Monday, December 05, 2005

Santiago revisited – Meetings under Andean supervision

Chris and me, at La Casa Roja at the same day Chris landed in Santiago


While continuing having fun with the loco trio, thoughts and plans were already flowing ahead and
Santiago de Chile was the next mark on my tour map. After 8 months of traveling, Santiago found me again more prepared, more confident and the more experienced, and those were the setting for my great meetings

Parting, again
After the night of the Asado we went the next day to return the tent and to do other arrangements as the girls planned on leaving the next day to Pucon through Santiago.
One night I even managed to meet with Aviran (Cordoba chapter), which stayed in a other hostel close to the bus terminal and although we talked prior to the trek, we could not communicate due to a godly reason…The next day after our meeting he left to Buenos Aires…
The parting event right before their departure to
Santiago was a very funny one, when no less than 4 cameras were used to capture the farewell toast with Dulce de Leche liquor, bought especially by the girls. One of the longest toats I have been part of of…
11 PM the girls went out of the hostel with their bags when the staff and some of the guests accompanied them with laughing and hugging of farewell as they stopped two taxis. As I can guess, they will have lots of fun moments even before reaching Pucon, those funny girls…

Crossing to the other side (of the Andes…)
The morning of the 26th was a nice one, and I woke up early so I can arrange all my stuff in ease. Only when I got down I noticed that I forgot to pay to Sergio for the night, and only the night shift guy was there, and he didn’t have a clue of how much I should pay…oh, brother! So, after he ordered me a taxi he called Sergio and took the payment. As I was putting my shit on my back I found Sergio, half sleeping coming to part from me, with a good hug and a devilish grin…That’s it, that’s how Mendoza times ended and the Chilean will start again…
Almost half of the ride was already familiar to me (that was the third time!) but once we passed the last Argentinean post we quickly entered a long tunnel through which we passed on the other side, already going down the pass as Argentinean workers worked on the continuation of an avalanche tunnel protection like you pass so many on this international route. At a certain point we came finally to the communal border crossing: under one heavy and thick concrete roof both the Argentinean and Chilean officials were passing people from one side to the other. We had to wait inline for some 10 minutes sitting in the bus and finally, the bus advanced and everyone went down to stamp their passport. It was a quick pass, one of the fastest I have been through, and while I was waiting for my turn before the Chilean passport check I suddenly remembered that all my undeveloped film are still in the big backpack, and it passes X-Ray check…shit! I left the line and rushed to the custom area, just to see my pack still waiting last for his turn. PHHEEWWW! a relief sigh came out of me and I hasted to open the rain cover and take out the precious films, putting them safely in the little bag…
After I finished with the Chilean side and also with the tax free refund (really curious to find out if its gonna work…) we waited a bit for X-Ray of the small bags (Ha! took out the films, no worry!!) and finally we were allowed to board the bus and no sooner than 5 minutes later, we were gliding the downward toward the Chilean territory!
The scene was an awesome one! The grand peak near the pass were towering above the deep valley that suddenly opened in front of us as the bus went down the zig-zagged paved road, while passing on the right the Chilean ski resort. Once we came to the opening of the valley the bus rode faster and I fell asleep faster than a falling star…
From time to time I woke up to see the magnificent Andes sparkle and glisten under the shining sun with nummerous vineyard stretching to both sides of the bus, while the state-of-the-art asphalt road take us west and then south toward the suffocating capital.
Coming into town and the bus station (one of many) was suddenly very familiar: the same station I used when traveling to
Valparaiso and San Pedro de Atacama.
I retrieved my bag, not after joking with the local worker that asked for a tip for taking my bag from the cargo compartment to my hands. I said I don’t have any Chilean pesos, so he asked for dollars, which I said I don’t have. Then he moved to Euros (oh, this for sure I have!) and at last I offered him my credit card. He just laughed and smiled with his wide and toothless mouth…
Getting back into the Santiago Metro was less difficult than I thought, though I forgot that not all the staircases up lead to the exit…OOOPPS…All that time I was traveling in the Metro, I remembered my first ride in it with Henry. I remember the feeling of fresh, shock, of not knowing anything on my left or right, of the foreign language…it was a lonesome feeling of fear…But, now that I was grasping the metal bars in the cart, I felt the power of knowledge, of confidence. I wished I could feel so confident in other realms of my life, to feel this great feeling surrounds me, but I evolve all the time so I am optimistic…

Meeting #1 - Chris
I went to La Casa Roja, a well known establishment here in Santiago, even though I was not feeling really good getting there, with so many people buzzing around…It’s a BIG mansion, with a huge kitchen, several bathrooms and dormitories. I passed the time with two Americans and one Australian guy till the 28th of November came at last!
I woke up around
7 am to get arranged quickly and to catch the bus to the Airport that leaves near the Metro station of Los Hereos. Before leaving the Hostel I checked in the internet the expected landings that day and saw that there are two Iberia flights landing In Santiago that morning: one at 9:30 and another at 9:50. I remembered that Chris told me about that he is gonna land around 10 am, and I felt that something is not that good…Well, I grabbed a piece of croissant on the way and after half an hour, around 8:30 am I came to the Airport with the bus. The bus dropped me off at the departures level so I had to go down one level to the Arrivals section, where I found a coffee shop located straight in front of the time table screen. I read a bit, listened to lots of music and finally, 9:30 came and I waited beside the arrival exit. As it was possible to leave from another exit, I was always on the lookout across the platform to see if Chris emerges from another exit. Nearby a group of Israeli girls were also waiting for their friend, but as long as I stayed there (one hour) they didn’t find their friend.
After seeing so many passing passengers, I finally saw the familiar face of Chris walking with his backpacks, with a shock look on his face (maybe because they didn’t serve beer on board..?). It took me a sec to realize it is Chris, coz the man grew a Sheih beard but it took him 2 seconds to realize who is coming toward him…We hugged warmly and patted each on the other backs. he was surprised, of course, as he didn’t actually think I am gonna make it, and I told him I am already two days in Santiago and that I bullshited him. He gave one of his “Angry”-like look and then burst out in laugh and together we looked for the Iberia representatives in the Airport, only to find out that they don’t give any service at that time of day because they are at the check in counters…We were directed to the office in Santiago, and with that we climbed the bus from the airport and then the metro to the Republica station.
From the moment we entered La Casa Roja, Chris didn’t really like it, and in his mind was another hostel, Hostel
Chile, which resides near the night life neighborhood, Barrio Bellavista. Well, actually I can’t blame him coz I didn’t really felt there at home my self, but it was the cheapest you can get in Santiago, 9 USD, while Hostel Chile costs more, 12 USD. Even so, when we left the next day to the hostel I didn’t regret it, as it IS a better hostel.

Meeting #2 - Valy
After dropping our stuff and Chris refreshing in the shower after the landing, we hit the streets and found the Iberia offices in one of the many business districts that dot Santiago. It was funny to go in the elevator which was from the 40’s, I think, with an Elevator man that open the gate and operate the old machine. We stayed in the office some 20 minutes while the nice Iberia representative changed Chris ticket and told me where are the Lufthansa offices. We stopped by an internet point and while checking my email I saw that Valy have told me he was looking for me in the hostel and I wasn’t there so he will meet me around 5 PM in Plaza de Armas. Well, checking the time we saw that our time was short, already it was 3:30 PM! We tried to reach the Lufthansa offices but due to a mistake we made by recognizing the numbering of the street, we thought we are far away from the offices, so we skipped it and made our way to the Plaza by metro. We were 5 minutes ahead of time and Chris wanted to check out a coffee bar, and en route I suddenly saw a familiar face, no other than valley exiting a passage. I called him and we embraced warmly, after 2 and half months. It was great meeting him after so much time and quickly the three of us sat at the Plaza with cold beer. I was glad when Valy and Chris were quickly making friends with each other. Valy was just coming from the north of Chile and was pondering what to do: to join us south with Lee or to go now to Mendoza and trek to the Aconcagua base. He felt quite exhausted after he walked with his backpacks across half of Santiago, and his legs started to deliver pain. At the end, after we checked the Hostel Chile, Valy decided to move into that hostel and we told the guy at the reception that we are coming the next day and at that, Valy went back to his hostel, and we to ours, before we meet again at the evening. It was some walk, as our hostel is on the other side of the center of Santiago (and the center is quite big), so coming back to the hostel, we didn’t have to much time to rearrange before we left to take the metro back to Baquedano station, which is straight under Plaza Italia.
We went to Bellavista to have some drinks, and beside from a guy that played miracaously with a drum on his back and another which tried to sell Pussycats puppets and made a lot of people jumpy with his MMYYAAAUU! and the puppet jumping, nothing special happened that night.
The next day we prepared ourselves and checked out of La Casa Roja and did our way through the metro to Hostel
Chile. Valy already did his packing as the previous day he decided finally to go to Mendoza and afterwards to learn Spanish in Cordoba.
We passed the day by going to Lufthansa offices, which were quite secure – it was possible to enter the high rising building only with an ID or passport and as a consequence, Chris was left outside waiting for me half an hour till I finished and went down. Not that I had any success, as the branch in Santiago needed my ticket terms from the Lufthansa branch in Tel Aviv, and the later didn’t actually replied to the Buenos Aires Branch message when I talked with them in Mendoza. Thing is, that in order to make ANY changes you need to be in the branch office, and there are only two in the vicinity of Santiago – Santiago and Buenos Aires (and also Lima, but I am not going back to distant Peru..). So, the representative told me she would contact them ASAP and send me an email when they will have the needed information. Going back to the hostel with Chris, I have decided that I will contact my tour agency and shake the tree so things will start moving – I didn’t have the time to fuck around now! Once I am leaving
Santiago, I am not planning on being back here only before departure time…
In the evening we met with Valy before he left for the bus station, and had a nice beer with another British guy name Andy. We met with Andy another night before he himself took a flight to
New Zealand (and forgetting his wallet in the hostel in the process, with Credit card, money etc…a shitty situation, no doubt about that!)
The next day I called the office of Lufthansa but no one answered and only after I talked with my agent I gripped that the office in
Santiago got the information needed and I could go and change my ticket information. Great!
I went there, this time alone, and after 30 minutes I managed to postpone my ticket to
the 21st of March, 2006 (with the addition of 50 USD…).

The “Café”
Chris and me passed the time in boredom, as for both of us this was out second visit to Santiago, and in Santiago there is not too do in any case (unless you are a business man with world wide connections…).
One day Chris told me about a café, with beautiful girls that serves you coffee and that he wants to check it out again. Well, I didn’t really know what he was talking about (naïve as I can be, still, in the age of 28…) so I said, fine, lets go as I was more worried about my pocket loosing money than on any other thing.
We arrived to one of the streets that connect to Avenida O. Higgins, and after walking some blocks we reached the joint, a black covered window-glass place. Chris told me about the black covers, but I never really did the necessary connection. When we entered the joint, and only then I gripped what was this place.
Apart from several TV screens and several ultra light fluorescents, darkness ruled the place inside, especially when coming from the outside world. As we came in, I saw what Chris meant by saying beautiful women: Less-than-Bikini-dressed women, of course, with the appropriate body measurements of being elected as Miss
Chile. As I was in a kind of a shock (in the bad sense of the word), we were approached by one of the hostess, who kissed us on our cheeks in such a way, I felt disgust. Not that she did something wrong, she was fine, only that it was a 100% fake gesture. Kissing on the cheek is something which is related, in my opinion, to long-time acquaintance with a woman, a gesture expressing happiness to meet again after so much time and usually is following a warm hug. Of course, when you are paid to do such a gesture, happiness is not part of the overall feeling, and the combination of a business-as-usual with this kind of gesture was extremely out of place for me.
Well, she took our orders as I was more interested more at the TV screens than on a the half naked women that strolled back and forth between customers, cashier, coffee machine and chatting here and there with the customers. I was surprised to see Many customers coming in, mostly businessmen which acted casually like it was an ordinary cafe. As this was my first visit in such a sleazy place, I was surprised of my feelings and reactions, as I am a man who loves good looking women, and also quite horny too. But, at that point I preferred those women would have been dressed, I would have felt better. Even though some will think I am the fucked up man here, and I should see a shrink, I know that these joints are not for me, and THAT is the most important thing of all.
Needless to say, I wanted to flee the moment I came in, but I knew Chris enjoys himself, and I didn’t want to be a selfish bastard. After we finished with our coffee, we went outside back to the light, and to the normal world where women hide more than they expose...

Meeting #3 - Lee
And finally, we are left with the third and last (but not least!) member of the trio, Lee.
All that time that we were waiting for her in
Santiago, she emailed us that she still didn’t get the package from Israel and she hopes she would not have to leave it in San Pedro. Thank god (that I don’t really believe in), she emailed me that she is coming on Sunday, the 4th of December on a TurBus bus coming into Alemeda Bus Station at 12:45. I replied her that she is welcomed and that me and Chris will wait for her in the terminal.
Finally, around
1 PM the bus came into the platform and she waved us from the front window as she came down the stairs. When she touched earth, she walked to hug us while blowing a long UUUFFFFF!!! Looking at her surprised, we heard her account about the long distance bus.
Well, her first 24 hour ride started bad, already when the bus entered Calama bus station (the same Calama that Rotem’s bag was stolen couple of months ago) and almost all the bus emptied out of people and only Lee and two Israelis stayed on board close to the entrance. While talking to the Israelis, she noticed that a man sits in her seat, when she didn’t had any other person sitting beside her when they left San Pedro, and add to that that she didn’t see her pack. She walked back to her seat while looking at the man, and as she did that, he came out of her seat and tried to pass through. She stopped him for a minute, asking him in Spanish where is her bag, but he managed to mumble something and pass her, empty handed. She went frantically looking for her bag in the whole bus, as she didn’t saw it in her seat, till she finally saw it open and its all content was spread on one of the seats in the bus. Luckily, she kept her money/passports and all on her and was saved from an indeed unpleasant experience of getting all things back (unlike Rotem, which lost money, Credit card, Passport, Travel Checks and had to return to Santiago to do arrangements with the embassy, credit card company, American Express etc.). Needless to say, that he vanished like a shadow in mid day and as fast as the wind blows on a high mountain peak…
From that point on her ride was safer, but not as pleasant, as it usually happens in such long bus rides, people kept on getting on and off the bus in odd hours of night, with a food menu which she preferred to pass. And this is without talking about her melancholic mood after leaving San Pedro and her loved one…So, when touched ground on
Santiago’s Alemeda bus station, she just wanted to see familiar faces and be on solid ground.
We were very happy to meet together and were very excited, as I didn’t see Lee for a month and half, and our trio combination was full of craziness and having fun when talking Hebrew, German, English and Spanish in some sort of a funny way that people looked at us in a sort of way you look at a crazy man…
We first took the metro back to our hostel, so we could get rid of the packs and after she checked in and did a phone call home, we went back outside to chill out with a drink and talk about all that time that passed some 4 and half months. The trio was back again!
We also gripped that each and everyone of us had his own plans ahead: Chris wanted to go to Valparaiso beach to hang around for a week on the beach while Lee told us that her money is running out and she don’t know how much she can travel in expensive Chile, while I knew I had little time and money to see South of Chile and Argentina, and maybe do a visit to Brazil. We decided that we gonna flow and wont make any of us to compromise his/her own trip plans…

So, today, the fifth of November we are leaving for Valparaiso, with clear horizon and no clue of where our road will lead us to…


Anonymous said...

Just remember that life is short and you are in it to enjoy every moment - so go for it - have fun and excitement and happiness will be with you all the way - love to you three - Lynda & Mike

Chen said...

Indeed I am doing my best to remember that our time is short in this life...sometimes you really forget it!
Thank you very much, I will tell the gang!
Have a nice week full of joy!