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Living the South American Dream

Viña del Mar

CHILE | Monday, 29 March 2010 | Views [430]

Caught the bus from Santiago to Viña del Mar, basically the Chilean equivalent of the Gold Coast in Australia. Lots of tall buildings, rich people, casinos, cafes, restaurants etc. Stayed in Hotel Hispana, nothing spectacular but the breakfasts were nice. Got plenty of photos of Viña. The city was nice but has some bad sides but there are hotels where the rich and famous stay and some great photo opportunities on the beach. cant really remember our first day and night but there are two events that stick out in my mind about Viña. The first was dinner with a couple of our friends in their beachside apartment, lovely little place, great food and conversation and brilliant sunsets over the water (my first). Spanish at this point was still very elementary and I was feeling the effects of moving to another country from a place where I was always able to communicate effectively and articulatey. The second event was much more exciting and terrifying.

So there we were in the street. Andres and I. We had just stepped into a pharmacy to pick up some tablets for heartburn when an aftershock hit. There was nothing particularly scary about it to start with, being the 8th one I had experienced. Nothing scary until we realised it wasn´t stopping. The cabinets in the store started to sway backwards and forwards and the power poles outside did the same. We stepped outside at Andres´insistance and waited it out, that was it. We carried on up the street and about 5minutes later another one struck. Milder than the first but disconcerting nontheless given their close proximity to one another. Andres turned to a young guy in the street and exchanged some comments with laughter. That quickly died when we saw people running promptly followed by a police vehicle blaring "evacuacion tsunami". Eveyone in the street seemed to stop and look at each other before all turning their heads to find the tsunami evacuation signs pointing to the nearest hill. Naturally we ran with them. Viña and Valparaiso (the neighbouring town) have a population of about 1.2million people. Now picture people in cars, with children, on foot, carrying produce and purchases all heading in one direction. The defining image on my mind was this poor woman behind us, desperately trying to phone her family with tears running down her face while trying to keep up with the increasing pace of the crowd. I also remember turning to Andres at one point and asking "are we actually running up a hill for fear of a tsunami?" When we got to the top of the hill we had no information and couldn´t return to our hotel. So we waited and waited... and waited some more. Finally, with not a little trepidation we moved down hill towards the main road and back towards our hotel 3 hours later!!! Of course the hostelier had also made a run for the hills and we only got into the hotel for lunch at about 4pm with a friend (Raul) of ours who had incidentally picked the wrong day to visit his home town. All was fine until the second warning came  halfway through our meal, ARGH! This time though we stayed put, only a two minute run to the nearest stairs up the side of the nearest hill. The only real regret about the whole incident was that we had failed to capture any images or video of the event. In my mind the insuing panic did more damage than what any tsunami might have done (an exagerration of course). Stalls had been turned over in the panic, cars had crashed at intersections and the entire town shut down thereafter. An experience to say the least but I must admit I remember a deep sense of terror whilst running when I pictured in my minds eye the water of the sea tearing after us through the narrow streets. 

Tags: tsunami!!!!

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