tough time of it down here with your ST1100 or whatever your current bike is. You'd probably want to downgrade to a 650, or something. :)

Speaking of bikes, there were far fewer in Santiago than in Buenos Aires or Rio. Not too many here in Temuco, either.

Anonymous said...

Actually you don't want to be wished "calm seas" - as per Ludwig van B., calm seas mean that your (sailing) ship isn't going anywhere and you're liable to experience a bit of cabin fever waiting for the wind to come back again.

You know, "I've got cabin fever, it's burning in my brain; I've got cabin fever, it's driving me insane" as per the Muppets. So instead, I'll wish you...

Buena Suerte,

Eduard