So if we our friends on Facebook you will know we made Chile and didn't get stranded in Mendoza. Getting to Mendoza went without a hitch despite the bus turning up thirty minutes late; causing a mild panic amongst us as it we had found South American public transportation to be most punctual. I finished the book I was reading - Questions of Travel. It wasn't a great book but in fairness it had a good ending I was not expecting at all. I listened to some Oasis until my battery on the iPod ran out and slept. We didn't have long to wait in Mendoza - around 45 minutes - as we got the first bus out of there. A supposedly eight hour ride through the Andes mountain range to Santiago the Chilean capital. Despite the fantastic scenery the bus ride would offer I was not looking forward to the second leg of our journey, why? Because all my technological equipment had no battery apart from my laptop but that would soon drain without a power source. I did have my new book The Cocaine Wars though that would occupy me. I didn't even manage to read the prologue of the book though as to my delight Andersmar - the bus company we were travelling with were laying English speaking movies, the first up was The Art of the Steal, this was followed by The Legend of Hercules, then the Railway Man, The Trails of Cate McCall was next and we finished with the first part of Walk of Shame. The bus company also provided a Panini style snack and also tea and cake in the arvo. It was one of the best bus trips we had took with its beautiful scenery, winding roads, leather seats and movies. The one let-down of the trip was the border crossing which was by far the worse we have had so far on the journey. We were at the crossing for at around 3 hours, waiting, getting passport stamps and having our bags scrutinised by the Chilean Border Authorities. They were quite strict on what you couldn't take into the country with fresh produce, spices and meat being a big no-no. Luckily we had already herd about this and read about a girl who got fined 200 US dollars for a forgotten banana so we made sure we ate all our fresh stuff beforehand. The border control was efficient and intimidating; at one point they even had us lined up with our bags in front of us like it was an identity parade which it kind of was with a sniffer dog checking our bags. Eventually though we were back on our way through the 180 degree winding roads, beautiful scenery of the snow covered mountains. I'm not a huge fan of snow but I really wanted to touch the stuff after noting seeing it in over 30 months. The snow was nowhere to be soon as we made our way into the capital at a much warmer temperature than I expected and after around 26 hours of travelling. We then made our way to the Mosaico hostel which our friend Allie had recommended, it was a nice hostel with a really nice common room with seats like a sauna and sofas. I even managed to snag myself an early birthday present as they had the second Sir Alex Ferguson auto-biography in the book exchange. For the first time since Montevideo Earl and I were in separate rooms, they both had advantages I was sharing with five girls, two Brazilian, two French and I'm not sure about the other, whereas Earl had an ensuite and a bottom bunk. After a much needed shower we headed into the city to find a Supermarket and Bank to get some much needed Chilean Pesos. That night after a meal of rice and hot dog sausages we chilled out making use of the free pool table each struggling with its close proximity to the walls and uneven table but coming out even at 3-3. What they lacked with the pool table they made up for by giving us free snacks.
The next morning didn't get off to the best start as I watched Man Utd lose their opening game to the season to Swansea whilst eating my Chocolate flakes and Ham sandwich. The next few hours was a bit chilled as I caught up on my blogs, sorted the dream team comp and watched Soccer Saturday. Earl then decided to go for a stroll; meanwhile I ate some Prawn noodles, grabbed a beer and watched the Arsenal vs Crystal Palace game. The football finished in time that we could go on the Santiago tips paid walking tour. It was Baltic in our hostel so I decided to go out in my recently purchased hat and gloves; however when I set foot outside the sun was beating down and producing heat that was reaching thirty degrees. I'm not sure how or why it was so cold it in the hostel but it definitely gave a false impression to the conditions that were waiting outside. Stashing my now not needed hat and gloves in Earl's day bag we made our way to the museum and met the tour guide a youngish looking girl called Antonia. Antonia reminded me of a cross between Allie (who we met on our first trip to Buenos) and Candy (who we roomed with in Rio) she was a nice girl and gave great facts about Santiago, but she disappointed me a little that her people skills weren't as great as other tour guides we have had on other tours, she didn't interact much if at all during walks to the various places and I think she lacked having a bad joke or three in her Arsenal. The walking talking tour took us to various places including the main square, areas such as London, Paris and New York (The Financial District of Santiago), we also visited Santa Lucia's Park where we learnt why there are so many PDA's that occur in the parks and various places of Chile and South America. If you were wondering it's because most people live with their parents and it's frowned upon to take a girl/boy back home with you so they have to find out other places to show their affection for each other. We also visited a subway station in Chile which has been named in the top ten most beautiful subway stations because of two memorial paintings painted at each end, personally I thought it was overrated and probably wouldn't get in my top 25 not that subway stations is something I pay particular attention to and rank. We also visited the main square which was currently being renovated but had a very funny street mime artist performing; we went in a fancy looking cathedral and also Lastarria, the bohemian soul of Santiago's downtown and houses a church which preaches Opus Dei. Apparently this is a very powerful in Chile as the families who follow this religion are very rich and high up in politics and is a reason why things such as same sex marriage and abortion are not legalized. We also found out about a pivotal day in Chilean history - the 1973 military coup and about the stray dogs which roamed the streets of Santiago. The stray dogs are very different from any other country they are all very plump and healthy as the locals feed them, put coats on them when it's cold, in return the dogs apparently look after you at night if you are walking alone they will follow you home seeing you are alright and they even only cross roads when it's a green man, and it's also been known for some to even catch a bus though I'm sceptical on these matters but it is true that they are probably the friendliest stray dogs in the world. The walking tour ended at the cultural centre where there were hundreds of groups of kids practising different dance routines and choreographing new ones, it was a strange sight to witness and very distracting as Antonia tried to tell us about the history of the Cultural Centre. All in all the walking tour was very informative but like most they dragged a bit too long and I zoned out of many stories. After the tour we legged it back to Santa Lucia hill to try and catch the sunset but unfortunately the gates locked at 6pm and we missed the opportunity.
Once back at the hostel I decided against the rice, hot dog sausages and carrots Earl was preparing and went to get a greasy hot dog to line my stomach for the night's drunken antics. I was not disappointed stumbling across the best hot dog I have ever had for a small fee of £2.29. It contained two hot dog sausages, Churrasco meat, Avocado, Tomato, Mayo, and some yellow stuff I had no idea about, it was overflowing the foot-long bun and was that full adding another sauce to the mix wold be chaotic as it was messy enough already. It is probably the only food I have ever had that has looked better in front of me than the picture on the menu. After wolfing down the greasy treat I headed back to the hostel where Earl and myself started on the beers riding the bus and playing drinking game poker where we substituted chips for sips of beers, this was unfortunate for Earl has he walked into my quad three's and ended up with a whopping forty sips of beer. We then made our way to the pub crawl Santiago event. The evening started at Angelo's where there was free beer and snacks for one hour, as you expected everyone made the most of the free offering and prepared for the night. We met an English girl called Ellie and Aussie chap called Dillon who joined us for a game of fives. We also met an English gent called Sam, who randomly became our hero of the night and every time we saw him gave him a rousing rendition of SAAAAMMMM! There was also a Brazilian couple from our hostel at the party, they were from Florianopolis and I tried to impress William and Sissa with the few Portuguese words I knew. Sam's friend Ethan had Hollywood hair; there was a German we knew as beard guy because of his beard. An Austrian bird who was with a Chilean girl called Macarena who was bat s*** mental and kept referring to me as Robin Hood, which in truth isn't that unusual. There was also the receptionist for our hostel Jenny and her best friend Katy who I kept calling Gabi. After Angelo's the next few places were a bit of a blur I remember in the next place we missed out on free shots because we were desperate for the toilet and had an expensive JD & Coke round. The next place we made up for missing out on the last shot by having two or three of the free ones. In this place I decided it would be fun to dance like a string puppet, I actually think they were some dazzling moves. We also danced on the stage, which was reminded to me the next day by the Floro couple and the pictures on Earl's phone. The next place I had a shot and purchased a round of drinks before I was whisked away by Katy. I don't normally comment on the coming and goings of my sex life in this blog but I will never forget the line she said to me when she said 'take off your pantaloons.'
I got back to the hostel the next morning at 11am and was greeted with a surprise. Earl had managed to stow away cards and presents from my family until the day of my 30th birthday. It was awesome that my folks had managed to yet again supply me with some boxer shorts especially as I was running out of clean pairs. It was much appreciated and the birthday card sent from my nephew Jacob and niece Evie let some homesickness creep into play.
After freshening up I made my way to the Estadio Monumental David Arellano stadium where I would watch Colo Colo vs Union Espanola in a Chilean Premier Division game. I was under the impression that I would be able to get a ticket on the door, but that was not the case as I had too once again delve into the black market paying 20,000 Chilean peso for a ticket. It was worth the money though as the ground although not that huge was one of my favourite grounds I have ever visited. The sun was out on a clear ground and the Andes in the background made for the perfect spot to watch a game of football. Some things which I have touched upon before at South American football though is the fact beer is not sold, well unless you want a 0.0% beer and who would want that? Also the teams didn't warm up on the pitch which I found very strange. The teams being announced before the game was a welcomed return and I recognised one of the players for Colo Colo - Jean Beausejour - who played for Wigan Athletic and Birmingham City. Pre match I tucked into a cheeseburger and watched the women's team stroll around the pitch with their recently won trophy presumably for the Women's Chilean Prem League. Then it was time for a kick-off, at kick-off hundreds of inflatable tubes were sent skywards creating quite the atmosphere. The atmosphere then dropped off apart from one end which bounced along all game as most South American sides do but I was at the opposite end. Despite the game starting with an open feel it soon settled down to be quite average, I thought I was going to be in for another0-0 treat but some late drama saw Colo Colo score twice through Esteban Parades and substitute Luis Pavez. My man of the match though was central midfielder number eight - Esteban Pavez.
I caught the metro home and was once again greeted by a surprise, this time Earl had gone to the trouble of getting me some gifts, one massive bag of crisps and also a bottle of Jonny Walker Red Label. I was touched as I didn't expect anything at all with us both budgeting and cutting costs. Celebrations were kept to a minimum that night, I didn't want a big fuss especially as I had reached the big three zero landmark. So we attended a BBQ hosted by an Argentine called Lujan who cooked up a typical Argentine Assado which is pretty much Barbequed meat. But there was heaps of it, sausages, ribs, steaks, onions, potatoes, peppers. The meat was a tad too salty for Earl and me but it didn't stop us tucking in. There was so much meat left over we were able to swipe a few pieces for our bus journey the next day. Most of the hostel was in attendance, the Floro couple who I taught about beer jackets, an Italian guy called Cesare who was a hit DJing selecting some classic songs, there was the Colombian receptionist Earl and I use to despise but his help in arranging the BBQ made him go full circle to being liked, there was the Brazilian Gaby who tried teaching us a game of cards which didn't make any sense but that could have been because of all the white wine, beers, pitsu and fernet that had been drank. There was also Lujan's friends, most kept themselves to their group apart from a blonde lass called Melody who also was quite handy at picking out some decent tunes. It was a good night and barbeques were becoming a regularity on my birthday I had two the previous years in Australia one in Mission Beach and one in Sydney and I know for a fact I had one at home once at least when I turned 21, ran around the street in my Superman costume and Earl passed out and got abused on my front garden.
The next day after a thorough sort out of my stuff we checked out, we had ample amounts of time before we were setting off to the bus station so we decided to explore Santiago a bit more and check out some of the things that were recommended to us on the walking tour. Our first stop was a trek up Santa Lucia hill to check out the views of the city. We then went to a market across from the hill but this didn't have too much. Our next stop was the Union Pub in the New York area. Antonia had told us that the Union pub was set up to counter act the club that was opened up opposite. The club opposite was for members and the members were the wealthy families of Chile. This caused a group of guys to set up a pub where it didn't matter how you dressed, what class you were in or anything. They still served you in there white suits and dickey bows but like I said you can where anything from flip flops and shorts to a waistcoat it didn't matter. It was a really nice place, it felt like we had gone back in time a few years, it also had a bit of a feel like Sutton weathers to it, although more up market as there was the old locals sat at the bar. The staff and cliental were really friendly as we supped our beverages Earl had a Kuntsmann ale and I had a Cristal lager and they advised us how we could get too a bar called La Piogera. It was at La Piogera we would find a cocktail called Terromotta. Terromotta translates to Earthquake in English and was made in tribute to all he Earthquakes which happen in Chile. Rum, White wine, grenadine and pineapple ice cream make up the cocktails served in a plastic pint glass. The rumour is that if you have one, you are ok but a second would make you feel like you were in an Earthquake. Personally I could feel the effects after one, especially after the previous beer. We were waved over to join a table by two old Chilean women, they spoke less English than I spoke Spanish well at least the one I was trying to converse with did. I understood about 2% of the conversation with her opting for a simple nod, smile and say yes approach. They were pretty crazy as they toasted to Mickey Mouse and one of them even got the whole pub to sing happy birthday to me, causing me to blush as much as my red hoody. Things too a bit out of hand though when they argued that we should pay their bar tab, fortunately the bar man came to our rescue and we made a swift escape. I then decided to head up San Cristobal Hill where at the top was a big statue of the Virgin Mary, which is supposedly the biggest statue of her ever. Earl had gone up the hill while I had gone to the football so he stayed and browsed the streets and markets looking for long johns and to add to his t-shirts. But I wasn't short of friends as by a strange twist of fate I met Sam from the pub crawl on one of the carriages which took you up the 300m high hill. It took him a few reminders for him to remember me because of all the alcohol consumption that night but remembered Earl as he thought he looked like Moss from the IT crowd. He was with a girl called Shell who was also leaving Chile that night and also to the sae destination as us so I made plans to meet her at the bus station. The Virgin Mary was huge but nowhere near as impressive as the Big Jesus in Rio. The views from the top were phenomenal despite the smog being a hindrance in trying to get good photos.
I met back up with Earl at the hostel and went to the supermarket to get the odd few bits for our night-bus it was mainly bread needed so we could have steak sarnies. I then dragged Earl along to see the best hot dog I've ever had and so I could get a photo with the legendary dog known on the menu as a super ricoleta. We then ate some birthday cake, which Earl had forgot to present to me the previous night and then said our goodbyes to the Floro couple, Italian guy and receptionist Jenny and headed to the Bus station to meet Shell, where we would boo a bus and head to Pucon where a Volcano waited for us.
So until next time stay safe and take care