At every hostel you have the same conversations in two stages. First – where are you from, how long have you been traveling, where have you been? After a few days or sometimes just a few drinks the second conversation starts – have you gotten sick, sharing of stories about poop/puke and yeah, I’m really behind on my blog too. At least I’m in good company! Yesterday I made it to Lima, Peru. I have a few days here before heading way up the coast to Mancora, Peru for Christmas. If I can’t be with my family, I might as well go to the beach! Vamos al playa! Back in blog land I was just leaving Valparaiso and heading to Santiago.
Santiago isn’t typically a city people get too excited about. It is interesting, there’s a lot of history and a few touristy things to do. I was going with Alice and Sabrina from Valpo so while I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d get up to I knew it would be fun.
My first day I just caught up on sleep and did a little bit of exploring in my new neighborhood. It was a nice part of the city with a huge park across the street. I found an amazing little shop that made sandwiches using Belgian waffles as the bread. Yes, please. Took that to the park and had a nice, relaxed little afternoon. Catching up on post-Valpo sleep was really the main priority.
During the day Alice and I did some more exploring which was mostly walking off her hangover as she had a big night out with some local friends. Eduardo, a Brazilian living in Santiago invited us over to his place for a party that night. My first time on the Santiago metro. It’s really quite nice. Very clean, well signed and modern. Also insanely packed. I had to wait for about 5 trains before I could shove myself onto the 6th one and be plastered up against the door for my train ride. But I made it! Eduardo lives in a shared house with like 25 people or something crazy like that. It’s a old boarding house/hotel. It’s mostly students, many from different countries living there. We had a great night and people were excited to practice their English with Alice and or listen to our mangled Spanish.
The night went late which led to a late start the next day as would become my Santiago pattern. I eventually got up, Alice came to the hostel – we wandered around and shared a waffle sandwich and pieced together the funny details of the night before. Alice was planning to move to Santiago to teach English and had found a room to rent. I went to check out her place – a really nice house with 6 roommates, 5 guys and a 1 other girl. We hung out with housemates that night. They all play an instrument so we sat around in a circle on a mishmash playing different instruments. The boys had 3 guitars, 1 flute-thing, 1 harmonica and I reluctantly accepted the egg shaker thingy. We sat around all night taking turns picking songs and scream-singing horribly off-key. Great night, it all felt very Chingachgook. Later that night once Eduardo got out of work we meet again and headed out for a late night.
Everyday I planned on getting up and going to a walking tour of Santiago. Everyday. On day 4 I finally made it. The walking tour started at 1pm and it took me 4 tries till I made it. Redic. The tour was good. It took us to the fish market – something Santiago is famous for. Having lived in Baltimore I have a pretty high standard for crab cakes and decided to try out Santiago’s version. Eh, not really a fan. We also toured the La Vega which is the main fruit market. The market is HUGE but it known for being a close-knit group. Whenever there is a crisis La Vega fills trucks and trucks with fruit, veg and supplies for whatever area has been affected. The tagline is “After God, there’s La Vega.” Considering most of these store owners are making just enough to get by it was impressive to see how generous they would be.
The final stop on tour was the General Cemetery. The rich people of Santiago would show wealth by building incredibly elaborate mausoleums. Typically the mausoleum had nothing to do with their family or background it was just a way to grandiose. Egyptian pyramids, Incan replicas, mixed religious symbols – the bigger the better. For the middle class it was normal to be buried within your trade union’s mausoleum. Shoe makers unions, police union, bakers union.. they all have their own mausoleums throughout the cemetery. Finally there are the rest of the middle class/poorer people. They are buried in this small boxes. You rent the box for 3 years. After that you can rent for an additional 4 years. After 7 years the remains are taken and buried in a different area. Each family typically has their own spot. There are often multiple bodies at different stages inside the box at once. All the names of the dead are on a plague outside the box. The most we saw was 15 names, that family had been around for a while. The sad part was the children’s section of the cemetery. All children are buried together. That section is decorated with all kinds of toys and other things for children. The families take very good care of the graves and especially the children’s section.
That night Alice, Eduardo and I met up to go out. We had officially become the Three (Drunk) Amigos. We went out to an area called Bella Vista, the main party area of the city. Apparently a new city ordinance had been pasted that bars had to close by 1:00 am during the week. A news crew came over and interviewed Alice and I about what we thought. Alice ended up doing the majority of the talking. She speaks Spanish pretty well but several drinks in it came out as garbled Spanish with a heavy English accent. Eventually the reporter just suggested that she speak in English so they could add subtitles. I just laughed through the entire interview.
That was basically the theme of Santiago. Late nights, lots of laughs and really lazy days. Poor Eduardo had to work but Alice and I just lead the life of hung over leisure.. taking naps and sending him photos of food all day. Eduardo is a chef and never approved of what we ate when he wasn’t around.
I did do one other good touristy thing. I went to the top of Cerro Cristobol. It has a beautiful view over the city. You can take a acensor to the top which is a really fun, fast ride up. While I was trekking around I ran into Sabrina! Small world, love it!
I had only planned to spend about 3 days in Santiago. I ended up staying for 8. Every night I would give Alice and Eduardo big hugs and say goodbye. Then the next day I would text them at noon saying I had missed check out and guessed I was staying another day. Oh good, let’s get dinner and share a bottle of wine? One bottle turned into many and it became a running joke that I would never leave. I finally did. I had such a blast and I still miss my amigos! Alice is planning to visit me in Colombia. Eduardo left Santiago for a better job in Puerto Vargas and wants us to come visit. We’ll see amigo, we’ll see.