06. CHILE

Chile?

Although we have been in the country of Chile, we really can’t say that we have seen the country.  I could quantify it by saying that our time spent sightseeing and travelling around the country was inversely proportional to the length of the country.  (Chile is 4,270 km / 2,653 miles north to south)

We first entered the country in San Pedro de Atacama. A small dusty tourist town that is the dumping point for the many travellers who have just completed the 3 day jeep trek through Uyuni salt flats and the Bolivian desert.  We were two of those travellers and by default that is where we entered Chile.

With very little to do in San Pedro de Atacama we quickly got bus tickets to Santiago; the capital of Chile.  It was another 18-20 hr bus ride but that did not bother us, we were experienced bus travelers.

Previously I had couchsurfed a place in Santiago.  Cristian was our host and he met us at the bus station wearing his red baseball cap. This was the prearranged identifying clothing. It sounds corny but it worked well.  The red cap and big smile made him easy to spot.

We arrived at Cistian’s house and met his mother and grandmother. Cristain owns his house and his mother, father, and grandmother live in the house right next to his. Convenient!

After a short rest mother and grandmother served us some food.  It was a nice and very welcome surprise.

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Serving and enjoying food together, turned out to be the theme for the duration of our week long stay.

Soon Jeong and I  had little motivation to go wandering around Santiago seeing the sights. Perhaps it was because we were so worn out from the 3 day Bolivian desert trek. Perhaps it was because Cristian and his family were such warm welcoming people. Whatever the reason, we just stayed at Cristian’s house and didn’t venture out except to the supermarket.

Over the course of a couple of days, all of Cristains family came by to greet us.  They were all wonderful people.  In addition to the family coming by, Cristian hosted some other couchsurfers; a couple from France.   And of course mother and grandmother made food for all.    We paid them in kind by cooking Korean food one night, another night French food was served.

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(Cristian in middle, with couchsurfers he hosted)

On top of all the great food and wonderful people, we had wine. Cristian likes wine and has discriminating tastes.  No cheap stuff on his wine shelf.   The wine shelf really was just a book shelf. He didn’t have a proper wine rack so a dozen or so bottles of wine were just stacked on top of each other on the book shelf.   A bit tricky if you wanted a bottle from the bottom of the pile.  Dispite the appearance of the pile of wine, he did have some good stuff there.

For our first dinner at Cristains he said to me; “Mr Scott, please choose ANY wine you like.”  I did not hesitate to do this.  And we did this just about every meal we had. It was great.

One night for Soon Jeong’s World cookbook, Grandmother, mother, and daughter gathered together to teach Soon Jeong how to make Seafood Empanadas. They also did a second version of meat. (The seafood was for me)

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All four ladies crowded into the small kitchen at mother’s house and did the cooking lesson. I video taped. Of course the wine was opened as the lesson started.

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Other family members showed up. Girlfriends and spouses showed up. Couchsurfers from Brazil, Russia and France showed up. More wine, more food, more people and more wine.  Then we were treated to some traditional Chilean dancing in the driveway.  It was a great night of friends, family and sharing.

At midnight I was completely worn out from the food and drink.  Everyone else was going strong.  Even the 75 year old grandmother looked much more alive then I did.  I tried to escape. At 2:00 am I was sucessfull.  Everyone else was still wide awake and enjoying.

It is not completely true that we just stayed at Cristian’s house eating, sleeping and drinking.  We did go into Santiago two times to have a look around the city. We saw a the changing of the guards and the governor’s house. Something like the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace in England, only not so famous.  It was nice.

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We saw the usual Cathedrals and plaza around Santago. We also went up to the top of a hill and stood at the foot of a statue of the virgin Mary (Cerro San Cristobal) taking in the panoramic view of the city.

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On another day we went to a winery and had their tour. The tour was all in Spanish but the guide was comical and seemed to do a good job.  At the end of the tour we were allowed to taste some of their product in the garden.

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It was cheap crap and they were wise to give it away.  After one sip I threw the rest in the flower bed.  They gave us the wine glass as a gift.  (Sympathy for having drank their wine???)

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Not counting Cristain and his family, the best thing about Santiago was the Nikon Service center. Soon Jeong’s Nikon D70 camera died when we were in Costa Rica. When we were in Lima Peru we did check at a Nikon sales place but they didn’t have the means to fix the camera.  In Santiago we went to the official Nikon Service center and dropped off the camera. They said they would look at it and that I was to call them back in 2 days to see if it could be fixed and approximately how much it would cost.

A couple of days later we went into Santiago so I didn’t bother to call ahead. We just went straight to the service center.   The guy gave me my camera back and said it is fixed.  “FIXED??   What was wrong with it?”

He didn’t have the exact English vocabulary but he got the message through.. It was a manufacturer’s defect and repairs due to this defect were free of charge.

“OH YEA, OH BABY, OH YEA, WHOA HOO!   I LIKE CHILE, I LIKE SANTIAGO, I LIKE NIKON THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. ”

Needless to say, I was happy and we were back in business as TWO photographers.

Soon Jeong and I celebrated by stopping in at the Starbucks nearby and having a nice triple-tall-mocha and a gooey cinnamon roll.

From Santiago we took a bus to Mendoza, Argentia.  We left early Sunday morning. Cristian gave us a ride to the bus station and before we left, mother came out to see us off and give us a hug. Mother and Soon Jeong were quite misty-eyed as we departed.

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We really enjoyed our time in Chile and we have truly made some good friends there.  Next time we visit Chile we will try to see a little more of the country.

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(Soon Jeong after 3 days treking in the desert)

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(And the police arrest after the butcher shop incident!)

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