Friday, April 08, 2011

On the virtues of knowing what you are doing

We arrived without problems back in the land of sunshine, spanish, and high prices aka Santiago, Chile.
On this trip, we rarely revisit a place, and thus rarely know our way around. Finding our way to a hostel is always tricky. 
Is it on a one way street? It is often very hard to tell if a street is one way- on the other hand, we often just drive the wrong way on streets using our "gringo card" as an excuse.
Will it have parking for our bikes?
What is the system for buying a bottle of beer? Some places simply won't sell me a beer unless I bring in an empty bottle. In some places, I can explain that I am happy to pay the deposit on the bottle but I still have to look the owner in the eye and promise to return the bottle when I am done. In some places, they insist I drink it on the spot which usually isn't what I want to do. In some places I have to pay a deposit, but then they refuse to give me back my deposit money the next day because I don't have a little slip which they may or may not have given me. In some really really backwards places, you don't actually pay a deposit for the bottle and then when you are done you actually throw the bottle in the trash and that is that… crazy! Like I said, it is always different.

We had Santiago all figured out. We knew how to get from the airport to the hostel Romandiaz (after paying the hefty $140 USD per person Chilean government reciprocal airport arrival tax). We were greeted by name by the super nice woman who runs the place. We knew how to squeeze hot water out of the shower. We knew our way around the kitchen. We knew where and how to buy a bottle of beer. In this case, you go to a boteleria. You look at the beer cooler and decide what you want. You give one person your empty bottle (if you have one) and they give you a receipt. Then you tell another person what you would like, hand this person your receipt for the empty and you pay this person. Then you turn left and hand a third person your receipt for the beer. This person then yells across the shop to another person who gets the beer out of a cooler and brings it to the third person. You then have to insist that you don't want a plastic bag for your beer and eventually she hands you the beer and you walk out. Nice and easy.

We knew how to hop on the subway and go to our mechanic's house to deliver motorcycle parts which we had picked up in the states (new chain, front sprocket, and rear sprocket for Megan bikes, new steering head bearings for both our bikes, and a new GPS mount for my bike- which Garmin warrantied for me even though it was technically out of warranty). We returned the next day, paid a handsome ransom for our lovely ladies and they should be good to go for the rest of the trip.

We knew how to buy groceries in the largest grocery store I have ever been in. It makes US stores look small. Seriously. And there is a person on literally every isle who is more than happy to help you make a selection. Top this off with shopping cart drivers who have the same sense of space as a Bolivian truck driver and you've got a party. And they've got these cool machines that measure all of you health statistics (height, weight, body fat percentage, blood pressure and heart rate) and then give you a little receipt so you can see how you stack up to the rest.

The one thing we didn't know was that our friend Ruth lives in Santiago and we didn't realize it until our last planned day in the city. We got in touch with her, went out for Peruvian food (you know it is a long trip when you get nostalgic for food from a previous country) and she convinced us in a proper british fashion (by begging with a lovely accent) to stay for the weekend at her place in town. 

So we met an expat community of Santiago We went to the horse races and lost money on one race. (we would have lost more but no one could figure out how to turn the lights on at the track and they had to shut it all down after dark). We rented beach cruisers and rode bikes up into the mountains east of town. We drank beer. Ate giant plates of french fries. Worked on Montessori 123. Enjoyed the company of  Ruth, a splendid woman who years ago decided she had enough of England and started living abroad teaching English.

So that was our two weeks off from riding. Santiago for 2 days, Chicago for 8, then Santiago for another 4 days. A nice break from riding but it is time to get back on the road before winter arrives in the south.
Peruvian Food

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