A Mad Dash In Santiago
It was only a matter of time before I shat the proverbial bed. I stashed my backpack carrying the majority of the few things I have to my name underneath of the bus departing from the airport to the center of Santiago. As I hopped off at the Universidad de Catolica metro stop I made my way to the tail end of the bus to retrieve my bag. Only this apparently isn’t considered a major stop and the bus took off down the busy Bernard O´Higgins Avenue. So I took off after it, my flip flops smacking loudly against the sidewalk and my heels in rapid succession.
I caught a break two traffic lights down as the bus halted for a red light. I weaved in between cars and caught up to the front door just as the light turned green. Frantically beating on the door to ask the driver to let me in, he turned at the sound, his expression changing to a look that clearly said ‘what the hell are you doing you crazy bastard?’, and hit the accelerator down the four lane avenue. I had no choice but to continue to give chase along the sidewalk, bobbing and weaving through a sea of pedestrians in way less of a hurry than myself. With each minute that passed by without the bus in sight I began to lose a bit of hope but wasn’t ready to give up.
After sprinting past four metro stops, backtracking more than once to retrieve a rogue flip flop, I finally spotting the bus number 140 in the distance. The driver had finished his route and was relaxing for a minute with a cigarette. I’ve never been so relieved to see someone smoking and was able to retrieve my bag. Even though I now had an extra 15kg strapped to my back, it felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. With all of the countless different buses, trains, taxis, and flights it’s a wonder I hadn’t lost my luggage before this. I guess I didn’t quite shit the proverbial bed. It was more like one of those gamble farts where afterwards you’re relieved and a little surprised to get away clean.
At this point it was definitely time for a nice stiff drink. My friend Nico put me in touch with his cousin Alejandro who lives in Santiago and Ali picked me up to head to a housewarming party for some of his friends. Piscolas were going down the hatch and we had a good time until six in the morning. Alejandro and his friends were good people and I went around one of the local markets a couple days later with them. As usual there were many interesting things to see: people selling donkey milk, trinkets and electronics, and street performers like and amazing puppeteer who had his grunge skeleton puppet rocking the guitar with amazing precision.
To get an idea for the scope of the city I headed to the Cerro San Cristobal, the highest point in the middle of the city. At the top of the hill is an enormous statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the city. There is also a small cathedral dedicated to Saint Christopher. I don’t consider myself very religious, but we share a name and he is the patron saint of travelers so I stopped in for a moment of gratitude for any powers that have been keeping me safe this trip.
From here the buildings below span in an enormous circle towards the bordering Andes mountains, making for an impressive sight. I fueled the walk up with some street food. Everywhere you look in Santiago people are selling hot dogs, asado sandwiches, and lomos. Literally everywhere. These people just can’t seem to get enough mayonnaise either. I grabbed an italiano, a choripan smothered in guacamole. The Chileans aren’t conservative with their avocado, and that’s just fine with me.
I figured I should try to do something cultural during my stay in the city so I went to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This museum is home to some impressive sculptures, and is very small in comparison to most museums. You could easily see all the artwork at a leisurely pace in two hours. Just make sure not to head there on a Monday as it is closed along with the Museo de Arte Precolombino. I got a good laugh walking past the museum on a Monday as a grandmother jokingly called her grand daughter a stupid gringo as they were turned away from the closed doors. If you want to be a really smart gringo you can check out the two museums on a Sunday for free.
Speaking of gringos, I met up with my friend Samkay from uni who has been teaching English in Santiago for the past two years. We caught up in the very bohemian barrio Bellavista, lined with restaurants, bars, and sweet grafiti. We shared stories over a few Escudos and then were invited to join the table of two Chileans sitting next to us. From here the a few Escudos subtly made its way into enough Escudos (maybe one too many judging by my lethargy the next day). It was awesome to see Sam again, it is amazing how you wind up running into old friends in different corners of the world.
Leaving Santiago to head towards Mendoza, I made sure to note the bus number. Never know when you’re actually going to shit the proverbial bed.