Wandering in America del Sur

Travel time: July 2005 - March 2006  |  by Allison Webb

And now the Real Adventure Begins

Was able to lick my not to see Machu Picchu wounds with a great group of American women that I met just before they were off to do the Inka trail. We feasted on pasta and talked travelling and life while the restaurant photographed us - presumably for their brochure or something! Wished them all well and told them I would be there in spirit. Next time!

The next day woke up and no one seemed in much a hurry to go out into the fray which was the protest aka carnival. The whole aura with the vendors on bikes and scads of people seated on the steps of the Cathedral looking onto the marching like in a stadium seemed very odd and surreal - as if the protest was only for show while curious tourists snapped tons of photos.

The one good thing was that it made walking a breeze since you were free to stroll on the cobblestone streets free from the usual mayhem of buses and taxis too small for their narrow passageways. And what else can you do when there´s a strike and you can´t leave the city? Well, visit the museums of course which is exactly what I did. First to the Inka museum to vicariously check out Machu Picchu and find out more history and culture of this ancient civilization. And after that it was off to see their walls which held up the Santa Domingo church.

Fairly overwhelmed from all the splendor returned to San Blas to sit in the sun and drink coffee and contemplate my real adventure which was just beginning - Chile!

For those of you who don´t know, I was off to Vina del Mar-Valparaiso, Chile for 6 months to participate in a government exchange where I would be working for the Chilean Ministry of Fisheries, Aquaculture Department while one of their staff, Paula went to my office. And not only were we switching jobs, but we were also switching apartments, friends and family!

The next am, with my first flight cancelled to Lima I found myself in the airport cursing Lan for the first time. Fortunately got on the next flight and arrived in Lima with little time to spare before a jam packed flight to Santiago - no tourists around - only business people.

Was fortunate to have been befriended by a very outgoing Chilean who worked in the wine industry. Besides getting the inside scoop, also got some good company to pass the time for the 3 1/2 hour flight and the inside scoop to getting through customs. And true to form as soon as we landed in Chile it was clear that we were no longer in Peru.

The Chileans rush around like New Yorkers. Once the plane was taxiing towards the gate, but not there, the Chileans were up out of their seats, cel phones switched on, everything out of the overhead bins and pushing forward in anticipation of being the first to get off and make for the Immigration man!

Had to try to hold my own, but with careful mentoring managed to fight my way off the plane - not very Canadian - and run for Immigration where I struggled in Espanol as the official no habla ingles - didn´t speak any English at all! After directing me to report to the police within 30 days I was off!

My colleague from the Government had come out to fetch me and I was really happy to recognize his face in the sea of taxi drivers with signs! He whisked me away with my load of bags and we were off west 120km from Santiago to the coast and my new home away from home, Vina del Mar.

Now the amazing thing is that with technology I was able to see digital photos of my new apartment before I got there so that when I arrived, it all felt familiar. And true to the complete switch, I was greeted by Paula´s family who were on hand to welcome me with flowers and a multitude of Espanol regarding how to survive in the place.

The most striking thing was the security and need for vigilance - lock, double lock and triple lock everything! Now I don´t think it´s really that bad, but I won´t take any chances with someone else´s stuff. The most confusing thing was the hot water - requiring multiple steps including running the water, turning on the gas, pushing in a button, turning, lighting a match to the pilot light, waiting for 10 seconds and then turning it to the maximum area for the hot water to really take effect! Now cover that all in Spanish! Thank gawd that it was all in person and that I could learn by seeing! And then after don´t forget to turn off the gas!

After everyone left and I unpacked my many bags and found hiding places for everything slept the sleep of the dead awakening to enjoy my first cup of Starbucks coffee in my little kitchen and start to get settled after the victory of the first warm water shower! Yea!

At noonish, my colleague, Cecilia picked me up for a lovely and scenic drive up the coast for 1 1/2 hours to our boss´s summer place for his birthday party. So within less than 24 hours after arriving I was fully jumping into the Chilean world by downing several Pisco sours (the national drink of Chile) and eating more meat bbq style than I had in a month including spicy Chilean sausages in a hotdog bun which is apparently typical.

My fellow partiers were friendly and everyone was very relaxed and open. I thought it was so nice how the manager opened his home to his colleagues - one and all. I had met his family before and they were as kind as ever.

Their summer place was a dream - warm and rustic with wood, glass and brick looking out onto the ocean as far as the eye could see. The whole interior was build like a sailboat with tiny bunkbeds set hidden behind curtains and facing the ocean. The high ceiling accommodating so many places to sleep and a fireplace to warm the soul.

Set up on a hill with a steep walk down to the water and their own protected beach on a bay, the property was laden with cactus and eucalyptus trees with their leaves and seeds falling everywhere on the ground. The table outside was made from a huge tree trunk and seated 8 giving the place a feeling completely akin to nature. In the background the men bbqued to their heart´s content throwing salt, salt and more salt on everything and talking with fine Chilean wine and piscos flowed.

After there were toasts and in customary style everyone was required to say something nice about our host, Ricardo (or that´s how they instructed me anyway!). They even translated for me. And in addition to hosting his birthday, they welcomed me to Chile. And sitting on the deck in the sunshine, on the grounds of this Pablo Neruda-like house, I felt like it was a harbinger of good things to come. Bienveido de Chile - welcome to Chile. The real adventure is truly beginning.

Protesting Peruvian style

Protesting Peruvian style

More protests

Santa Domingo Church

Santa Domingo Church

Tiles being sold on the street

My boss and his brother in law giving new meaning to the phrase, "where´s the beef!"

My boss and his brother in law giving new meaning to the phrase, "where´s the beef!"

Birthday Chilean style

© Allison Webb, 2005
You are here : Overview The Americas Chile And now the Real Adventure Begins
The trip
My trip through Peru before heading to Chile to work for 6 months and then travels afterward in South America
Start of journey: Jul 05, 2005
Duration: 8 months
End of journey: Mar 02, 2006
Travelled countries: Peru
The Author
Allison Webb is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 19 years.