Bariloche and Santiago (Chile!)
03.06.2011 - 09.06.2011 10 °C
So I have finally made it over the Andes and into Chile, but quite a few days later than I had originally intended. This is due to the fact that the highly inconsiderate Puyehue Volcano decided to erupt for the first time in 51 years and block my passage across the border. I was on a coach going from Bariloche to Puerto Montt (Chile), at the time, when the bus had to stop and turn around. I however, speaking very little Spanish, did not know what was going on until a kind nun came up to me to explain that the volcano was active and it was too dangerous to continue. The drive towards the Andes had been beautiful with crisp green trees and blue tinted water, however the return involved looking at the same shapes all in different shades of grey- the ash was falling. When finally we got off the bus I started to get covered in what seemed to be sticky hail, the bits landing on me only getting bigger as I tried to navigate myself to a hostel, (there were no taxis available), in the thick, grey, rubbley snow. I must have been quite a sight when I finally arrived at the hostel as the owner made me give her all of my clothes so she could wash them at the house for me, very kind, and then hoovered my rucksack. We were then all told by the hostel to only go outside if we needed to and to cover our noses and mouths, the locals were wearing masks, as they had not determined how toxic the eruption was yet.
The next morning I woke up to a very grey and dusty Bariloche and was told that the border was still not open into Chile, along with the airport being shut etc. A few thousand people had been evacuated from the area due to the red alert and the volcano had created a column of gas 6 miles high and 3 miles wide, following earthquakes with an average of 230 tremors per hour. The photos are pretty impressive, worth having a google. I then decided that rather than waiting it out in Bariloche I would start to move north in Argentina and make the crossing from Mendoza into Santiago. The bus ride to Mendoza was very creepy as, due to the ash, it became pitch black at lunch time as we were driving out of Bariloche. After an hour of darkness however we were back up to a good speed and hurtling towards our destination. Although the Volcano created another barrier, as the border was not open at Mendoza, I had an impromptu stay in the city for the night and then finally made my way over the Andes.
What an amazing coach journey, approaching the snow capped Andes towering over your passage majestically. Another one of those moments when you have to stop taking pictures, thinking that this view has to be the best view so far, and just make yourself sit back and take it all in. The immigration point into Chile took forever to get through, about 2 hours in total, and I can tell you this- This border crossing is not the place that you would even attempt to take drugs through. You should see how they react over an apple in someones bag so I can´t imagine what they would do if the dogs running all over your stuff stopped at your bag. We did however finally all make it through and onto the bus for a few more hours to Santiago. I greatly respect punctuality, and like that the driver wanted to get us into Santiago as quickly as possible, however I did not feel that this aim warranted his overtaking of lorries as we were speeding down the narrow roads that were twisting themselves down the mountain side. A little bit nerve wracking but then the roads will only get worse as I move into Bolivia and Peru.
My time in Santiago was jam packed and I managed to avoid visiting the usual museums by going on a great informal tour of the city. Although we obviously covered the historical buildings such as the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago and the Palacio de la Moneda y Alredeclares we also got taken to some of the regular but less talked about haunts of the locals- "Cafe With Legs." These are coffee shops where they ensure that each male is served their coffee by a woman in a very short skirt who will talk to them for a while. The guide said this ensured that the men went to work with a smile on their faces! I am sure it does but firstly most of them are married, cant their wife/parter/girlfriend do that for them, and if not then maybe take a look at that relationship. Secondly what about the many women gong to work each day, who is there to ensure that they go to work with a smile on their faces? But after seeing the Chilean men I would not want them anywhere near my drink topless. And dont think that is all, no, some places have taken the idea of "Cafe With Legs" and have adapted it to what must be "Cafe With Bikinis." These are not hidden down some dark street either, but in the middle of the commercial area so that all the men going to work can get a drink served to them by a woman in their underwear. We were walking past at 10am to see the men stroll in for their morning drink and a leer, probably wishing with all of their heart that "Happy Minute" would come any time soon. What is this "Happy Minute" I hear you ask, and I am sure that quite a few of you reading this wish that these were part of your daily lives, it is when a bell is rung and for one minute the women take all of their clothes off to dance on your table. It does not happen very often but does happen. Having seen the women inside they are certainly not the ones on the posters and you would have to be pretty desperate to find them attractive, but then I suppose that is why strip clubs are so popular. And also possibly because these men feel that they have the right to see naked women all of the time because of their high paying job that pulls them into the city and the cafe just happens to be conveniently placed. Wow a bit of a rant but I am finished.........let me continue...........
I also went up the San Cristobal Hill and luckily, because it had rained the evening before, the smog had lifted so I had some great views of the city with the backdrop of the Andes looking like clouds surrounding it. An amazing sight only improved by the pisco sour that I had, a great lemony/sugary/egg white drink that both the Chileans and Peruvians lay claim to. I must try it in Peru as it is meant to fluffier, very different in some cases- I will let you know. This was also followed up with a well deserved ice cream which I was going to be adventurous with at first. However after trying the Rosa ice cream I decided it really did taste as roses would if you ate the petals of them, so as you can guess, I opted for the dulce de leche.
A great couple of days in Santiago but I must move North again, chasing the sun.