Santiago, Chile
33° 27' S 70° 39' W
Oct 24, 2003 19:25
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Text written in: English

Arriving in Santiago

After having withdrawn money from the Spanish ATM and having bought a telephone card I took the Airport Bus into town. The 26 km trip cost 1000 pesos, about EUR 1.40, so that was good value. We drove in the direction of the Andes mountains which can be see in any place in Chile and the bus trip ended at Los Heroes metro station. There I bought a recharge card for the mobile phone I don't have instead of a 10-trip metro card from a machine. Blame it on the jetlag or the lack of knowledge of the Spanish language, anyway I ended up with a useless recharge card. I took the spotless clean, fast, but relatively crowded for the time of the day, metro until the end of the line. Estacion Escuela Militar is the most eastern metro station of the three lines and from there I had to take a taxi. The metro costs about 300 pesos (Eur 0.40) for any distance traveled and the taxi cost 3000 pesos. It was possible to take a bus for just 300 but that was too difficult to explain according to Martin.

Martin Becker, an 18 year old student, was one of the few persons I contacted on www.hosptitalityclub.org This club organizes free nights with people in almost every country in the world. The only thing you have to do is register on this web site and be a host yourself for any traveler coming in your direction. Of course it is not compulsory to take all travelers in your house at all times. If you don't have time or don't want them, you just answer any request for a free stay with a polite refusal. It is a great way of meeting local people in any country and the personal atmosphere definitely beats staying in a hotel or guesthouse, where your money is their main interest. And my interest for money is completely opposite to their interest as you can understand.

The taxi did not try to rip me off, unusual these days, and around 16:00 I arrived at Martin Beckers place, or to be more accurate, his parents place. The large villa in the rich Vitacura suburb has great views of the Andes Mountains, which are only a few couples of tens of kilometers away. I was welcomed by the amazingly friendly Becker family who besides Spanish speak some English and fare fluent in German, a language I manage to speak reasonably well too. The family consists of 2 daughters and 4 sons, a traditional large Catholic family so to say. After having been introduced to a large part of all family members and the maid (Help! Too many names to remember after a long and tiring flight!) I had to tell more about myself, my background and my travels and I got to know more about them. Mr and Mrs Becker worked for a large family owned farm/wine estate and were in the process of expanding the export of their wines to European and American markets. Martin and Ricardo, the oldest sons, both went overseas for a year. Ricardo to the States (you can still hear that accent) and Martin to Germany. I expected some German heritage, as Becker is not the most Spanish name so to say. The ancestors came from Munster in Central West Germany. Martin and his mother both visited the Netherlands as well and I saw nice wooden shoes fridge magnets and a Dutch Delft Blue China pepper and salt set on the table in the house. Several Dutch postcards of our famous Amsterdam Red Light District, windmills and tulips decorated the ceiling in Martins bedroom friendly next to German postcards as if there had never been any war between both countries.

After a late second lunch (four meals a day in Chile) We picked up two sisters and a brother from the golf club not so far from the house before Martin drove me up 810 meters high Cerro (Hill) San Cristobal, situated in the green capitals largest open space, Parque Metrolpolitana. On top of this hill, which can be reached by a dodgy cable car from the city side stands the statue of Holy Maria, guarding the city as if she was Jesus watching over Rio de Janeiro. The view over the city is indeed great. Santiago is, after Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires the largest city on the continent. After Mexico it is the worst for air pollution according to my informative personal guide Martin. The problem in Santiago is that the smog can not get out of the city as it surrounded by all those mountains. I can imagine how horrible it can be in the height of summer. On top of Cerro San Cristobal there were some tacky souvenir shops which gave me a little idea of what to expect on the souvenir front. Here, still yawning because of the lack of sleep, (Sorry Martin, don't think I was not interested, but after 30 hours of no sleep ...) I had to try a mote con huesillo. Of course Martin, feed the gringo something interesting and have some fun ay? Well, it is not really food, but more a typical drink. I will describe it for you, but don't laugh. Take a large glass and fill it for 25% with this typical grain, which tastes like rice that has been boiled for just 5 minutes short. Throw in two whole apricots and top it up with the, probably extra sweetened, juice of the apricot. Bon appetito. Actually it was not bad at all, but the combination of grains in a fruit drink is weird, isn't it? There was a little bit too much grain in my drink according to my taste and that was where the ever present tourist pigeons came in handy for.

Back home I met Senor/Herr Becker, a very friendly and interesting man, and extremely tall basket ball playing Pedro, one of Martins younger brothers who planned to go to New Zealand with the same student exchange program Martin went to Germany with and Ricardo to the States. We talked about Chilean life, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, my travels and many things more before dinner at around 21:00. Because of the jetlag 21:00 is about 13:00, but because of all the meals I had already I was not very hungry. The chicken in a nice sauce with rice and side salad tasted nice though, although I did not eat very much. At 22:30, 41 hours after the last time I went to bed in Auckland I was happy to go to bed again.

Photos / videos of "Arriving in Santiago":

Becker Residence in Santiago