A Moment In...Santiago
Santiago is an impressive city. The bustling metropolis is peppered with a distinctly European flavour: neoclassical architecture, cobbled streets filled with brightly coloured buildings that recall Spanish colonialism. While the downtown core maintains a historic charm, the thriving economy has given way to skyscrapers, large malls and highly congested motorways. It is a city much like any other large city: always on the move forward. Yet the backdrop to this fast paced hustle and bustle is the unchanging, the awe-inspiring, the formidable, and the extraordinary. Although often shrouded in smog and hazy with heat, the Andes cut a striking figure against the sky. Rising over 4000 meters in some places, the sharp silhouette of these peaks serve as tall reminder that Chile is a country of environmental extremes. The long thin body of this country is littered with active volcanoes, frequent earthquakes, and the driest desert in the world. Meanwhile, the tip of Patagonia calls frigid Antarctica its close neighbour. Since landing in Santiago there has been an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, forest fires in the south and flooding in a desert where it never rains. Chile is an environmental force to be reckoned with. There is a heart within the dramatic landscape that has no problem reminding humans that the land we dwell on is not always ours to take as we please.
Our foray into Chile has been a faint emotional echo of the tumultuous environmental state currently rumbling through the country. Thus far the first fourteen days in South America have been an exercise in expectation versus reality. Week one and two have been a crash course in reconciling the ambitious dreams cooked up over photos of sunsets in the Andes, with the snail-paced actuality of being a foreigner in a big city attempting to buy a car. Prior to the trip, our largest concerns were primarily financial: setting a budget, saving for it, quitting our jobs and dedicating four months of our lives to adventure. To say we put an exhaustive amount of research into this trip may be an overstatement. However, I think it is fair to say both of us had never felt more prepared for an overland adventure when compared to other trips we have taken. Our time spent planning the trip was devoted to establishing an itinerary, comprehensive budget, researching places to camp along the way and acquiring the various important items required before embarking on a four month long road trip. In retrospect, I admit we were remiss to underestimate the frustrating –at times painful -bureaucratic process of purchasing a car in another country with a foreign tongue. Encouraged by promising online accounts of purchasing a car in Chile, we looked too far ahead: anticipating hard days of mechanical failures, getting lost and running out of gas, we failed to notice one of the largest obstacles glaring us in the face the moment we stepped foot in Santiago.
The first two weeks in Santiago provide us with a sharp reminder that travelling is not mutually exclusive with the relaxation of a vacation. There is work to be done, early mornings with long 'to-do' lists and days upon days waiting for papers to be processed and people to call back. However, it is not without its silver linings. The weather is a balmy 28 degrees, there are palm trees lining the cobbled streets and fresh pineapple and ginger juice to quench your thirst. Kept in the city a week longer than we had hoped, we have had to rely on the sunshine, the food, and the view of the Andes to keep our excitement going. However, it is not the mountains, or the taste of a Pisco Sour that has kept our spirits up the most, the majority of the credit falls upon the people of Santiago, who's kindness has been immeasurable and unending. Indeed, we were lucky enough to be taken in by the wonderful Conti and Jose. Conti is the cousin of one of our friends from home and graciously let us stay in her house, even though she had never met us before. For almost two weeks they invited us into their world: showing us the in's and out's of Santiago, throwing us Sunday afternoon BBQ's amongst their friends, and making us feel more than welcome in their home. Moreover, their involvement in the long and arduous process of buying a car proved insurmountable. Without their help, I can't be sure that we would have been successful in this venture at all. For that we are truly indebted. We are also inspired, for this sense of hospitality and willingness to help extends to all the people we have met here so far.
Coming soon to Moments of Wander: The Long Hard Way to Marquito or The Process of Buying a Car in Chile