21 February 2011, Seat No.14 – Nilahue Bus between Santiago & Pichilemu – Central Chile – 1:50pm

Another new country, made famous in 2010 as the place where some miners got trapped and got rescued, but I like many others didn't know a whole lot else about Chile before arriving here. I was staying in a quiet barrio of the capital city, about 20 minutes walk from the centre. (In Hostel Ventana Sur) After arriving so early I meet Anne (the German doctor who is also staying there) and a couple of other guys who are all up for a bit of exploring the city so we head out on foot, into a cloudless day that looks like it will quickly rise from the early 20's it is at 11am. We decide to head up the hill, Cerro San Cristóbal, in the centre of the town. It's a 40 minute walk up a pretty steep dusty path on a pretty busy sunday morning, with lots of joggers & cyclists sweating their way up or down the hill, and scores of families going to the nearby zoo. Dutch Eric (a former casino dealer) and John & Thor (The Swedes) and me, discuss have to leave jobs to go off traveling and that I may be able to back to work in a years time on my return. But it is amazing how many similar minded people are out there who simply love traveling and meting people from all over the world on a daily basis.

On getting to a cafe near the top we stop for some ice cream and I have a mote con huesillo, a bizarre drink/snack. It is a glass of what tastes like the juice from a can of peaches, and in it are two small skinless peaches that look pickled and resemble small brains, but taste just like squishy canned peaches. And at the bottom of the large glass are several large spoonfuls of what seems to be corn. It's sweet and slightly chewy. For Ch$600/€0.95, it's a pretty weird but good deal.

We do the final 5 minutes to find the statue of Mary, a large outdoor church kind of area and a small simple church. Though the majority of the people there seem to be there to see the amazing vista rather than for religious reasons. In the distance, almost completely surrounding the city are mountains, including the huge, though sadly smog obscured Andes Mountain range. After a few minutes admiring the huge city, we head back down on the ascensores (train/cable car type things). We head off to a nearby cafe for a bite to eat, and find a really simple place that sells empanadas and beer. So after ordering two empanandas each and a couple of bottles of cold beer. We enjoy the food and ask for the bill and it comes to a rather exorbitant Ch$25,000/€39. We question the waiter, who had previously told us they had no menu or price-list and he went away and came back with another bill for Ch$20,000. Anne tried asking the Chilean couple at the table next to us, what the prices should be and they are pretty shocked by what we're paying. The guy from that table sees a police car parked at the side of the road and goes over and seconds later, 5 smartly dressed, and armed, police are around our table. The go chat to the waiter and after a couple of minutes trying to explain in terrible Spanish we explain that we simply want to pay the standard price rather than the 'gullible tourist' prices. And 5 minutes or so later we get a final bill of Ch$14,600/€22 which we pay and thank the police for their help. We didn't leave a tip.

Next up after our little adventure was a trip to the house of Nobel winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. He had an amazing house built in the 1950's in the bohemian part of the city, with a layout with ship like features, lots of amazing art, and objects gathered from around the world, classic 1970's furniture and lots of really interesting quirky things to look at.

We then walk back into town, head off to the bus station to get tickets to various locations. South American bus stations are bizarre locations, they have no central booking system, no computerised ticket kiosks. So to find where you want to go, you have to queue in multiple queues and sometimes in multiple bus terminals to get times and prices. I finally find a place that sells the ticket I need and we head back to the hostel. Myself, Thor, John and a guy from England who's name I can't remember went off into the local area around 9pm to go to a bar for some food and a drink but nowhere is open, Our map of the area shows loads of places to eat or drink but nothing is open. So 45 minutes of walking later we head to a terrible little Kiosco and get more empanadas and some beers (with no police involvement this time)

We sit around the pool at the hostel discussing proper manly things lie surfing and various injuries we've had or seen. We spend some time chatting to a guy from California who lives in Brazil who spent the day cycling and photographing the amazing street art in the city.

A great nights sleep was had due to the walking all day , the lack of snorers in the dorm room and the really quiet location of the hostel. Then after a breakfast this morning, I head out to use the free wifi of the local library, whilst sitting in the park, chatting to someone on skype about the much talked about dangers of South America, a lady with two puppies comes over to simply say hello and show the puppies off on the skype camera. A great example of the fact that most people in most countries are actually really friendly nice people.

Slightly late for the bus station, I struggle through the tail end of rush hour with all my bags and just miss my bus to Pichilemu, so back to the crazy ticket offices and without any trouble or cost at all, they swap my ticket for a new one, 30 minutes later. So now, on the bus through the winding hills of the semi-desert like terrain on the way to the beach and surfing town of Pichulemu. Supposedly full of Australian surfers, it should be a good place to chill out for a couple of days and maybe try a little surfing or at least watch some other surfers.

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