Sunday, June 1, 2008
Chile; finally, again, at last.
Finally! Some pictures from Chile! I flew into Santiago on a sunny and fairly clear day, arriving from the Northwestern side of the city. The plane approached over desolate, dry, and mountainous country reminiscent of Nevada. Only as we were about to touch down in Santiago did I get my first glimpse of Chilean greenery, an agricultural area near the airport.
From the airport I hailed a taxi. With my limited Spanish, and even more limited geographic and cultural understanding of Chile and Santiago I ended up paying about $80 for a 20 minute cab ride into the city. There I was happy to be on the ground, at a hostel I had found online with the help of a friend of a friend of my mother.
I put as much of my stuff (pictured in Portland before I left) as I could into the locker provided at the hostel, and went walking around Santiago. The hostel was located near the city center and Plaza de Armas, so I went there to see what it was all about. Santiago is alive with life, pedestrians everywhere sometimes forming critical masses to cross busy streets on red lights, making places like Los Angeles seem empty and isolating with everyone hiding in their car. I enjoyed walking around, although I was nervous because I didn't understand the culture, or much of the language and I was carrying my passport, cash, and camera on my person.
However I was never threatened and mostly felt uncomfortable because I am not used to having so many people so very close around me. The Plaza de Armas is a neat open park space with brick pavers, lots of open space, and a few trees. It is surrounded by museums (I think) and churches, notably a big catholic cathedral with the pictured statue adorning the roof top.
I went into the church and enjoyed the peaceful tranquility of the place amongst the hundreds of people quietly sitting and reflecting or praying inside.
Santiago continued to catch me by surprise with the many loose dogs on the streets, literally sleeping underfoot. There are big pedestrian only streets there too, filled from building to building with people going in in every direction, overwhelming but beautiful at once.
From Santiago I bussed and thumbed rides south towards Pucon with a brave little American woman named. She is a retired teacher, and bluntly told me: buses are boring it will be much more interesting to hitch hike. Logic I couldn't refuse.
Our trip south was indeed interesting, and we had some good rides. We split up along the way, me going on to Pucon, her staying behind in Chillan where we had found a good, cheap, hospedaje, or hostel in someones home.
Chillan was the real thing. Poor, but honest and real. The people walked where they went, and were not trying to be anything besides what they really are. Image is nothing, reality is everything. Well as far as I could tell anyhow.
I went on to Pucon, anxious to get to the mountains. I felt like I was traveling north from Sacramento into Northern California and onward to Oregon. Only it was a mirror image. Pucon was very touristy, with lots of drunk and well to do people from all over the world walking the streets and sunbathing at the local lakeside beach. I was pretty dissapointed with the town, as it reminded me of the parts of American Culture I despise- gluttonous consumption, and a disregard for the welfare of those around you, arrogance- but the food was indeed good and I found some sushi to eat. It was kind of a paradox for me to be in South America eating sushi.
I stayed at the Wohlenberg Hostel, a second generation German family there took every visitor in like family. Thanks to them I had a safe place to crash and find some info on the trails in the area. I rented a Huffy from them and went on a nice 40 km ride along dirt roads, out to a place called Los Ojos, the eyes; here water as blue as an emerald poured freely from the ground and began a river.
Soon I grew anxious to get into the mountains, as Volcan Villarica (pictured) is ajacent to town and very beautiful indeed. I caught a bus to Parque Nacional Herquehue, where I began a long and steep hike up to some beautiful natural lakes. I snapped the picture of the lake and mountain behind on my way up the hill looking back where I had come from (I had begun hiking at the far end of the lake).
End of Introduction to Eugene's Chile trip. Stay tuned for Part One: The Hike.