While eating breakfast we noticed a computer for guest use next to the staircase. We took the opportunity to send out a quick update email to friends and family. Today was also our friend Tom's birthday, so we sent a special greeting to him. Our taxi arrived at 9, and fortunately we had a rather uneventful ride to the the airport in Puerto Montt. We inquired about Craig's hat at the check-in desk, though we held little hope that it would have been found. It hadn't been.
When Craig emptied his pockets to go through security, we found that we had never returned the key to our room at the Guest House. I got some change for the pay phone (converted a 1000 peso note for 10 bulky 100 peso coins), and we called the Guest House to ask what to do with the key. They apologized and said it was their fault for not requesting the key back. It was a little crazy when we were leaving and nobody thought of it. They suggested that we leave the key at the LANChile desk. One of their drivers would pick it up and return it to them. The plane was already boarding when we got to the gate. This was just a quick refueling stopover on a flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago. We tried to explain and give the key to the airline representatives at the gate, but they wanted nothing to do with it since they would also be boarding the plane. They said that one of us would have to go back downstairs and leave it at the check-in desk. They said that they would give us one minute to do it and that they would hold the plane for us. Craig ran downstairs with the key and tried at the check-in desk and the information desk, but nobody wanted to take responsibility for it. So he went through security again and we ended up boarding the plane with the key still in our possession. Now that we were seated and had a little down time, we decided to write out some postcards. In no time at all the crew came through and delivered a cold plate of chicken, potato salad, and a raspberry tart. It was terrific. That is one thing we can say about LANChile is that we sure were well fed on each leg of our journey no matter how long the flight was.
We landed in Santiago at 11:50. We knew the luggage would take a little time so we stopped at a little shop in the airport and picked up a few more postcards. As we wallked to the baggage claim area, we once again saw the towering sculpture of suitcases. As it was now daylight, we were able to get a good photo. After collecting our luggage, once again we headed for the pre-paid taxi stand. It really is easy and convenient to use. After paying the appropriate fare they directed us to the next taxi waiting. They told the driver to take us to Hotel Orly. Soon after leaving the airport the driver took us in a different direction. Given that it was no longer a holiday we just assumed he was taking us a more efficient way. It turned out that was the case but in the end it was one of the most harrowing car rides I've ever been on. It just seemed like he managed to find space where there wasn't any. He would dart in and out of traffic changing lanes, tooting his horn, accelerating and decelerating quickly. Craig and I started seriously wondering why we are so religious about wearing seatbelts at home, yet we never seem to do so in a cab. Of course then we remembered that it is usually because the seatbelts are tucked deep into the seats. This was the case today as well.
After an adrenaline rush that felt a little like a rollercoaster, we arrived at the hotel in one piece at around 12:45. The hotel appeared a lot more busy than our first vist. In fact we were upgraded to a suite (Room #37) because of availability. We tried to grab our bags and hop into the elevator but one of the bellhops insisted that he take our bags to the room. The elevator is quite small so we let him take them. For some reason, Craig and I are never comfortable with stuff like this. We can carry our own bags and always feel a bit awkward in these situations. Our third floor room was very nice. We had a small sitting room with a somewhat stiff couch, a table, a TV, and minibar, as well as a bedroom with its own TV and a desk. We quickly got settled in the room. Our room had big double windows which opened onto the street below. When we were finally ready to go for a walk and see a much busier Santiago, I went out first. Down on the street I took a picture of Craig looking through the window in an Evita Peron pose. We both were laughing and feeling quite happy and comfortable. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful day. We didn't exactly know our plan but wanted to just see where we ended up.
From the moment we walked out of the hotel, it was a different world than last time. There were people everywhere. The street our hotel was on was no longer sleepy. The currency exchange houses were open for business, there was traffic, and there were lots of people on the sidewalks. Everywhere we looked there were buses belching exhaust. We walked back to Bravissimo for some ice cream. The sunny weather immediately had both of us thinking about an ice cream and neither of us felt like fighting the urge. By now we were well-versed in the process of ordering and receiving the ice cream. Craig got frutilla a la crema (strawberry) and I got allegretto chocolate manjar. Each was served in a cup with a cone on the top. We sat on a park bench on the sidewalk, enjoying our ice cream and wondering at the general bustle of Santiago on a weekday.
Before we knew it, our ice creams were gone and we still had the Guest House key to deal with. We decided our best bet would be to mail it back. We went into the post office and managed to explain to the woman what we needed to do. She told us what our options would be: overnight shipping was very expensive, or it would arrive by Monday at a reasonable price. We chose the latter option. She then sent us down the street to an office supply store to buy an envelope for shipping. We wandered in to the store and explained to the woman behind the counter what we needed. She was very nice and sold us the proper envelope and helped us gather it together. Envelope in hand, we returned to the post office and mailed the key. We were quite proud of ourselves for being able to navigate the whole process without finding someone to translate for us. When you really don't speak the local language sometimes the simplest of operations can take quite an effort, but the satisfaction far outweighs it. The people have all been so kind and patient with us and it is easy to get swept up in the moment. Doing everything we thought we could do we hoped that the key would get there safely. We went to a pay phone to try to call the Guest House to let them know what we had done. The pay phone ripped us off. We found another one not to far away that was working. We called several times, but the line was constantly busy. Eventually we gave up and thought we should start walking. We figured we could try calling again later in the day.
As we were walking we came across Avenida 11 de Septiembre, which caught our eye due to the significance of 9/11 in the American consciousness. This street commemmorates the date of the coup in which Augusto Pinochet rose to power in 1973. We continued walking until we eventually made it to the edge of a park. Here we saw the Fuente Alemana at the Parque Forestal. This is a sculpture and fountain (though it was not filled with water when we were there) which represents a boat full of German immigrants to Chile. This made us remember our huge meal in Fruitillar the other day. We got a good laugh over that whole incident once again. We just may never forget that incident. Looking further down the road we saw a telecom building which was designed to look like a cell phone. Of course it was made to look like the original very large cell phones, so it looked somewhat amusing and bulky.
We continued our walk and stayed mainly on Providencia, though we did wander down some side streets and parallel roads once in a while. We took some photos of buildings, parks, and statues. Near the University we were accosted by two students who came up to us under the guise of giving us some tourist information. They were very polite, asked where we were from, etc. One even went so far as to kiss my hand. Then they handed us a little slip of paper on which was a poem. And then they asked us for money for their tuition. We tried to give back the poem but they insisted we keep it. And they pretty much insisted that we give them money as well. So that we could get on with our day, Craig reached into his pocket and only had a 100 pesos coin. They were offended. We finally just took our leave and moved on.
We eventually ended up at Cerro Santa Lucia, or Santa Lucia Hill. At the base of the hill is a yellow stucco building with grand cement staircases. On one side of the building is a mural in honor of the poet Gabriela Mistral. Another part of the building houses the Centro de Exposicion de Arte Indigena, an artisans' shop. We saw some interesting Mapuche art and some Easter Island art. But since we were on our way to Easter Island tomorrow, we decided to wait and see what we could find there. The Cerro Santa Lucia is a tall hill in the middle of the flat area of the city which contains parkland, buildings, fountains, and statues. It has a fence around the perimeter, and there is a pathway which leads up to flat terraced plazas from which you can view the city. There is no fee to enter, but a ranger asks that you sign in in their guest book. We walked up the tree-lined paths to the first terrace, which gave a view of the vast urban sprawl with mountains in the distance. There was an old cannon placed on this terrace, which was a reminder of the military history of the hill (Pedro de Valdivia and his men first encamped on the hill in 1540 when they founded the city of Santiago. Later, in 1872, Benjamin Vicuña Mackenna began transforming the hill into meandering pathways, terraces, buildings, and towers).
We climbed up stone steps to the Torre Mirador, which gave a an even better view of the city. There were rocky outcroppings surround the Castillo Hidalgo and the Sepulcro de Benjamin Vicuña Mackenna. It was a very warm day and we had been walking for quite a while, so we were quite hot and thirsty. There were several little stands offering cold drinks and snacks, and we each bought a bottle of water. We then continued on the meandering path to descend the other side of the hill. Once again, we were witness to the Chilean people's affinity for public displays of affection in the park. Couples sat entwined on park benches and didn't seem bothered at all by passersby. We popped out at a little plaza at the base of the hill where a little craft fair was taking place. It was called "11a Feria Arte y Cultura Indigena." We wandered around from table to table. We ended up buying a handmade glass pendant and a stamped copper painting of a volcano. There was going to be live music at 6 p.m., but we were a decent walk from the hotel, so we didn't stick around and wait that long.
We started our walk back to the hotel. On the way we passed a döner kebab restuarant, Turkish fast food which reminded us of when we ate it in Germany. We also passed a nice theater with an interesting symphony playing that night. We briefly considered going but we had no clothes that were really appropriate. We would also have had to go to the hotel and then come back again. Feeling rather hungry we weren't sure that was how we wanted to spend our evening so we continued on toward the hotel. On the way we also passed a Bank Of Boston. We thought it was rather funny since at home they no longer existed. Long since bought out. Yet, here was a bank that appeared to be thriving under the Bank of Boston name. A little further up the road we dropped off into a little courtyard to look at a nice little church on the side of the road.
Back near our hotel we decided to eat a few doors down at the Villa Real restaurant. We ate outdoors in their little courtyard which was tucked away from the street. We ordered the special "apertivo y mas" which consisted of three cheese empanadas and a pisco sour each. I got a beef filete with papas fritas. Craig got the filete a los pobres or "poor man's steak" (a tenderloin piled high with fried onions, French fries, and fried eggs). Craig got an Escudo beer. When it was dessert time we went inside to check out the pastry display case. We settled on lucma meringue cake, which was very decadent. The food was very enjoyable and really hit the spot. Now we were ready to have a few drinks and reflect on the amazing trip we have already had. Thinking that tomorrow would bring us to Easter Island was almost too much to think about.
At around 8 o'clock we left the restaurant and went one door down to Dublin, an Irish pub. We sat on a table on the sidewalk. It was happy hour, which basically meant 2 for 1, so we each ordered two pisco sours. We looked at our photos on the camera while we enjoyed our drinks. Having the camera in my hands I decided to take a photo of Craig. The windows of the bar were behind him, and the bartender saw me taking the photo and posed with his arms up in the air. Then the waitress took a picture of Craig and me, and the bartender and some other random person posed in the background. It was all pretty funny and kept us laughing.
While we sat enjoying our drinks, children kept wandering up to the tables and placing little cards with cartoon characters on them on the tables. They would then return several minutes later trying to collect money. It was rather unfortunate as it kept happening. We had noticed that in Chile so far we hadn't been accosted by people trying to sell us things. In fact, at this point, we had very few souvenirs because most places we had been just didn't have those kinds of items for sale. We found ourselves missing running the gauntlet of families selling their wares and saying "Mister? A good price for you?" that we had run into in Guatemala and Peru. This type of begging was far worse. We don't mind buying items when we can to help out families. But we don't want to encourage parents teaching their children to beg. Eventually these children are more valuable to the family as a beggar and they no longer attend school. It's really tragic and upsetting to watch happening.
As if the begging children weren't enough to disrupt the peacefulness, occasionally a guy with a bass drum and cymbals mounted on his back came thumping down the street. He would pound on his drum and clash his cymbals while spinning around in place like a whirling dervish. Buskers have their place, and he entertained us for a few minutes. We might even have tossed a few pesos his way if we had passed him in the street. But when he was done, he held out his hat and went around from table to table trying to guilt people into giving him tips because they had been looking at him. The reality was, the man was so disruptive and unwelcome that most everyone was staring at him in disbelief. At least this guy was not just begging, and at least making an attempt to entertain for tips, but it just didn't seem appropriate for such a performance. He would then beg for money and if people refused him a tip, he scoffed at them. The whole thing was pretty tacky. At first I was kind of put off that the bar didn't "do something" about it. But what could they do, really? Even if they did chase away the beggars, as soon as their backs were turned, more would appear. It's a losing battle. We had to admit that they sure did provide for an odd mix of entertainment while we shared a few drinks and excited conversation. At around 10 o'clock we headed back to the hotel.
As we arrived back at the hotel room we remembered what a nice room we had. We really enjoyed our room the first evening here but this room was a totally different category. Craig even tried sitting in the other room for a little while but the place was so spacious we found ourselves gravitating toward the large bedroom area. We began going through all of our things and packing our bags in preparation for the trip to Easter Island. It was nice to have a little time to spend arranging all of our things. The first two legs of the trip we completed, now it was time to prepare for the third and final leg.
There were a few bottles of water in the room and Craig was going to have one but we realized it had gas in it. Neither Craig nor I seem able to drink the stuff. Because our room is more fancy than the last room, it seems we were also "upgraded" to water with gas in it. Oh well, it was free, and thoughtful, but somehow wasted on us. Craig actually opened a bottle thinking that somehow he would think differently and suddenly he would enjoy the taste. Well that just never happened. After choking down a little bit he said he just couldn't go through with it. Instead he went to the minibar and got a beer from there. Maybe that was why they gave us water with gas in it, to encourage us to drink from the minibar. It worked! Craig flipped through a few channels on TV but there was nothing really interesting on. Sometimes Spanish television can be quite amusing, but it seemed to be a difficult time to find anything good. After finishing getting our things together, and writing in the journal for a while, we finally went to bed at around midnight.