Back into the Big City
Life in Santiago...
February 27, 2007
After a quick 13-hour overnight bus ride (yes, surprisingly this is a short amount of time these days), I arrived in Santiago.
This was exciting for me for a number of reasons. For starters, unlike many ‘backpackers’ I enjoy big cities. Heck, I love big cities!
The last time I got to explore a brand-new big city was a couple months ago when I arrived in Melbourne. So I was basically
I think there is something much more challenging about first arriving in a large city than simply have a bus roll into the center of a
small town. Of course I enjoy a lot of the smaller cities that I have visited…but many of them just start feeling very similar to one
another after a while, even if they aren’t similar at all. I guess I just mean that they revolve around an approximately 5-square
block area that is all-too-easy to navigate. With my impending arrival into Santiago, it was necessary to consult my map and figure
out how I would get from the bus station to the Metro and then picking the right Metro stop to then make my way through the
streets to my hostel. Ahhh, upon accomplishing such a feat I can give myself a ‘Jen, you rock!’ moment of praise. This was in order
today as I made it to the hostel flawlessly. Unbelievable for such a directionally-challenged person!
As I was waiting to see if there would be an available bed at my hostel, I noticed a couple of people that looked a bit familiar. There
was good reason for that – they were familiar! It was Brian and Emma from my Antarctica trip. And running into people from the
Minutes later I was hitting the streets of Santiago.
There are two things that stand out to be for being the big draw to big cities: checking out different neighborhoods and having a
range of food options/ethnicities to choose from.
I found a Peruvian restaurant with a good sounding menu (i.e. 3-course lunch) so I stopped in there. A Chilean woman and her man
were also in the restaurant eating. She started chatting me up. She was what I think of when I think of South American women. She
had so much energy. Her man didn’t speak English and let me say that she was quite forthcoming with information. She said that
they were about to separate because they were going to kill each other soon. I found this odd since I saw them kissing just a couple
minutes before she started talking to me. She was laughing that he was falling asleep at the table (not literally – he just seemed to
be very tired). When I said something regarding her ‘boyfriend’, she corrected me and told me he was ‘her lover’. She pointed out
that he was so tired because of their love-making from the night before. Sad that even when somebody is your ‘lover’, lots of lovin’
still isn’t enough.
Monica (the woman) also made me laugh when she told the manager that he had to change the musical selection. She told him that I
was American and that I shouldn’t have to listen to American music in a Peruvian restaurant. He informed her they weren’t in
possession of Peruvian tunes. So lunch was had listening to the likes of Michael Jackson, Tears for Fears and Jennifer Lopez (I guess
she is getting a little closer to South American, right?).
When they were leaving, Monica stopped by my table to say good-bye and give me a couple kisses on my cheeks. What a great way
to spend my first couple hours in Santiago!
Now I was going to explore. My plan was to walk along the main street and see what I stumbled upon. This is my only day in
Santiago before heading to Easter Island. Once I get back, I have to wait around for a few days while I wait for my Brazilian visa to
be issued. At that point, I can spend time in the areas that I have grown a particular fondness for. Until then, I would do some
One thing that stood out to me was the beautiful architecture (that I am guessing is around from the times of the Spanish
colonization). Part of the downtown area shocked me because it was just so darn picturesque. But then again, I need to remember
that Chile is the wealthiest country in South America (a fact I didn’t really realize before I arrived in this continent). As I kept
walking I saw a beautiful area with European architecture and fountains at the entrance – turned out it was a park. I decided to
enter and walk to the top to see the views. While it was a great place to walk around and it’s great that Santiago has such places,
Santiago’s skyline definitely falls short of being impressive. As I was walking to head out, it sounded like I heard a voice that said
‘Jen’. But I knew that wasn’t the case – it very well could have been people speaking Spanish and I might have heard a ‘bien’ or
something like that. For some reason I turned around anyway. I had to do a double-take when I saw that it was little Dutch Nancy
from my Antarctica trip! She, Kees and one of their Dutch friends were at the park. I was only at this place by sheer chance. These
types of run-ins blow me away.
Another great thing about having arrived in Santiago is that while it has been summer in all of South America, it finally feels like
summer. I don’t even want to know what Patagonia feels like in the winter because let me say that their ‘summer’ feels like
anything but (there were even times where Alicia had to remind me it was summer in Ushuaia as I would refer to the ‘winter-
weather’). With hot summer weather, certain cravings occur. One would be the need for soft-serve ice cream upon passing a
McDonald’s. I saw that this McDonald’s had a swirl option. I was going to go for it. There seemed to be a slight communication
problem when I placed my order for my ‘chocolato y vanille’ cone. She seemed confused and when I listened hard enough I realized
she said something using the word ‘manjar’. I went along with what she was telling me while not really having a clue what it was
that she was telling me (I do this a lot out here). I got my cone and realized what she was telling me. My swirl cone had vanilla. But
it didn’t have chocolate. It had manjar…or what we know as ‘dulce de leche’. I have been to many o’ McDonald’s around the world
and let me say that this is their greatest accomplishment. It was taken even one step further by serving it in a sugar cone. This was
pure magic. It really was. If it wasn’t for needing my Brazil visa, there would be a good chance that this ice cream cone would have
been enough to keep me in Santiago for a few extra days.
At the very end of the night after I got back from my oh-so-wonderful sushi dinner (a roll with queso and steak wrapped in
seaweed wrapped in rice and then a thin layer of cooked salmon with panko crumbs – absolutely incredible!), I ran into Brian and
Emma at the hostel. We decided to have a drink. Since both of their moms were in Antarctica with them, they missed out on a lot of
what was going on. I spent a bit of time giving them the run-down of all of the shenanigans on board. They were amazed that they
had no clue about any of it. We continued to talk and talk…and then talk some more (my favorite story was the one about when
they went to the Perito Moreno glacier with their moms and Brian’s mom kept yelling “Brian, you’re too close to the edge. Brian, get
away from the edge. Get away from the edge, Brian.” After about the third time, the other people on the tour had no choice but to
laugh. Keep in mind, Brian and Emma were backpacking before their moms arrived and will be traveling for a year or so in total. I’
m pretty sure they can handle themselves. Ahhh, moms…gotta love it). By the time Brian declared his need to go to bed, I looked at
my watch. It was 4:30am.
My taxi is leaving at 5:30am. So much for sleep tonight, huh? It is now 5:00am and I am sitting here waiting. My bed went
completely untouched for the night. I’m not tired in the slightest but hopefully all of that will change once I board my flight. I will
probably be able to use a few zzz’s before arriving in Easter Island…