Devils, Dogs and Drums
Trip Start Jun 06, 2011
51Trip End May 22, 2012
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Where I stayed
Hostal del Barrio
What I did
Got our coats out
LK: Taking the bus to San Jose airport, we struck up a conversation with a 71 year old Tico gentleman who had lived in the US for over 20 years. So we felt duty bound to help him when we got off the bus – he smacked himself in the mouth opening the luggage hold and wanted furious vengeance exacted on the bus driver. Instead we gave him our bottle of water and pulled his luggage along to the terminal.
KK: Never a good deed goes unpunished; such was our concern for the kindly gentlemen, victim of cruel misfortune (or silly sod depending on your outlook) that the last "is everything where it's supposed to be check" went unperformed. “Excuse me sir have you got scissors in your hand luggage” – of course I haven’t, have you any idea how many times I’ve...
LK: As we may have mentioned, the weather pattern is somewhat predictable in San Jose, so a 15:40 departure was always going to be pushing it as far as avoiding torrential downpours is concerned. We trundled along the runway in ridiculously heavy rain and came to a stop in thunder and lightning. They closed the airport. We looked out of the window. Then someone must have let the pilot know there was an airplane sized gap in the clouds and he didn’t hang about. We were off to Santiago, with a transit stop in Lima.
KK: We arrived in Lima nearly an hour late, assuming we would miss our connection. At this point LK noticed that the flight number was the same for the flight to Santiago as it had been to Lima. Sure enough we were marched through the airport, up escalators, down stairs and along corridors to join a lengthy queue for a security check before rushing to a departure lounge just in time to get on the same plane we had got off. Just in time mind, has anybody ever missed a flight they were actually on? The food was vile as well, beetroot and cucumber salad? But they redeemed themselves with regular wine and Iron Man 2
LK: We were in the unusual position of not being fussed if our plane did not arrive punctually in Santiago, as we had a gap to fill between a 2:25am arrival and the earliest bus departure to the city of 6:30am. We set foot on Chilean soil at 2:25 on the dot, and our luggage has never appeared so quickly on the carousel. A very helpful taxi driver, once he realised we weren’t giving him any business, directed us upstairs for a potential sleeping area. Like two Goldilocks with rucksacks we tried the floor (too hard), downstairs (too cold) before settling on the squeaky benches upstairs around 4am (just right).
KK: As Withnail says, “Here I am a trained actor, reduced to the status of a bum.” We woke at 6am decided it was too cold and dark for our liking and promptly went back to sleep. We caught a bus about 7am as the watery light from a half interested sun made the snow on The Andes glow like it was magic. We got on the underground, annoyed half the rush hour with our capacious luggage, nearly got stuck on a train as we struggled against the human tide that poured on at our stop, poured tea, coffee and a poorly cooked omelette into our bones and walked to our hostel. Another hostel. How grim. “Helloooo” beamed Christian, our host as we arrived. Not grim at all as it turned out.
LK: We went out to familiarise ourselves with the Bellavista area where we were based and I instantly fell in love with Santiago (despite the single digit temperature). It feels European in some aspects – spacious pavements meant for walking, quirky architecture – but clearly with a South American lust for life
KK: We had a kip in our lovely clean bed then went out. Bellavista is even better at night but as we arrived at the main street there was a massive roar. The little street bars that knock out cheap litres of beer to the swarms of folk who flock to them all seemed to be showing Barcelona v Real Madrid, Messi had scored for Barca in the 88th minute and Santiago had risen with one voice. We grabbed some cheap stodgy food, sloshed some beer over it and had another wander. We arrived back at our hostel convinced that Santiago rocks.
Thursday 18th August
LK: Happy Birthday Kriss. What would you like to do today?
KK: What are the chances of going to the place where they make my most favourite of wines?
LK: Why, let’s get on the metro and see
KK: Is that snow?
LK: Yes. Yes it is.
KK: But it’s August. By the time we got off the train it was battering down with rain, our taxi rushing us towards the 10.30 tour splashed through deep flooded streets. Then more snow – fortunately Christian had lent us his umbrella (ella ella) and the tour wasn’t until 11.30. Concha y Toro, as you may well know, make Casillero del Diablo wine. The tour involved looking at some rather feeble winter vines before they popped open a lovely Carmenere which happens to be my favourite favourite. So imagine my disgust when some people put unfinished glasses down before heading off on the next part of the tour. LK gave me a swift “don’t even think about it” look, which left the remains for a couple from New York who swiftly necked the lot. Swines!!
LK: We descended into the actual cellar of the devil. It was a legend initiated by the vineyard owner to stop peasants and poor smelly people stealing his wine that Senor Diablo himself looked after the select barrels in the cellar
KK: Marketing that has spread into areas we may not approve of. “Our biggest export market for Casillero del Diablo is England and we now sponsor Manchester United, we have people on the tour from England” – “And we don’t like Manchester United” we both blurted out instead of saying, “I think you might owe us a case of the good stuff for sustaining that market my good man.” They gave us all a glass of some 12 year old Cabernet Sauvignon before releasing us into the world’s greatest gift shop. I felt like Charlie Bucket.
LK: We shared a taxi back to the metro with Augustus Gloop and Veruca Salt (OK, they weren’t fictional characters, they were a very nice Israeli couple). We started planning for the next stage of our journey to find out we couldn’t order bus tickets online without a Chilean national ID number. Christian again came to the rescue and told us of a local outlet where we could buy tickets. Amazingly, I managed to get what we wanted, using Spanish, miming and lots of helpless grinning. The differences in prices meant that we would have to stay an extra day in Santiago – yay- before making the 24 hour journey to San Pedro de Atacama (can’t keep away from those deserts).
KK: We chose the restaurant for my birthday tea based entirely on perceived warmth. Which we got entirely wrong; the food was fine but it was freezing cold in there. We went back to the hostel and popped a couple of bottles of Casillero with Christian: he’s from Frankfurt, is hilarious and his English is so good that he can do a convincing Yorkshire accent. “There is a man in Belgium selling 54 horses, they can’t all be shit,” he said. And so began the business idea for Shit Horse Animal Farm. Imagine driving down the road and seeing the sign for such a place, you couldn’t not go in. “Come and see our shit horses.” Especially at Christmas when we plan to put rubbish antlers on all the shit horses so they can be unconvincing reindeer.
Friday 19 August
LK: Awaking to a dog dawn chorus, we enjoyed another luxurious breakfast of warm bread rolls, ham, cheese, guacamole, freshly picked oranges from the tree outside, yoghurt and chocolate biscuits. If you ever visit Santiago and are on a budget, I can’t recommend Hostal del Barrio highly enough. Anyway, we had to get out into the glorious sunshine so headed for the high ground for the most amazing views of the city. Santiago has a major problem with smog (it’s allegedly the second most polluted city in Latin America, behind Mexico City) but the snow and rain of the day before meant the Andes were sparkling for us.
KK: We climbed up to the crenulations atop Cerro Santa Lucia where you could either see for miles or not very far to the humming birds that darted around the flowers up there. Then we walked to the centre of the city where there have been protests and street fights with the police recently over education fees. A lot of the protesters dress up (like V from the comic and film “V” for example) and there is a carnival feel with drums and singing. The police also dress up and with the aid of Mad Max style vehicles, water cannon and tear gas try to spoil the fun. We met a couple from Canada who have been tear-gassed twice in the last week and they weren’t even involved.
LK: We had arranged to meet a complete stranger at 6pm, so went in search of food to put a layer down. God, I’m getting fat just thinking about it – we had chorillanas, which fitted into the template of traditional Chilean food = stodge. Two fried eggs, sausage and steak pieces presented on a bed of chips. I’m having a vegetable deficiency flashback to the US.
KK: The complete stranger was Julie. I got an email from her fella, Norman, months back recommending bars and areas in Santiago. Norman is a Newcastle fan but unfortunately for us he is back in the UK. So he sent Julie who is from Doncaster. We emailed her a picture of us so she knew who to look out for. If I tell you she considered printing out the picture and making it into a hat you will get some idea of how splendid she is. Her friends Toby and the Canadians Ryan and Claire joined us later. “Write your names down and something about yourself for our travel blog,” we insisted. Inspecting the details later they read; Ryan – second cousin of Andy Carroll; Claire – all round superstar; Toby – sceptical friend; Julie – I like baked beans. I’m afraid we might have had a drink too many and stopped up past our bed time – especially with sunderland v Newcastle kicking off at 7am the next day.
Saturday 20 August
KK: The alarm went off at 6.50. It was pitch black inside and outside. I listened for movement and heard none. I shut my eyes for a minute. It was suddenly 8.05. I stumbled downstairs to be met by Christian who flicked round the channels in search of pictures from Wearside. We found Arsenal v Liverpool so I had to “watch” the Newcastle game unfold via Twitter which was a nerve wracking experience, especially after Newcastle went 1-0 up. “5 minutes injury time” came up and I sat and watched as the seconds ticked past. LK came down, “Did we lose?” No we won, she did a little dance. “Would you like breakfast now?” said Christian. A good start to the day.
LK: We went out to a suburb in the south of the city that Christian told us had a flea market where people sell Second World War memorabilia/possessions (you’re going to have to join the dots). Sadly, KK was disappointed he didn’t come away with a U-boat captain’s hat, only some replacement scissors.
KK: Great restraint I showed; punk rock t-shirts, leather jackets, combat boots. We bought apricot juice and went to Parque Bernardo O’Higgins. Quite the hero Mr O’Higgins, he fought off the Daleks in 1815 or something. Given that it was snowing two days ago, lying in a parque in baking sunshine was quite delightful.
LK: We rounded off the day with some different, delicious stodge. Pastel de choclo is a maize based dish, traditionally filled with lumps of chicken, and accompanied with a tomato and onion salad. Our waiter made us order it three times so we could get the pronunciation right; KK made him pronounce spoon ridiculously at a later point in the evening.