From Sao Paolo to Santiago (the long way)


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South America » Chile » Santiago Region » Santiago
March 27th 2012
Published: March 27th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

When we were in Ilha Grande we met a couple that said the first two weeks of travelling goes really slowly as you adjust to it and then after that it flies by. At this point we were nearly two weeks in and time was sauntering along at a nice leisurely pace. Then it broke into a power walk, then a jog and before I knew it we’re six weeks in and have travelled from Brazil, to Argentina, to Chile. Oh time. Why do you have that annoying habit of flying by when fun is being had?

The end of Sao Paolo and Iguaçu Falls

So I left you in Sao Paolo just before we took part in the messiest night out we’ve had here. It was an organized bar/ club crawl with unlimited beer and pizza in the first hour and a shot at every bar. It’s a little hazy.

From there we took a night bus to Foz de Iguaçu to see Iguaçu Falls. We chose to see the Argentinean side, which is known to be better. After some confusion with visas (we accidentally illegally entered Argentina without one), we were in Argentina for the first time. The falls were incredible. When you first turn the corner all you see is a massive hole with smooth water throttling down into nothingness. Then you turn the corner again and there it is, a roaring avalanche surrounding you. It literally takes your breath away.

Rosario

After Iguaçu falls Stu and Nicole separated from the group to go to markets and floodings in Paraguay. The rest of us headed to Rosario, a town four hours north of Buenos Aires. The coach journey was really something. It was to be 21 hours starting at 9pm. While we were waiting for the coach to arrive we made friends with one of the managers. Because the coach was quite empty he bumped us up from economy to premier class. It was luxury! The chairs were more comfortable than any chair I’ve ever sat in. You sink into them like a dream. We were treated like royalty: hot meals, drinks, blankets, pillows. I pushed back my chair and fell into a contented slumber…

We were rudely awoken at 2am by a very angry Argentinean. We were at the first stop and there was a queue of people waiting to get on the coach. People meant for our seats. The Argentinean coach attendant (who unfortunately didn’t speak any English) asked to see our tickets. Obviously they weren’t the correct tickets. It looked like we were being cheeky and our lack of Spanish prevented us from denying this. Our food, blankets and pillows were snatched from us and we were made to do the walk of shame up to economy class. It was pretty humiliating. The last 16 hours were spent in average seats with cold meals and no blankets to protect us from the broken air conditioning permanently on full. We had tasted the high life and come crashing back down to the life of the ordinary backpacker.

Our Rosario experience was made what it was by a man named Juan and his quirky hostel. Juan is one of those loveable eccentric guys you don’t forget in a hurry. He acts permanently drunk and has a way of making whole expressions through his eyes alone. When we first arrived Caz and I noticed a random water tap on the ceiling. Caz asked Juan what it is for. He said “Wherever there is a hole, I put a tap”. There are taps dotted around the hostel.

We were joined in the hostel by Clive, a guy we first met in Paratay and keep bumping into. I think he’s stalking us. I don’t blame him. The six of us spent the first day exploring the city. Then we got taxis to the beaches on the opposite side of town. Mine and Saskia’s driver dropped us off at a completely different place to the others’. After searching for them for a while, we gave up and went to a beach bar for cocktails. We met a group of Argentineans and spent the afternoon trying to communicated in Spanish. Saskia kept going into Italian, which is kind of similar. I kept going into Chichewa, which is not at all.

That night all the staff and guests had some drinks and a bbq on the roof of our hostel before going to a club. I met a Columbian pilot who was temporarily stopping off in Rosario. He offered to take me for a ride in his (two-man) plane early the next day. Neither of us got up early. Maybe next time.

It was also in Rosario that we had our first taste of Argentinean steak. Mine was in a creamy mushroom sauce with mash. By far the best steak I’ve ever had. We loved it so much we went back twice more, bringing others. We gave them good business.

Tigre

After Rosario James, Caz and Soph went to Uruguay to join Stu and Nicole. Saskia and I decided to be more independent and go off on our own for a bit. Our destination of choice was Tigre, a suburb of Buenos Aires, described online as a massive party town at weekends. As we were arriving on Saturday night we had high expectations. We napped on the coach on the way there in preparation for our big night out. We arrived in a town completely tailored to families and young children. Not a bar in sight.

When we first arrived at the station we had no idea where our hostel would be, so decided to get a taxi. Our taxi driver was a jolly fellow with an English mother and French father. He happily chattered away in Spanish in the 10 minute drive to the hostel, while we pretended to understand and (hopefully) laughed at the right places. It was only once we had paid, said goodbye, dumped our stuff and headed into town that we realized the hostel is a two-minute walk from the station! Our friend the taxi driver had clearly been driving around pointlessly to get more money out of us. The cheek!

Tigre is a beautiful little town with a river running through it. Dotted around are various cafés and restaurants. The wealthy own charming little houses next to the river. If it wasn’t for the palm trees and beautiful weather I’d have thought we were in Richmond. Also, the fact that not a single person spoke English. Saskia and I found ourselves lost in translation for the entire weekend. It improved our Spanish. We explored the markets, took a boat down the river and had the most amazing tuna salad. Nice and relaxing.

Buenos Aires

We decided to spend the next couple of days getting to know Buenos Aires from a different hostel before the others were to join us. We met a lovely couple called Jess and Edd (Edd is from Richmond!) and hung out with them and their friends both nights. The first night was the messier of the two. We played a destructive card game where the loser of each round had to buy himself and the winner a shot of tequila. By the time we left for the club we were all losers.

When we met the others at another hostel on Wednesday we were ashamed to admit that we could give them no insight into the city from our early arrival. The only time we had left our hostel was to go to the supermarket or clubs. We made sure the next week was spent exploring the city in the day, no matter how big the hangover. And what a city it is! It feels like a hundred different cities in one. The area surrounding our hostel was made up of pretty cobbled streets, independent cafés and marketplaces. Walk for about 10 minutes and you’re on a huge dual carriageway with large office buildings, restaurants and chain supermarkets. Further out are shopping malls and bars and clubs. The parliamentary building (which is a beautiful shade of pink – there are many theories as to why, but the mystery has never been solved) is opposite a park with a fountain and statue. Surrounding the park are other beautiful buildings such as a cathedral. And then you turn the corner to a Mcdonalds and a Starbucks.

Further away from the center are some lovely art galleries and museums (I’ve become fascinated with Eva Peron, otherwise known as Evita), La Boca (known as the rough area of town, but very touristy in parts) and some beautiful parks and lakes. It was on the way to see some of the latter that I had my worst experience yet.

I was with Saskia, Nicole, Soph and Caz. It was late afternoon and I was pretty tired as we’d already done a fair bit of exploring and eaten a huge meal at a Mexican place. We were walking between two different Metros. There were four people doing the same transition. One of the women kept treading on my foot. I found it annoying but figured she wasn’t very good with spatial awareness. I’m not very good with spatial awareness. I could sympathise. We were on the platform chatting about what stop we were going to get off at. I gave Nicole a head massage. The metro arrived. As I was getting on, a man tapped me on the shoulder. I turned briefly to look at him. I was on the metro. The doors closed. My bag was open. My camera was gone. The metro started moving. It dawned on me what had happened. Foot-treading woman was next to me. I knew she was the thief. I accused her. She looked down and didn’t say anything. I got angrier. The others realised what had happened. We all started shouting at the four, who were clearly working together. The shoulder-tapping man acted dumb, even though Nicole was shouting in Spanish. No-one else helped. They got off at the next stop. I was still in shock. Bye bye camera. Bye bye 500 photos.

When I told other Argentineans what had happened they were shocked that no-one else on the train had intervened. I guess I was just really unlucky. Apart from the leering men, Argentineans have been generally really friendly and helpful. And so much fun! One night we went to a club that had live sca music in one room and topless men break dancing in the other. We spent most of the night tango dancing with random Argentinean men. A bizarre experience but very entertaining. Yet the best night had to be when we went to a drum show. Fifteen different drums plying with a conductor at the front and some occasional guitar and trumpet. In the audience we danced and clapped to the rhythms. It was sensational!

And suddenly it was time to leave Buenos Aires. It was the hardest place to say goodbye to yet. Love the city. Love the people. I’m definitely going to try and go back there sometime. It was also sad because it marked the end of us travelling as a seven. Saskia, Nicole and I headed to Mendoza, while everyone else headed South. We’ll travel with James and Stu again at the end of April, but after a brief reunion at a festival this weekend we won’t see Soph and Caz again. Very upsetting.

Mendoza

After all the goodbyes the journey to Mendoza was quiet, depressing. We were cheered up once we got there though by an Irish guy and a whole lot of wine. We hired bikes and used a map given to us by the lovely Mr Hugo to navigate ourselves round the different wineries. The vineyards and the mountains in the distance made the scenery amazing. At each winery we tasted the wine. Some of the best wine I’ve ever had. We ate lunch at a pleasant family-owned restaurant. I had a salad with a tasty wine vinegar. That night we continued the drinking at an all-you-can-eat bbq. Lethally there was half an hour of free tequila. They poured it into our mouths. I ended the night breaking the one promise I had made to myself. I had a McDonalds. Yes, I know. I went to Argentina and had a McDonalds.

The next day, as I suffered from possibly the worst hangover I’ve ever had, I figured I’d already broken that promise so may as well do it again. Nicole, Saskia and I headed there. And the most amazing thing happened. They accidentally gave us our order TWICE! In my hungover state I felt like this was the best thing to ever happen to me. It was only an hour later, when my tummy started to feel like there was someone ruffling around it with a knife, that I realised that in the last 12 hours I’d had as much bbq meat as I could eat and three Big Macs. Sorry tummy. No more McDonalds.

Santiago

Next stop: Santiago. As we took the coach through the picturesque roads towards it I began to feel nervous. This is the place we’ll be spending the next month. What if I hated it? I needn’t have worried.

The hostel is probably the cleanest and most comfortable hostel we’ve stayed in. We get a room all to ourselves on the top floor, with three single beds rather than bunk beds. Our room overlooks a view of a mini mountain, on top of which stands a much smaller version of the Christ statue we saw in Rio. It was so good to unpack our things knowing it’ll be a while before we need to pack them up again. It was also a luxury to be able to go to the supermarket and do a proper shop. I bought balsamic vinegar!

During the first evening, when me and Nicole were cooking, I was overcome by a sudden headrush. “That’s so weird” said Nicole, “I just had one too!” Then we realized that we had experienced our first earthquake! A very small earthquake. But exciting nevertheless.

Yesterday was Saskia and Nicole’s first day at their journalism internship. I have a Spanish school booked from next week, but until then I’m on my own during the day. Considering it was my first day, I decided to go on a walking tour. So I packed my water, got out my map, and off I trotted. On my own for the first time. Independent. That’s me! It was only when I got to the meeting point that I realized I was an hour late. (There had been confusion over whether clocks would change. I thought they had. Apparently the Chilean President cancelled it.) I returned shamefaced.

Fortunately, there was another tour later that day. I made it to that one. It was really interesting. Chile has some fascinating, and at times quite violet history. And the city is really beautiful in parts and full of life. On the tour I met an Austrian girl called Kirsten who lived in Richmond for three years! This seems so keep happening. We agreed to meet up this week. So yay, I’m no longer alone!

And that’s pretty much everything that’s happened. As far as Santiago is concerned, so far so good. I think I’m going to like it here.

Hasta luego amigos!

Clare xxx

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