Trip Start Nov 16, 2007
40Trip End Aug 2008
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Leaving the cathedral and having negotiated my way through a crowd of 'chuggers', I have lunch just off the square. Nothing special, something I am beginning to get used to in Chile's restaurants. I continue wandering and soak up the atmosphere. Many people had warned me before of the Santiago's charms or lack thereof, but I think it is a pleasant enough place without being startling
After more exploring, I return to the hostel and chat away with two Irish guys at a BBQ. They were hoping the large tour group would be there, with its drinkers and girls, and soon enough there wish was answered. As the evening became louder and the hostel does an amazing trade in beer, I get talking to one of the staff members. Tania works part-time on the reception, but is mainly a video artist, studying at one of the local universities. We chat for a long time about films and life. By 3am everyone is heading off to bed. The bottles lie as evidence for the morning.
Not feeling in the best of health the following day and with the intention to go out to a club that night with Tania and some of the others, I have a lazy day resting. In the evening, we head out to the club at around midnight. The big tour group started drinking around midday and were now surrounded by an enormous arrangement of bottles. With the supply of beer gone, they were now drinking spirits and having a very good time. A group of us left for the club. Playing dance music and with a big, airy space, it was a great place to dasnce till 3am. I returned with two German girls and all seemed to be peaceful. Off to bed and sound asleep.
The next morning, everyone was woken by the noise of the large tour group leaving. Two enormous converted trucks pulled up outside and the shouted goodbyes lasted an hour or so. This was on a Sunday morning at 7am. I'm sure the locals must love the hostel. My Czech dormmate's mumbled swearing grew more aggresive as the noise continued. With the group finally pulling off, peace returns for a short while, until arguments begin between the older residents and those that remain from the previous night's revelling. Apparently, after we had returned the previous night, the large group had returned with a little less observance of the hostel quiet policy. Notes had been posted on doors and the hostel was giving out warnings. A day of open arguments, followed by snatched conversations swearing about the other side of the conflict. I kept out of it and watched the football, still recovering from stomach cramps.
Having survived the weekend of noise and alcohol fuelled arguing, I head to the bus station and the peace of the Central Valley. The run down the PanAmericana highway is rapid, reaching my target of Curico after a few hours. I find the hotel, a very quaint residencial with spotless rooms set off a central courtyard, and explore the small centre. Curico is a very pleasant, low rise town, with a large rocky outcrop providing beautiful views over the town and the surrounding country.
After a good night's sleep, I head towards the Miguel Torres winery. Part of an international family owned group started in Spain, it produces some of the best wines in Chile and is known as an innovator for its use of the latest techniques and equipment. A good tour of the winery, highlight being the vast wine cellar, is ended with tasting a delicious white and a very full bodied red
Catching the local bus is a fun experience acting like a hitch hiker standing on the motorway, with lorries thundering past. Safely onboard, I head to the next town of Molina, hoping to arrange activities for the next day. Molina is smaller than Curico, but very charming in its own way. The local tourist information office confirms my fears. The waterfall I hoped to see the next day, can only be reached by a bus that runs at 5pm and returns at 8:30 the next day. This forces you to stay two nights there if you want to see the falls. A bit of a scam if you ask me. I head back to Curico a little disappointed, but head out for a relaxed dinner.
Exploring the rest of Curico uses up the following day, including a shiny new mall that could have been torn out of any Midwest town. Evening meal at a converted butchers makes for an interesting change, and then off back up the PanAmericana to Santiago. Four more days in Santiago before the flight to New Zealand. Four more days to get some sights seen and some of the mundane things done.
The first day back was for the mundane. Laundry, money changing and a very good walk through town filled the afternoon after returning from Curico
Just north of the central business district is the barrio of Bellavista. It lies on the other side of Santiago river, a canalised flow coloured brown with the melting waters of the Andes. As you pass over the Puerto Nono onto the Bellavista high street (Pio Nono), the atmosphere changes quickly, a far more laid back approach to life. While having lunch, some element of the craziness seeps back in with four cars having a coming together. Debris cleared (both food and cars), I head up to the base of a large hill called Cerro San Cristobal. A funicular similar to those in Valparaiso ferries people up to top of this fantastic vantage point, stopping halfway up to let people off for the zoo. Once at the top, all of Santiago is spread out below and the Andes beyond with their veil of smog. A short, steep walk to the very top leads to the massive statue of the Virgen. 36 tonnes of whitewashed statue looks down on Santiago, with a chapel and an open air altarpiece for those making the pilgrimage.
Back down the funicular and back through the streets of Bellavista.
One last day before I go, and with Chilean money running low and little else to do, laundry is the order of the day. Watching football, I get chatting to an Australian called Dennis. He is travelling on to Mendoza with two Canadian girls, Chelsea and Michelle. We chat about our travels and then in the evening, we agree to go to a club with Tania, the hostel worker, and some of her friends. Setting off at midnight, we trapse along to a club called Blondie. It is a huge place, spread through a converted warehouse. In the main hall, huge plasma screens show videos from the songs being played, a mix of The Smiths, Franz Ferdinand, Blur and mony others. After an hour, everyone turned to the stage and the highlight act began. According to Tania, they are one of the big bands in Chile. They bounce away for an hour or so and then the evening continues. With the others heading off for an early bus, I decide to call it a night around 4am. A little wobble back to the hostel and asleep as soon as the head hits the pillow. Off to the airport the next day and then New Zealand.