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Published: April 2nd 2007
Bowling!Struttin across Chile!
Terrorizing the Lanez!!
Robyn and Aaron
First of all, if you missed the previous blog about Bariloche (I realize that it might have been confusing, since that entry actually came "before" the update one, but I published it afterwards...), just scroll down and check it out! It's a long one, but you can cheat and just look at the pictures if you want to.
Just because I'm "recovering" at home doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing about the adventures we've had! There's a lot to catch up on!
Now, we're on to Chile.
After finally packing up all our stuff and saying our goodbyes to the Hartwells, Aaron and I set to go across the border into a new country. However, our plans were sorely stifled once we reached the bus station. Apparently, the web site had given us the wrong information about what time the buses left--BIG surprise. South American websites are about as reliable as an American jalopy that's missed its smogcheck a few too many times. So, we headed back to home sweet home, and told Michelle that we missed her family too much to leave; that we hoped to live with them the remainder of our time in
The Northern Lake District
We've finally arrived...something to do while our bags are being rifled through.
South America. Of course she got the joke right away (thank goodness, otherwise they might have kicked us out on the street), and they were just as welcoming as before to let us stay one more night.
In return for housing and sometimes feeding us for almost 2 weeks, Aaron and I offered to look after Ellie and Paige for a night. We tried to see a movie in town, but we were too late for all the movies fit for kids. Instead, we took a walk around the mall in downtown Bariloche and came across a bowling alley (after eating some contraband ice cream, of course). We did as well at bowling as we could, but Paige showed us all up by getting the only strike of the game. It's...humbling to be beaten by a nine year old. Aaron somehow controlled the girls running up and down the streets by playing red light green light as we walked to get dinner. It was a great last night to spend in Bariloche, entertaining the girls as much as they entertained us.
Waking up early in the morning the next day, we bid our sleeping friends goodbye and made
Robyn fraternizing with the "other side"--the drug dog.
it to the bus station, and as fortune would have it, we made it on the first bus that was late for us
, instead of the other way around. The bus ride was generally uneventful, except for the panoramic views of Peyhue national park on either side of us, and the fond nostalgia we felt as we watched hours of American music videos from the 80s and 90s that were patched together by a sloppy DJ who tried unsuccessfully to match the same drumbeats to every single song. It was impossible to sleep on that bus.
We also had the distinct pleasure of going through the Chilean border. We were worried about paying the notorious $100 entrance fee that we heard about from fellow travelers who spoke with disdain, but apparently that is only if you fly into Chile. I guess the government assumes that if you take a bus into Chile you won't have the hundred dollars to pay anyway. Nevertheless, we had to go through two checkpoints and wait our turn to have our passports graced with the colorful stamp from Chile. Aaron on Chilean customs and border control
: As we painstakingly crept forward in line
...or, when Chile gets a German transplant.
at the border control, Robyn and I discovered a bright spot to take our minds off of what was otherwise a very tedious ordeal: we found quite delight observing one of the uber-serious stone-faced border guards slip behind the back of the building with the drug dog, a beautiful golden retriever resembling much more of a "manÂ´s-best-friend-kind-of-dog" than a "man-I-hope-that-chain-doesnÂ´t-break-kind-of-dog". Apparently thinking he was out of sight from all to see, we watched the guard totally loose all composure and instantly transform from gestapo to the boy from "The Little House on the Prarie", as he began to frolick with his friendly playmate in the meadow behind "beaucracy central station". Upon his return, none of us even ventured to hint at the centrally placed window that revealed in clear view the portal to the meadow from inside the passport office. And, besides the speckled spray of dogÂ´s urine left resinating on his shiny black boots, the secret dog-lover no longer looked out-of-body wearing the authoritarian clean-cut uniform, confidently hiding the small child that wishes to run free inside all of us. Yet, although the drug sniffing dog looked really friendly...I wouldnÂ´t want to test out his "other" side.
Just one of a thousand volcanoes in Chile...
finally arrived in Puerto Varas, a small town on the north fringe of the Chilean lake district. At first glance, it appears to be straight outta Germany with the architecture, chocolate shops, and even the lettering on the buildings, but then the amazingly delicious seafood (yes, I tried some) reminds you that you're really close to the ocean (and of course, people are speaking Chilean Spanish). Aaron on "Espanol vs. Chileno"
: Spanish is a language that you learn in school. Chileno is the language that would result if you were to watch a telenovela (a soap opera in Spanish) while holding down the fast-forward button on the remote and adding "ito" (the suffix for "small") to every other word.
After a confusing search for hostels, we came across the one we had reservations. As time progressed, we came to realize that the hostel was run by, and visited by, probably 90%!o(MISSING)f the country of France. We should have known from the beginning, since the main room was almost always filled with cigarette smoke...
We had dinner at the cheapest place we could find, called "Dino's", which actually turned out to be the Chilean version of Denny's,
food quality and all. This saddened us, since we actually had to pay at least $7 each for a meal, and we were used to paying less for better food...ah, how your standards change when traveling...In reaction to the astronomical prices, we decided to go to the grocery store and get food to cook, picking up some Pisco Sour and Concha y Toro (Casillero del Diablo--remember this; there will be reference to it later...) wine on the way, of course. The weird thing about Chile's supermarkets is all the powdered spices in bags. They have everything you can imagine--but the oregano and garlic (ajo) bags are almost always sold out...it's a mystery.
When we got back to the hostel, the Frenchies were in full swing. We talked with a recently married couple who were on their honeymoon (Lithuanian--and French), and shared some Pisco Sour with the guy who led the local canyoning expeditions (he was also French). We played some chess, drank some mate, and breathed in some smoke.
The next morning, we got up early to go sea kayaking, and the first guide we met was from Montreal (once again, spoke French). She was fantastically nice and
The second largest lake in Chile...possibly the most beautiful at sunset, though.
friendly as we rode out to the kayak outfitter's. Once we got there, it only took us a moment to realize that the kayaking company was owned by a French guy. Not surprisingly, we were the only Americans on the expedition for the day--the rest of our company was from...you guessed it...France. It was actually lucky, because that meant that while the Canadian went off with the French party, Aaron and I got to practice our Spanish with our (pretty nice-looking) Chilean guide, who knew all about the local flora and fauna, and thus gave us a tour rich in cultural and environmental knowledge...and Spanish.
By "sea kayaking" I actually mean "estuary kayaking", since we were starting from near where the mouth of a river was meeting the ocean. While the surrounding scenery was beautiful, diverse, and fjord-like, it was difficult to remain optimistic when we saw large patches of forest that had obviously been re-forested, and livestock farms that came almost to the edge of the water. Also, the large fish farms were less than glamorous. But, I'm not going to lie, there is something wonderful about parting the glassy water with a paddle, quietly observing and thinking...until
all the other tourists decide to return to their juvenile days (they were at least 3 times as old as we were), and involve us in a water fight! Here's an interesting peice of trivia: Dominica
is the latin name for Seagull, and thus the Dominican Republic is really the Seagull Republic!
When we pulled over for lunch (it's easy to romanticize kayaking, but your arms do get tired after a while), we picked a plethora of blackberries from the bushes on shore, and had lunch at a local home. Jorge, our guide, picked a few small black, spherical things off the ground and cut them open--the white "fruit" inside tasted like a cashew nut! We all tried to mimic his success, but most of the small fruits weren't ripe yet, and instead our mouths became just as bitter as our disheartened spirits (well, almost--i think our mouths were more bitter, probably).
As we slid out of the sandy "port", we encountered faster-moving water (we were getting closer to the ocean), and realized that a mass of gargantuan rainclouds was on our tail. Aaron and I tried to do some x-treme maneuvering around the fisheries (sometimes successful, sometimes
not so successful), while using the motivation of staying in front of the thunderheads to make us go faster. We glided towards snow-capped mountains shrouded in fog, and dodged the fisheries while the current nudged us along, going faster until we reached the choppy waves that signaled our proximity to the Pacific Ocean. That's when it got interesting--trying to catch waves to get some excitement going. Alas, as soon as we reached the waves, we turned into port to end our day--but fortunately, we got packed into the trucks just as rain started pelting the windshields.
We cooked dinner at the hostel that night and had long conversations with the Latvian/French couple (who left their key inside their room and the canyoning instructor had to scale the outside wall to climb in through the window) and a Brit (who wished The Colbert Report was broadcast in Britain) over some Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo wine (no, that's not the reference, wait until later...).
The next day, we were all ready and stoked to go canyoning, but it turns out that the canyoning instructor cancelled on us at the last minute! We were bummed, but like the resourceful
...twice the fun, half the risk!
folks we are, we asked around and got directed to a place where we could rent a car and go to Aguas Calientes (that means "hot waters", and it's a small resort near the Chilean/Argentine border).
After finagling and arranging, we were on our way up the Pan American Highway. Now, you may think toll roads are expensive and annoying. If that's the case, don't drive in Chile. Any and every exit requires you to pay a toll of 400 pesos (about $1), and then there are random toll booths that charge you the equivalent of $2.50 (and if you're driving around Santiago, forget it. They have sensors above the freeways that charge a sensor you're required to put on your windshield about every five minutes). It does make for nice freeways, though...
When we turned off the famous freeway around Osorno, the sunset was beautiful behind Mt. Osorno, and I pulled over so that Aaron could get out and take pictures. We were around some farming areas (same with most of the drive), and an enormous tractor with two guys dangling out the back pulled over in response to our emergency lights to see if we needed
help. They must have thought we were pretty strange, since we didn't realize what they were doing until they laughed and slowly chugged away.
We arrived at Aguas Calientes late that night, and a man showed us to the campground (where he lives), which was right next to a river and pretty pimped--with a light, a table, a fire pit, and a sink! We joked around with him that he should join us for Pisco Sours later in the night, but sadly it didn't work out. Lonely Planet
describes Aguas Calientes as an "unpretentious resort", which it really is. We had a great dinner at a place that was sort of like a big round yurt with a rustic atmosphere. We tried to make a fire that night, but the wood was too damp...
The next morning, we decided on a whim (well, Aaron had had his heart set on it ever since we heard about it) to go "canopy gliding". We barely caught the beginning of the safety instructions in time, and it was slightly daunting that they were all in Spanish--I could understand the main idea, but realized I was a little apprehensive that the safety
instructions were probably important to understand completely...well, it worked out fine (that's for you, Mom). Aaron on canopy gliding
: There were a series of six consecutive zip-lines...each one a bit higher and longer than the last. Thus, as we zip-lined from tree to tree, just as if we were playing an extreme version of "connect-the-dots", we were actually getting higher and higher up in the canopy (even though the zip-lines were obviously always angled down...this resulted becuase the hill-side was dropping off at a much steeper rate than the zip-lines were repelling us down the slope). Also, Each landing zone consisted of a platform that hung around a tree like a donut and was decorated with a large number of pads with a giant "X" painted in the middle of them (for those that either were archery-fanatics or were flying in way to fast). ItÂ´s one of those life-events where the pictures speak louder than words, so itÂ´s best just to take at look and imagine what it feels like to be flying through the air over 300 feet above the ground at speeds up to 20mph...all the while putting your complete faith into a wire that looks no
Ah, the beauty of renting a car...
thicker than a jungle vine.
After spending some time in the trees, we headed down to the natural hot springs for a well-deserved soak (little did I know the next day I'd be sore from being in that weird position!). However, we had to stop and get sandwiches for a picnic, and as we waited for them, we watched Alanis Morisette live on a huge screen TV (she's all the rage down there).
As we crossed the river, we realized that everybody and their grandma (literally) had come out here for a Saturday picnic...people roasted meat, little kids ran around and played in the water, octogenerians were helped into the warm pools beside the river, and others just sat back drinking beers and enjoying the sunny day. We found a spot on the grass (everywhere else was taken!), and we sat and ate our sandwiches.
Once we gingerly stepped down the rocks towards the river, we realized that most of the "good spots" had been taken--our little pool was less than lukewarm and we had to dig up mud to have at least some fraction of our bodies inside the water. Trees above us provided shade (not
so good for getting warm, but a nice alternative to getting sunburnt), and the ladies next to us provided examples of what we should do--splashing water on areas that weren't priveleged to get proper soakage. The best part: the springs aren't sulfur ones, so they don't smell at all (well, something was missing)!! It was pleasant just to be right next to the river and to do some Chilean people watching.
When we got too cold, we got out and headed over to the other "outdoor hot springs"--a.k.a. the 95 degree swimming pool. We had gotten a deal where we had access to the "main pools" (the other actual ones were free) along with the price for camping near the resort, so we went in and lazily floated around the huge pool.
We headed back to our car after getting some ice cream and some more Alanis entertainment. We got back to Puerto Varas with barely enough time to get everything sorted out with the car and to get on the bus to Santiago.
Now...we were expecting this bus to be like the ones we had taken in Argentina--you know, the large, luxurious sleeper seats, the dinner
The Zip-line gang
...there were more of us to start off with, but we had to "clear" some out to make room for the picture
with wine and champagne, the movies and such. Not so much. We hadn't eaten dinner, so Aaron jumped off the bus at Osorno and luckily got us some cheese that we cut with my old UCI ID card and had on crackers while settling into the stiffly upright seats...what a feast!
After that somewhat painful bus ride (we got to sleep on it, too!), we arrived in Santiago, surprised and overwhelmed at being in a city again (after spending about 2 weeks in beautiful Patagonia). Aaron struck up a conversation with the man next to us at the bus stop to try to orientate ourselves, and we got a taxi to our hostel.
We made our way to the Plaza de Armas through a Parisian-looking park, passing by the Museo de Bellas Artes, which looked like it could be anywhere in Western Europe, then passed an enormous cathedral (any Catholic influence here?), reaching the Plaza de Armas around a time (noon) when nothing was really happening. We wandered around until we found the Museo de Arte Precolombino, a museum featuring the artwork and cultural artifacts of the indigenous people of South America (Pre-Columbus). What an incredible museum this
George, George, George of the Jungle...watch out for that tree!
was. It contains an extensive collection, along with displays in English (rare) and a beautiful layout complete with theatrical lighting. It was our first real tidbit of cultural knowledge (all the places we had visited before were mostly focused on the post-colonization period), and it was a fascinating place. For instance, we learned that the Incas had a complex system of "tying" oral tradition to historical record--they would tie knots in this long cord that looked like friendship bracelets, and one person in the community would have the responsibility of understanding the meanings behind each individual knot...WOW!
Once we got out of the museum a few hours later, an outdoor market had sprung up in the Plaza de Armas. We walked around and I saw replicas of a chess set I had got for my dad for Christmas from a free trade website (Spanish v. Incas)! We were getting pretty hungry, and Aaron couldn't keep his eyes off of this enormous steak sandwich advertised in one of the restaurant windows, so we ate there and watched a Spanish-dubbed version of Gladiator playing on TVs around us.
The Malta con Huevo. This is a "traditional" Chilean drink that I
had read about in our travel book, and I decided to give it a try. It's basically sweet beer blended with a raw egg. While that may sound disgusting, it's actually pretty good if you can get your mind off of thinking that you might be getting salmonella. The server gave me an extra bit in a separate glass as a "present" for sampling his culture, but I learned later that NO ONE in Chile actually really drinks this. Aaron wouldn't touch it, but I DRANK ALL OF IT. Yes, that's right. Sometimes traveling involves taking risks...
Our next stop was the Museo Historico Nacional, where we got to travel through Chilean history from room to room--from indigenous to Spanish colonial artifacts (we tried to understand what the placards were saying in Spanish)...but the history lesson mysteriously ended when Pinochet was elected to be the "president" (ahem, dictator, ahem). Even though he passed away recently, Chileans are still very torn about his presidency--some people point fingers at students and activists that were murdered by the state police under his regime, others at the U.S.'s satisfaction that at last there was someone in South America who was the poster boy
Tarzan and Jane
for free trade in the "red sea" of communism at the time (conspiracy theory?), while others see nothing but good in the man who helped them make A LOT of money through deregulation, and others see Chile's relatively secure economy as a positive result. Who knows when the National History Museum in Santiago will actually update its history past the 1960s, and what stance it will take...
Stepping outside, the Plaza de Armas was finally a bustling place (at 5 p.m.), with a multitude of chess games happening underneath a gazebo, and some street performers who were just improv-ing by making fun of their audience members...I think they spotted the gringos (even though we stood in the back of the mass of people, we still stood out), and asked us where we were from, then made some expected jokes about Americans in Spanish and moved on.
Back at the hostel, the owner (a grizzly, condescending American ex-pat) was signing people up for the BBQ that was happening later that night...although I made myself some pasta because I couldn't "participate", Aaron and I talked with a very nice Swiss couple and Eduardo, a Chileno (and a linguistics major, of
all things) who worked the night shift at the hostel--the conversation naturally turned to politics, and the hostel manager chimed in by ripping on American politics. Now, usually I would have jumped right in to agree, but maybe it was just the way he was talking to us that made me feel uncomfortable. It was almost like since we were Americans, he was judging us and assuming we were ignorant of anything going on in the world.
This is when I came across my epiphany regarding traveling Americans. First of all, the fact that Americans are traveling at all
should be comforting, since something like only 25 percent of Americans even have passports. Secondly, if those Americans are traveling, then they already probably have more of a "worldliness" (pun intended) about them, and understand at least something about the place that they're going. Thirdly, I can understand why people from other countries carry stereotypes about Americans, because some of them are obviously true. But what I realized that I really can't stand is AMERICANS STEREOTYPING OTHER AMERICANS. It's almost like there's a disgust at other Americans because they represent a disgust in one's own self at merely being an
On a Sunday...
Everyone comes out for a picnic--and a natural hot tub!
American and traveling (if that makes sense--projecting one's own dislike of oneself onto others), because traveling puts American culture in sharp relief (for example: being embarrassed of the Texan on the chunnel train from Paris complaining boisterously that no one spoke English--true story). And then, this leads to a lack of connection between Americans outside of the U.S., which is usually rare among people from other countries. For example, if an Italian meets another Italian in, say, China, they're probably going to be excited to meet a fellow Italian and get a sense of home. However, if an American meets another American, there is this sense of automatic animosity. Perhaps this can be attributed to how big our country is (it might not be as surprising to meet someone else from the U.S.), or a different cultural sensibility, or maybe even a declining sense of patriotism among Americans overseas? Who knows...all I know is that ever since then, Aaron and I have made a conscious effort to be as inclusive as possible when we meet Americans while traveling, because how else can we foster a sense of community abroad? Sure, I may be critical of American policy and aspects of
The biggest hot tub ever
It's the size of a pool! But you can't swim in it...
American culture, but it's the country that I grew up in--it's my culture, it's where I'm from. Rather than disassociating oneself from it (it's probably okay if you have your own private house on an isolated stretch of Chilean coastline that you don't want anyone else building on and drink what you think is the best Chilean wine all day long and feed your dog the best peice of meat before giving it to a fellow American--you can guess who I'm talking about), I think it's important that, beyond patriotism, there is a connection that can be made between fellow American travelers. It may be difficult to accept them--especially if they're talking to you like you're an idiot, or if they're Tex on the Train--but it doesn't hurt to try.
ANYWAY, the next morning we left for our wine tasting tour! Sharlene and Eric (Aaron's parents) had been on a similar tour in Chile and offered to "give Aaron his graduation present", so we got a private guide (Leo) and driver (Jose Miguel) to take us around to different wineries! The best part about the drives was Leo's extensive knowledge and opinions about Chile; it was great to hear
...Where the city pays people to do grafitti.
tidbits of history and culture and society from someone who actually had experienced them.
We ventured into the Colchagua Valley. FOR THE WINE GEEKS: The reason why Chile's wineries are so unique is because its valleys are essentially isolated and protected by 4 natural barriers on all sides. North: Atacama Desert (drier than the Sahara). South: glaciers. East: Andes Mountains. West: Pacific Ocean. That and the Medeteranean climate combine to create great opportunities for wineries to thrive. Because of that, the fungus that wiped out most French and Italian wineries never touched Chile, and the Carbenere grape was only maintained in Chile. Fascinating!
Our first stop on the wine tour was Concha y Toro, the most exported winery in Chile. The tour was pretty standard; the winery was a converted ranch that was owned by a prominent politician and his wealthy wife (I asked if that was why they got married--the tour guide didn't offer an answer). However, the coolest part was visiting "El Casillero del Diablo", or "The Cellar of the Devil". Although the cellar itself is already pretty creepy, the owner of the estate used this to his advantage when he discovered that his servants were
stealing his wine from the cellar. Instead of chastising them, he was more creative--he snuck into the cellar at night and made strange noises, and frightened the superstitious Catholic servants into thinking that they'd seen the devil, talked with the devil, etc. in that cellar...so, he didn't have to worry about anyone stealing his wine anymore! The "Casillero del Diablo" brand is very popular and fairly widespread internationally--perhaps you've tried a sip? (Remember--this is the reference!!)
We stopped at a small "countryside" restaurant in the Colchagua Valley for lunch, and even though it was right next to the main road, we still got to sample some traditional Chilean cuisine. Afterward, we offered our patronage to a small outdoor market with artisans selling some rather "creative" products... Aaron on the "creativity" of the artisans
: Although there were several booths set up, each run by their respective craftsman adorning his/her hand-crafted trinkets, there was one particular artisan who stood out amongst all the rest; one that had a mind for detail; one that possessed a remarkable gift of creativity; one that had the courage to stretch the limits of the imagination...revealing a completely tangible, yet hidden world below what normally
is blocked by the eye. He was a woodcraftsman by trade. And that is exactly what he specialized in: crafting life-like figurines with "woodies". Upon seeing one of his "designs" in action, resembling a wood-carved jack-in-the-box (spring loaded and all), I remember thinking to myself: "Pop goes the weasel".
The second winery we visited was Casa Silva, where we got a private tour! We got to walk through and actually see the grapes as they were being processed--a unique experience! Our tour guide was great--once she loosened up, she tasted some wine with us and we joked around a lot. I have to say, I'm not really a Chardonnay/white wine kind of person, but this Chardonnay made me turn over a new (grape)leaf--I bought some for my mom as a present, and it was delicious!!
We drove a little longer until we reached Santa Cruz, a city of about 30,000 people where most of the industry is based on the surrounding wineries. We went out later that night, and Leo showed us around the town. Since Aaron and I hadn't quite adapted to the "no dinner" culture, we convinced Leo and Jose Miguel to eat some sushi with
They always constitute jamon, of course. It's a vegetarian staple!
us (sushi is all over the place in Chile), and they were intrigued by the mythical "sake bomb". The sushi was delicious, but the servers also were unfamiliar with the notorious sake bombs and the restaurant had inappropriate glasses for us to execute them. However, we were determined to partake in the illustrious sake bombs, and attempted a feat never attempted before in the restaurant----and failed miserably. Aaron was the only one whose actually was successful; the other two adventurers' (Leo and I) glasses shattered all over the table and the floor--Jose Miguel chuckled bemusedly. The disgruntled servers picked up the broken glass and cleaned up the excess alcohol, while we attempted to salvage the situation by making jokes...but ah, well. It was worth the experiment!
The next day, we went on to two more wineries: Viu Manent and Montes. During the first, we rode in a huasco (Chilean cowboy)-driven horse and carriage, and had a delicious lunch--during the second, we received a fine lesson on how important feng shui is in the wine-making process. From using gravity instead of pumps to gregorian chanting to help the young wines ferment...it's integral to Montes winery that the grapes are constantly
feeling some good, natural energy. Judging on how amazing the wine tasted, I'm inclined to agree! Aaron on sexy feng shui
: LetÂ´s just go right ahead and get it out there in the open...there is something sexy about feng shui. Something exotic. Just listen to the way the words roll of the tip of the tongue. Go ahead...give it a try. Forget oysters; throw away your chocolates; Feng shui is the new aphrodesiac. If you donÂ´t believe me, then I offer the picture series of sexy poses of Leo, Jose Miguel, and I (occuring after prolonged exposure in a feng shui environment) as proof. Just think about it: three grown men, hardened by the facts of life, too involved with work to have time to explore another, sexier, side of ourself (if it even existed at all). IÂ´d be surprised if we even had a single sexy bone in our bodies...but then we encountered feng shui. Thus, I offer this as a remedy to those who are having marriage problems: donÂ´t waste time remodeling your relationship...spend the time remodeling your house.
From there, we began the long trek back to Santiago...things got a little stressful near the end
Punks in Santiago
Just one of the many graffitti tatoos made by all the punks wandering around in the afternoon after they wake up.
(need we go into the details?), but we arrived back at the hostel just in time to finish watching "The Shining" (I swear, that movie never gets old...).
We didn't have to go too far to do the next day's sight seeing--Pablo Neruda (you know, the famous/notorious Chilean poet/ambassador/collector/friend of Stalin's)'s house was in artsy Bellavista, the same burough we were in, and Cerro San Cristobal was just around the corner from there!
On the funicular up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, we met a Slovenian couple, who were so impressed that Aaron had visited their beautiful, humble European country that they bought us drinks once we got to the top. We spent a while conversing with them--Natasha spoke beautiful English (being that she was originally from Russia and was an English teacher focusing on Russian/English literature), and we had a wonderful time.
We went our separate ways and walked up to where the Virgin was positioned glorifyingly atop the mountain, overlooking the smoggy city with Catholic music reverberating from speakers stationed throughout the area, creating a surreal kind of atmosphere. Now, although we should have been able to have an amazing view of the
city and the Andes towering behind it, the visibility was almost worse than Los Angeles (I couldn't say, as I've never seen LA from that kind of vantage point) due to all the smog. Aaron on Chile's environmental policy
: IÂ´ve seen some pretty polluted cities in the Western World, But South America is a whole new ballgame. Some advice: if you are planning to visit a South American city bring a machete...trust me, the smog is that thick! Although Chile has recently adopted some stringent traffic laws in order to regulate the amount of cars on the road and to incentivize the use of public transportation, their is one small problem: the infrastructure for the public transportation canÂ´t handle the masses that the ideals of the cities planners desire desire to cator to. I have to give them credit for tackling the issue, however, and let me tell you...Santiago is light years ahead of Lima!
As we wandered around the hill, we came across a confused-looking man, who asked us in broken English how to get to a certain trail. Although we couldn't have told him, Aaron ascertained that he was German, and proceeded to talk to him
Inside the Museo de Arte Precolombino
No, it's not a stage set--it's ancient Mapuche carvings that are about 6 to 7 feet tall.
in German. So, after I asked a guy at the nearby restaurant in Spanish, I told Aaron, who translated it in German for the other guy. I swear, whenever Aaron has the chance to use his German, he will--and it usually yields positive results! Aaron on his German speaking ability
: I can quite honestly admit that what Robyn said is only half-way true: yes...at any given chance I do make an effort (sometimes more invasive than others) to practice may German; however, no...I definitely would not say it usually yields positive results. In fact, the majority of the time it results in the phenomenon of whatÂ´s commonly known as "starting something you canÂ´t finish". The problem is that when youÂ´re able to confidently greet someone in their native language, that same person almost always automatically assumes that you are fluent in his/her native language. This usually results becuase that person will get so excited by the fact that he/she is finally able to speak in his/her native language...and that he/she has met an American that actually knows how to speak German. Therefore, I have become quite proficient at being able to articulate the following expressions in German: "IÂ´m sorry,
I'm the brave one.
Malta con Huevo...the "local" drink that even the locals didn't drink.
I donÂ´t understand" and "are you able to speak English?".
We went on to our tour of Pablo Neruda's house, and explored the meandering paths and stairways connecting the small, unique rooms with random artifacts collected from his travels around the world. Although it was great to get a sense of his prolific individuality, I felt like something was lacking in the tour--I firmly believe that if we were able to take a Spanish tour, the guide would have told us more about certain things and dug deeper into his life...ah, well.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hostel and getting packed for our flight the next day to Lima, Peru (that update to come shortly, I hope). We met an American couple who had been traveling around the world (literally) for 7 months. After spending a long time talking to them, I somehow convinced a worn-out Aaron to accompany me on the somewhat sketchy streets of Bellavista so that we could check out this reputed "bar scene". We met up with a rowdy bunch of Brits/Aussies that we had encountered at the hostel, and we sat down and chatted with them as well.
beloved by the world.
However, a few guys came up to us and started talking to us, which freaked out the girls (I still don't really know why--these dudes were just some dorky random engineering majors who wanted to talk to some tourists), and we left rather quickly.
We got a limited amount of sleep, and blearily went to the airport the next morning. The rest is...history! Perhaps I'll get around to typing up a journal just on Lima, because it was one of the strangest, most surreal days of my life.
Thanks for reading!
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