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South America 2015

Santiago Sloths

CHILE | Sunday, 13 September 2015 | Views [1145]

Santiago Sloths

The original plan in Chile was to head straight up the Andes and do a weeks skiing, However the associated costs and it being fully booked had conspired against us. We did manage to find a budget option but not until the second week of our stay so Santiago would be home for the next week. We pulled up to the address of our hostel and were presented with a big old white house, with a big old black gate and not a sign or person in site. Our taxi driver looked confused, we looked concerned, but then a head popped out the side door and said come on in guys. The hostel, a converted old house was very cool. Staff were great, and had a hostel great dane called Duke, who was the soppiest sook of a dog ever but our loved pats and cuddles.
Our host asked if we had any plans for the evening as they were all heading off to the national football stadium to watch Chile play Paraguay. Sounds like a plan, a football match in South America had always been on the wish-list, we bought tickets online and settled in, did some grocery shopping and at about 3:30 decided to have a nap, the football outing started at 6pm so all good. About 5:15 we woke from our doze, it was awfully quiet so wandered to reception to ask if everyone was still meeting at 6pm. Nope, meeting at 4pm because the match starts at 6pm, ah crap, a quick change and into a taxi and made it to our seats with 7 seconds to spare, Come on Chile ! Chile indeed, it was freezing at the stadium, we were sure the locals were chanting and dancing just to stay warm. Chile went on to win 3-2 in an entertaining game and a good start to our time in Chile.
From here on in we had no plans, our room had shutters on the window so with a very dark room we slept-in until lunchtime. When we rose it was pretty fair to say we lacked motivation, for anything, and staying in bed for a week seemed a viable option. Maybe the Brazil whirlwind took its toll or 5 months of travel had finally caught up with us but we had definitely been bitten by the lazy bug. Our ski trip next week was all inclusive, meals, transport, accommodation, lift passes, so we checked our budget for the week and it looked like we would use up the remainder of our funds on food and accommodation in Santiago with little to spare for entertainment. No winery tours at US$200 per head as the guide book suggested, but the supermarket did have local Chilean wine for US$4 a bottle, so we did our best to tour the region's wineries in spirit. 
It was around this time the reality started to kick in that soon we would be heading home. No more travels and that big bad old thing called reality started to rear its ugly head. We had 5 days left in Santiago with no motivation, no plans, no 'ticks' off the list to accomplish, very limited funds and thoughts of having to find jobs and somewhere to live. What a downer ! We decided sleeping in until lunchtime every day was both a way of killing time and skipping a meal, which saved us money that we could spend on wine at dinner ! That was pretty much the pattern for the next 5 or 6 days. We did make an effort to do something touristy each day but 3 or 4 hours was pretty much our limit. Apart from our ski clothes shopping day ...
Renting a ski jacket and pants was about $30 US per day each, at 5 days that equals expensive. Jorje did some research and found out about some outlet malls on the outskirts of Santiago, up to 70% off and its end of ski season so might be worth a look. We can get 2 buses to get there, seems easy enough. Yeah, You know where this is heading right ? The bus stop the internet gave us was wrong, buses went past, bus drivers looked at us as they drove by. Eventually we found the right bus stop-ish. It was actually the end of the route but the bus driver was kind enough to give us a lift to the start of the new route. We showed him our plan and asked if he could tell us when to get off, he smiled, we smiled, we tried to pay, he wouldn't let us, we thought that was nice. Our Spanish is pretty good between us but the Chileans speak very very very very quickly so there was a few nods and 'yeah I think I know what he means' going on. We had missed the point of the story he was telling. 45 minutes later we were at our stop and saw the right numbers for the connecting bus, again we tried to pay and the driver waved us away, we got off the bus and the penny finally dropped. You can't pay cash on Santiago buses, only Bip cards, similar to a smartrider, mykey or oyster card. 
This leaves us in the outskirts of Santiago's industrial area with no way of getting on our connecting bus. Remembering the map, we knew it was only about 3kms to the outlet malls, and in a straight line down the road, we could walk it. With no idea when the next bus was coming we decided to set off, down the Pan American Highway. About a kilometre in, the footpath ended and turned to dirt and gravel on a side road. We walked, and walked. We knew it was at the next highway junction and could see the bridge ahead so we walked, and walked, and the bridge turned out to be for pedestrians but on the upside we could now see the actual bridge. Three kms was a bit of guess looking at the map, it was actually nearly 5kms of dirt, mud, gravel, trucks and factory workers looking at us very strangely.  Only one bus went past us and right near the end of the walk, so we would have been waiting a long time if we hadn't walked. We got there in the end and it was very worth it. We each managed to pick up a ski jacket, pants, gloves and goggles for US$250. Bargain. Needless to say we got a taxi home, for about $25 and about 7 hours killed. Nice work !
Other days we worked around the weather which had been freezing cold and raining. During sunny patches we went to see the statue of Mary over looking the city on top of the hill, Rio style. Mary of the Immaculate Conception who has a giant TV antenna behind her. Jorje quickly renamed her Mary with Immaculate Reception. We got to ride on a funicular ( google it, Perth doesn't have one ) to the top of the hill and passed by the zoo. Another day we checked out Saint Lucia Park which had a castle on top and amazing views across the city. Other times we just wandered the streets and looked for restaurants to eat dinner. Traditional Chilean food consists of hotdogs and sandwiches so we ate at Peruvian, Japanese or Grill restaurants. Each of these occasions was followed by wine back at the digs, internet searching for houses and jobs, and a sleep in until 12noon. By day six it was time for us to leave Santiago city and just as well, our boredom was taking over and ideas to kill time had run dry. Waking to an alarm clock after the week that had been was quite a shock, but smiles prevailed as we headed off up the mountains to Portillo for some snow and much needed fresh air and excitement.


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