What’s Chile to me?
Chile is far from Australia. 10 hours of traumatizing jet lag. Not an hour after the aircraft landing, Weirdo was already emptying glasses of alcohol with his college-years-friend Niluge. I had to watch them going at it until 7 in the morning, because of the damn jet lag. Of course, he was too hungover to play with me the next day.
Chile is cold. My whole life I’ve never been to such a cold place. I have to wear all my clothe and I still freeze when the wind blows.
But the worst of it is still that, in Chile, I almost boiled alive. Thanks, of course, to the lunacy of Weirdo and Cranky.
And they did it for fun too.
But let’s start from the beginning.
We landed in Santiago at midnight and didn’t go to bed because, for us it was more like 2 in the afternoon. We stayed three days at Niluge’s place, waiting for jet lag to wear out and Weirdo and Niluge filter the equivalent of one cubic meter of pure alcohol through their bloodstream. When we finally hit the road, he was sick, of course.
We went to Valparaiso after a quick break at the airfield where I went swimming while Niluge went skydiving and Weirdo and Cranky had “the best barbecue in the world”, I still can’t shut them up about it.
In Valparaiso, we spent some time going up and down its streets, stopping every few blocks to look at the awesome street art the local kids have sprayed up the walls. We even found a painting from a guy I personally know, which is rather surprising given that I was born on the other side of the world a few months ago.
Niluge went home and we stayed all alone. All alone because nobody on BeWelcome would host us. That was a big departure from what we’d been used to in Australia and India, where in the rare case of online hospitality failing, regular people were lining up around the block to host us. And it didn’t really matter because it was warm in India and Australia. But Chile is dry and cold. Temperature is bearable in the day, in the sun, outside of the wind. At night, it’s life-threatening. I have literally never been so cold in my entire life. This is bullshit, seriously.
So we went to a freaking hotel, like freaking losers. We did find a cheap and cool one though.
The following day, we spent walking around town, taking pictures, getting a mobile net uplink, freezing our asses in the unbearably non-tropical weather and, when night came, we hopped on a night bus to the south. South is where it’s even colder. Does that make any sense? No it doesn’t, but I don’t call the shots in this trip.
We arrived in Vilarica and it was pouring rain. We took a walk around town and it’s officially the ugliest town I’ve ever seen. Cranky had decided to come here because of the majestic volcano that looms over town. The sky was locked, we never saw the shadow of it. After a depressing few hours charging batteries in a sadness-and-fast-food-joint, we decided to hitchhike to the next town, an expensive tourist-resort-type place where Cranky claimed there were hot springs that weren’t too disneylandish. We really had nothing better to do, you see.
The hitchhiking was terrible, by Chilean standard, meaning it was OK. We got there after 2 hours or something. The place was directly accessible only to four-wheel-drive owners or to the people hitching a ride with them. The other losers had to walk down from the road. That would explain the lack of “infrastructure” there. Cranky says they tend to basically build a spa around those things. People…
The water was crazy hot. After freezing my ass for so long, I almost cracked from the temperature difference. The surface of the water was belching steam! That’s how hot it was. And Weirdo and Cranky just went and put me in it to cook like a freaking lobster. Those kids should have their parenting licence revoked or something. It was pretty fine as soon as I got used to the temperature though. Still… Off with their licence. Look, I have proof:
We hitched a ride back to Vilarica easily, and decided to keep it going. The sun, that we hadn’t seen all day, was setting, but hey, it’s Chile! People would be lining up to pick us up.
Except they weren’t. We froze for one hour by the road side. No host anywhere so at least we had nowhere to get to. When it was starting to get dangerously dark, a dude stopped for us. We hoped in and drove a whooping 6 km before he was home and we had to hitch again, in the definitely-dangerous-dark. “The law of probability dictates that we will get an easy ride for far away now” said Weirdo. And, guess what, a guy stops right away and off we go… to 6 km further. He drops us on a long stretch of unlit highway and goes home through some side-dirtroad.
Normally, we’d just pull the hammocks and call it a day. But, as I’ve been trying to explain to you this whole time, it was cold. We were already wearing all our clothes and it wasn’t enough. Of course Weirdo and Cranky started arguing… Nobody noticed when the guy that had dropped us there came back. He’d felt bad from dropping us on that dead spot and moved us further, where we managed to jump into a bus to Valdivia. It was 11 in the night when we got there, and the temperature hadn’t fixed itself.
We were forced to go to a hotel again! We managed to find the coolest in town, but still!
It was an old couple with a big flat that were renting the rooms of their gone children. No receptionist, they boiled some water to have tea with us. Cranky got them to talk a bit and they turned out to be fascists. In the very literal sense of “Pinochet nostalgics”. Nice kids anyway.
In Valvidia, we just walked around and caught our breath from the frantic stampede of the previous days. We tried to get some more hospitality but it just kept failing. We wanted to keep going further South, but without the possibility to sleep outside and no hosts, it was going to get really expensive. In the end, Cranky came up with a good plan : We hitchhike to Puerto Varas early in the morning. We get there fast because it’s Chile, have a look at the cool waterfalls she found on wikivoyage.org, maybe the volcano they have there too, and catch a night bus back North, for as long as it is dark, and finish hitchhiking to Santiago. No hotel, but quite an exhausting program. They agreed between themselves (because, you know, I don’t get consulted very often) and we hit the road at 8am.
The hitchhiking was pretty smooth until we reached Puerto Varas, around mid-day. We still had small roads to hitch to get to the cool spots. But Puerto Varas is a touristic place. And tourists are scum. It took some nice tourists for us to get there, a rare breed if there’s any. But as hard-to-find as they get, they scored pretty highly on the niceness scale. They were Chileans, very proud to show us the wonders of Chile. They even paid the entrance fee for us! Yes, you had to pay entrance to get to see the waterfalls. It turned out to be a tourist trap (Wikivoyage! Seriously!), but the crowds and the infrastructure had a hard time stealing the beauty of the place. Like, it was pretty beautiful.
Then they drove us further up the dirt road, to see the lake where we could have caught a boat to Argentina if we didn’t have a party to attend in Santiago on the week-end. And then! They drove up the freaking volcano for us!
They brought us back into town at nightfall. We hopped into the first coach headed North. In Chile there’s only two directions.
I slept alright, but I think it wasn’t so good for Weirdo and Cranky. The bus stopped at 5am in a town one-third of the way to Santiago. We hopped off with the intention of finishing hitchhiking. Nightbuses are good to sleep in, but they cost money too. Needless to say, it was blistering cold. So much that we stayed put in the bus terminal until the sun rose. And it was still too cold in the bus terminal.
You’d think we’d be all out of steam by that time. But cranky got online and found out there was another cute waterfall on our way and started plotting for us to stop there. Truth be told, it really was not much of a detour. And it’s a good thing we got there in the early morning hours because, judging by all the souvenir and hot dog shops that were still closed, it would have been hellish during business hours.
A host answered! Not only that, but they answered positively too! A 18-year-old girl that I bet weirdo was stalking. She told us we could stay at her parents, that lived 30 km off our way. After a bit of struggling to get the relevant phone numbers, we managed to call the dad, got the address and branched off our route to meet him. All that before midday.
It was a small town. Really small. And not touristic at all. Weirdo was glad. We found their house quickly and… it turned out they weren’t really aware of what kind of relationship we had to their daughter.
“We never met her. We just found her on the internet and she told us to come stay over”. Well, that went through as good as it could: the dad thought it was great!
Warm bath! Well, shower for the two oafs, but I bet they enjoyed theirs as much as I enjoyed mine. Oh boy, it had been a long time. Food! Nothing beats hosts seriously.
We spent a pretty good time with them. There were two kids. I played a lot with the boy. The girl Weirdo had written to showed up as well. We all piled up in their huge car and went to the nearest natural attraction, wait for it, a waterfall!
Back home, we had an excellent barbecue that lasted long after I was asleep. They turned out not to be fascists, and told us a lot about the bad shit that the fascists had done. And we went to bed.
The next day, we hitchhiked to Santiago. A really long way, but it went fast and easy. We got dropped within walking distance of Niluge’s place. Party time!