First Day In Santiago

11 01 2007

Armed with my Rough Guide to Chile (it´s not actually rough… just the name of the series) and 5 hours to kill, I decided to explore the city a bit.

Fortunately, I was given some pointers by the hostel´s staff, so at least I had a vague idea where to go. I got on the metro (call it subway, for god´s sakes!) and went to a little place called Santa Lucia. Supposedly, they had a hill there from which you could see a really good cityscape. Well, I wasn´t going to pass up that kind of opportunity.

I got off a few stops later and decided to sit in the park and think about my next course of action. Minutes later I got approached by a guy and a girl that started inviting me to a free poetry reading. Being from New York and knowing that there is no such thing as ¨free¨, I obviously got a little bit suspicious. They started to give me a whole big shpiel about being college students here and rasing money for their tuition. When they saw that I was reading a guide book, they went on to recommend the best places to eat, the best places to see, this and that.

I quicky got rid of them and began to climb the hill. At the top, there was a pretty nice cityscape with a few mountains in the background, but nothing particularly spectacular.

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I came down and continued my journey. Santiago, in general, is not really considered to be a GREAT destination. Most people use it as a launching pad for venturing out into the North or South Chile (we´re going South). I didn´t feel like spending too much time reading the guidebook, but I managed to venture in a nice old-town district.

It had a couple of nice outdoor cafes, so I decided to try the famous food and sat down in one. When the waitress came out, I realized a serious dillemma. I did not speak or understand Spanish and definitely didn´t speak or understand English. I tried to show her what I wanted to order in hand gestures, but that didn´t work too well. I wound up with a very weird looking green soup and pretty good chicken.

Anyways, after that I spent a few more hours walking around, eating the best ice cream in the universe (in your face, Haagen Daaz) and then went to the hotel where our meeting was supposed to take place.

I came 30 minutes early, so naturally nobody else was there. I saw in the comfortable couch and finally got to relax. The day was a bit overwhelming, plus sleeping on their airplane usually doesn´t provide you with the best kind of rest.

Slowly, people started to pull up, but it wasn´t until about 7pm that everybody finally got there. To my great surprise, Alex didn´t show up. I figured that he was just a bit late and will come around.

Our driver, Dan, started off the meeting by letting us know that our tour guide suddenly became sick a few days ago and was flwon to UK for hospitalization. Kumuka has managed to find another guide, Kerry, to fill in for the missing one, but she will only be able to join us in 5-6 days as she is currently on another tour in Europe.

This is a bit surprising. Especially since the driver is doing this route for the first time and hasn´t been past our 4th day destination. Looks like it´ll be an adventure for him as well (Mom – don´t worry).

He continued by introducing us to WAMM – our truck. In case, you are wondering, WAMM stand for ¨Wheels Also Make Mistakes¨. He gave us a few ground rules, such asÑ

– WAMM is a truck, not a car, bus or a van. Any insulting references to her status will be punished with severe beer fines.

– The fridge is for crew alcohol, soft drinks and medicine. Healthy stuff or organic matter will not be tolerated.

– No firearms, pornographic material or mind altering drugs are allowed (unless purchased from the crew, of course)

– Beer is good for you. It´s not just for breakfast.

– We are not tourists. We are tough, rugged overlanders. Use of the following items is forbidden – hair dryers, fluffy touys, cell phones and pop music.

There were a few others, but these cover the overall gist of it. He also gave us an outline for the next 5 days.

Tomorrow, we have another day in Santiago. Then, we´re leaving at 4.30am on a Saturday morning for a 15 hour drive to Pucon where we´ll be camping out for 3 nights. Over there, we will get to climb an active volcano, go hydro speeding (not sure what it is, but it sounds good), and a few other things.

All in all, it sounds like a pretty good agenda.

After the meeting, we went out with a group to an Italian place for dinner where we got to introduce each other a little more. It´s a pretty cool group of people. Most of them have traveled everywhere – ranging from Vietnam and Cambodia to a few people that just came back from Africa.

After dinner, I hailed a taxi back to the hostel where I found out that Alex never actually checked in. I suspect that he missed his flight in Peru, so tomorrow I will call up the airlines to find out where he is and when he´s coming. Fortunately, we got another day in Santiago before we´re leaving, so he´ll be able to catch up.

I´ll keep everybody posted on the updates.


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