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Published: March 25th 2012
But first: written on the side of a local church: If you want to use the toilet follow the path, and then down the steps.
Saw a begger with elephantitis today. First time I have ever witnessed that desease so close. Put all my bullshit into perspective. Gave him my change, which is very unlike me. Egyptian kama perhaps?
So, have decided to spend the weekend in Santa Cruz. Have packed lightly and left passport at the house. My Spanish is coming along nicely thanks to Andy, but also his mum Victoria, who is very patient as I struggle along tripping over my tongue as I try to communicate with her. A most wonderful woman who runs the home and clearly has her hand gently on the tiller to support her husband Ivor and her children. Nothing seems to phase her, including the arrival of a gringo, whose pronounciation of Spanish sometimes has her in tears of laughter. Tu amable Victoria y muchos Gracias para tu tiempo.
She has given me a Spanish/English dictionary, as mine was in the stolen bag. From the state of the cover and the colour of the pages it was printed around the time Charles Darwin passed by here in 1834 on his way to the Islas de Los Galapogos.
For example:at the post office: would you have the goodness to register this letter for me. At the station: Porter! Porter!, and at the restaurant: Waiter, the bill of fare please and my favourite, please may I smoke?
It contains important day to day words like abjuration, concominant and splutter. Still, if the bus breaks down the later might be a useful word.
But for a dictionary, an important book in spelling and translation, co written by well quailified spanish lexicorgraphers, the second part is the translation of SPANSIH into English. South America baby.
So I am on the bus to Santa Cruz my bag by my feet, listening to some James Taylor on my MP3. Santa Cruz is town about 3hrs south of Santiago and in the heart if the wine producing region. There is a fiesta for wine, a vindemia
about 50 mins from there in a town called Curico. This is the Mapuche
word for agua negra
, or black water. It is a weekend event celebrating all things wine and from the information on the website should be a good way to experience a good old fashioned Chilean knees up. Lots of wine stamping by feet competitions, carnival queens and more importantly wine sampling. There is not a bed to be had in Curico itself so have found somewhere to stay nearby in Santa Cruz. Unlike me, normally just turn up, but with a popular event it was clear some forward planning was needed.
So, went on line and found, what would appear to be, the last remaining bed in Santa Cruz. The Weekend and Wine Hostel. Sounds delightful and just up my street. Images of spending the weekend in the sunshine and vineyards of Santa Cruz on the terraza con una vasa de vino tinto in my hand spring to mind. The address of this premises was 134 Oak Pass, which struck me as odd. Oak Pass seems a very English street name. Anyways, being now fluent in spansih
and enquiring about rooms thought I would call them. I cannot use any hostel booking sites as all my cards are blocked, and my new ones have not arrived in the Uk yet (thanks Halifax). So, calling them should be a breeze.
Tel: 12345678. Simple?
Now if you have been following my blog of my South American voyage, you will know what is coming next, but to complete the tale please allow me to continue.:
No connection. A taped voice tells me my number has not been recognised. Try again, same response. Check number on website against number I have I putted into phone. Seems fine. One last go. Nada, zip, doodah, nothing. Helpfully google maps puts the location of this hotel as Santa Cruz, California, even though the address next to it shows Santa Cruz , Chile.
Ah well, wait for Andy to return home and mull it over with him. Even with Victoria's patience in understanding my Spansih
I don't think she would have had any left in trying to explain what I was trying to achieve.
So, Andy returns home. Show him the website and number.
He tries from his phone. Same response. It then dawns on him that it is the local number and that an area code is required. Quick Internet check. Correcto. Website has not put area code in its information. So Try again. Same result..
Andy too has his doubts about 'oak pass'. We call directory enquiries. "Weekend and wine,134,Oak Pass, Santa Cruz." Simple? Just like in England, when phoning directory enquiries, you are put through to a call centre in India, in Chile you are put through to one in Peru.
"si si." says Andy " Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz, Chile. No NOT Santa Cruz California, Santa Cruz Chile. CHILE!"
He hangs up. Not listed.
Time to think like a South American.
Reach for the dictionary. Oak in Spansih
, sorry Spanish is 'roble'.
Study google maps of Santa Cruz Chile and there is a Roble off a main street, 21 de Mayo and there is a house number 134, which is remarkable as the street is only about 50 meters long.
So tap that in and up pops Hostel Puerto Lindo at that address. With number. Call it. Fax machine!!
Call peruvian directory enquiries with new information .
"Si si. Hostel Puerto Lindo, 134 Ruble Santa Cruz. No not Calafornia,! CHILE. "
I by now am pissing myself with laughter. If I ever do decide to return to work here then I will require the patience of a saint.
Suddenly it' s thumbs up, Andy reaches for a pen
Nothing like the one on the website. In fact every detail, even down to the google maps continent was wrong.
We call and they have a room.
So, I am on my way to Hostel Puerto Lindo 134 Ruble,Santa Cruz tel: 072 9876543 also known as Weekend and Wine, 134 Oak Pass, tel: 12345678. Knowing my luck I am on the bus to Santa Cruz California. Disco out.
So Santa Cruz. Lovely place. The sun is shining and it's warm. A very prosperous town. Not surprising really. The owner of most of it is wanted by the FBI for gun running or something. He had to spend all his money on something so has invested in the town on a luxury hotel, vineyards that bear the name of the town, and also a museum. Clever idea. never then be extradited with the people on your side.
Try and find hostel. Two minutes walk from the station. Simple? This is South America.
Maybe it's a shortage of cash, or the FBI's most wanted has pulled off all the street signs in case the Americans invade to attempt an extra-ordinary rendiditon, but not one #ing road sign.
I was standing by the bus station and touts were trying to sell me bus tickets to Santiago. They were becoming a pest. " I just #ing come from there so no! "
I need to find this hostel two minutes walk from bus station. I ask a man sat outside a pharmacia, on the corner of the street by a street kiosk. Every street corner in Chile has a pharmacia, sometimes one on each corner, sometimes one on all four. I am not exaggregating here, it is amazing. There are more pharmacies per capita than anywhere I have travelled. Maybe Chileans are a sick race of people. The Spanish word for corner is esquina. It should be pharmesquina.
So to the man I say, already prepared for what was to come but worth a go,
"Señor, una pegunta peude ser?" A question if I may?
"Donde es Calle Veinteuno Mayo? ".. Where is 21st of May street.
A blank look. Not a clue. Just a vacant stare. I had written down the address, in Spanish, and showed it to him in case my pronunciation was off. Big mistake. He stares at the page for about 10 seconds, scratches his chin, looks to the cloudless sky for inspiration, and then looks at me, "lo siento" .. Sorry. Not a #ing clue. Ask the kiosk lady who was now free from serving. " Si" and she waves here arms up and down the road. I was only stood in #ing Calle 21 de Mayo as was the #ing idiot sat next to me!
She could not help with the side street I needed. Almost tempted to take the touts up on their bus offer. Wandered around but with no street signs eventually gave in a rang the hostel. "hola. Mi llamo Dave. Tengo una reservado pero estoy perdido" The lady sounded charming but spoke no English and was talking so fast could not work out what she was saying. This was getting beyond a joke. Rang Andy to ring the hostel to find out directions. More touts came up to me trying to sell tickets to Santiago.
Phone rings. Andy. "Stay where you are Paulo is coming to find you." Great except I could end up with any old Paulo on on # ing bus to Santiago.
Seconds later Paulo arrives. Saved. Walk past the #ing idiot still sat outside chemist who just smiled at me I smile back. "Wanker!"
Settled into hostel and then checked out the museum. It is a great place and gives a real flavour of South America and Chile from prehistoric times, the Inca civilisation, the heroes who repelled the Spanish eventually to the present day including a whole building dedicated to the rescue of the 33 miners in 2010. A great place to wander around for a few hours.
Dropped into the hotel next door, The Hotel Santa Cruz, owned by America's most wanted, to treat myself to a glass of wine from a local vineyard, again owned by Don Corelone. This is the wine growing region afterall and the vineyard tours seem a little pricey to me. Grapes, buckets, machines. £30 por favor? No gracias. Hope to sample some tomorrow for half the price. The Hotel Santa Cruz: A palatial hotel and 5 star all the way. In fact if there were six stars then it would have been awarded it. Sat on the terrace with a glass of red wine in hand and started talking to a some Canadians who were on a wine tour. They all had proper cash as they had bid at auction for the trip to support the Canadian Olympic squad. From all over Canada some had jetted in on their own private plane. Lovely, well grounded folks though, as almost all Canadians are, who became even lovelier when I came to pay my bill. We said our farewells as they had supper prepared and I asked the waitress for my bill. One of the group had only gone and picked up my tab! Right result. As they had now left the terrace I wandered round to find them to see if it was a mistake but they had gone. So thanks, whoever you were.
I asked the waitress what it was I had been drinking. "Santa Cruz reserve." she replied. A cheeky little number, full bodied, fruity, lovely bouquet, easy on the pallet with taste of blackberries and a hint of passion fruit.
The wine didn't taste too bad either.
Lunch at nearby restaurant. Made my own coffee again. This is becoming a habit.
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