First days in Chile

I’ve been in Santiago a few days now, and I’m starting to get the hang of it, so here’s a bit more on what’s happening. Yesterday got off to a slow start, as I didn’t even wake up until noon. Usually I can tell the time to within about 10 minutes, without a watch, but my body clock is a bit messed up right now. It’s coming right, and should be sorted soon. Hope so, because waking up hungry at 4am, way too hot to go back to sleep, is not fun.

Haven’t done too much in the way of typical tourist stuff, other than going up the cable car, to the top of the hill overlooking the city. It was quite weird walking through the markets selling tourist tat, and be completely ignored by the hawkers. They were focussing on the Spanish-speaking touristas. Other than that there’s been a lot of walking around, and getting a few things sorted out. Ordering food/drink is easy, but when you need to carry out slightly more complicated transactions, such as getting a new SIM card setup, things get a bit more interesting when you don’t share much language. I’d forgotten how much fun that can be.

People think that travel to exotic locations is glamorous, and maybe it can be, but if they saw me yesterday, sitting in a bright orange restaurant, eating fried chicken that was more skin than meat, off a bright orange plastic tray, watching an Adam Sandler movie dubbed into very loud Spanish, well, they might just think again.

Today I went for a bike ride around Santiago, covering about 35km. Surprisingly, the city has some useful bike facilities, with many bike paths through the parks, and along the riverbank. Many Chilenos were out and about on their bikes too. With it being a Sunday, and an election day, most shops were closed, so there was not much traffic. As an aside though, can you imagine a Western service station closing the shop part (but still selling petrol) just because it’s an election day? Hasn’t anyone told them that most of their sales margin is made in the store, not at the pump?

The vague outline of the ride I did was to follow the river through the city, from east to west. This corresponded with a significant decline in the money in each area. In the east was a huge shopping mall, full of rich Western brands, but closed. Very odd seeing a carpark listing spaces available: 1415. It was all Gucci and Prada out there, but sterile. As I went west, the money dropped, but once I passed the city center, things got much more interesting. Far more drunken bums passed out on the grass. Many shops were still closed, but there were still markets and things going on in the west. I guess when you’re poor, you can’t always just take a day off.

Tomorrow I’m going to get a bus to Chillan, and ride from there. This will save me some time, and avoid some dull riding through industrial areas, and busy roads.