Arrival at Santiago




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02.07.02 Santiago

It's 2.30 in the night. I am awake lying in a bed in Santiago. A minute ago the rain drummed on the roof - bad sign, but as long as it is only at night...
The alarm in my watch has just been going. But I was awake already. I actually just adjusted it to wakr me up in the morning - so why now? It must be because the analogue and the digital parts are not adjusted. I have had to adjust to the actual time and the analogue part is easily done... but now they are not synchronized. I have to find the manual because I can't get it showing the digital time at all.

But where am I? And how did I get here? I go back a little. The flight for Santiago left on scheduled time. I talk a lot to one of my neighbours in the airport of Sao Paolo. He had 10 hours before his plane for Lima was going to leave. Had earlier been to Salta in Argentine. I town that's also on my list. I had a seat at the window but above the wing, so I could only look slightly backwards. But clouds soon covered all so there was nothing to see. Above the Andes a hole in the clouds suddenly appeared and a river was to be seen and big areas of something like mud. The remains of the flood recently when one years rain fell in three days in the Santiago area? Then clouds again.

We landed exactly 13.10 local time as scheduled. The last hour I was feeling rather bad just saved by a film with Michelle Pheiffer, but now I all at once was fully awake. A feeling of joy, relief and expectation streamed through me... this is the beginning of the fairytale! No problems with my passport or papers, but my luggage?

Spent a lot of time at the belt waiting... nothing. I wasn't surprised at all. But when I saw the danish couple, that also had been on the plane coming back to where I was standing I realized there were more belts ahead. At the last one my box with the panniers etc. was already put down asside the belt. The raincover was partly taken off, but the box was ok and the raincover only had minor damages. By putting my head through a hatch I saw my bicycle leaning against the wall in another room. After some time I succeded finding a man with a key so a door could be opened and my bike unpacked and in 5 minutes I was ready to take off.

First step: MONEY. There ought to be a ATC in the airport. I found it - and it worked. No, actually I started in the tourist information. A girl who was really capable answered ALL my questions. She suggested I took a bus to the city. They could carry the bike too, she said. There were no place for the night in the surroundings. But I had to do some cycling to look around.

At the landing the temperature was 8 degr., not much, but I didn't feel cold. No wind at all! First impression: palms and some drought adapted minor plants. But then suddenly a small wood of birches. And some pines. A big flat plain where Santiago cannot be seen in the mist, but a 2 lane highway leads somewhere. My first impression of confusing traffic signs proves to be right, lots of heavy traffic, no room for bicycles. Reminds me of a freightful experience on a highway in Poland. This is not where I am going to end my days.

Back to the airport. Get a bus. The blue one couldn't carry a bike but the green one can. This is the perfect way of arriving: a noisy lowgeared bus like in Denmark in the 60'ies. So what does it look like? Caotic. At least the looks. Noisy cars mostly busses. Bleak tenement houses with laundry. Nice little houses in german style. A total mix of styles. Very much like in southern Europe with an addition of american skyscrabers and smaller sexless houses of glass, steel and concrete.

Santiago is NOT for bicycles. And it's big - real big. Here I made a bad decision: tried to find a specific hotel I saw in a brochure in the airport. It didn't look far in the map... it was. I dragged my bike in the pavement.

At last I reached the area and found out that I had lost the brochure in the meantime. But he had drawn a cross in my map. Walked about for half an hour. No hotel. Started asking people. Nobody knew and I didn't understand much of what they said.

In the end I found a hotel but the one I was showed looked expensive - very expensive. Didn't know what to do. All right, it couldn't be THAT expensive, could it? Placed the bike and was on my way in. No, it looked too expensive. Walked about some more asking: "Un hotel pequeno?" There seemed no others. Back again to ask the price. 145$. ONE HUNDRED FORTY FIVE american dollars. Nearly all my extra dollars. No way.

Started to go back from where I came. It would soon get dark. Asked frequently: "Hay un hotel pequeno acerca de aqui?" in a rising voice so they'd understand it was a question and not a fact. They  understood what I was saying. The opposite was seldom the case. After what seemed forever a new hotel. It also looked expensive, but less. 60$. But I could have it for "special prize" 45$. No way.

I had gone dark but I succeded in the end. I locked my bike, left it and prayed to God for it would be there still WITH bags when I came back... it took almost half an hour. We didn't understand each other. Neither could a called for sister. When she at last took out a prizelist I was a little wiser: the room could be hired both in the daytime and the nighttime. This was amounts I could deal with but to make her understand that I wanted it for one night, one day and one night seemed not possible. When I took out some notes she realized that I was serious and called a friend, who spoke a little english. I explained the situation for her and all was fine. 20.000 CH$ (pesos) for one and a half day. That is at least 200 How much I will know when I see what has been withdrawn for my 100.000 I cashed from the ATM earlier.

After having been in 4 different rooms, we succeeded at last finding one where the door could be locked. It's unbelievable ugly and I quickly decided to sleep in my sleeping bag. Not that I think it is verminous, but it's generally not that clean. I took the bike and all into the room, locked the door and went to find a restaurant. Those women knew exactly which kind I was looking for.

It was same style as the hotel.The back wall was dominated by a 48 inches screen, that showed a TV programme with a lot of half naked youngsters - mainly female - wriggling to terrible music. The focus was on breasts and asses. Is this chilean television? Undoubtful. So I sat there together with a lot of other single men and "enjoyed" my chicken and my pommes frites. But the "cerveza" of the brand Kristal was actually quite nice.

Back in my hotel I was just going to write in the diary, but first I was going to see if the tiny TV was working... and I went out like a candle and didn't wake up until around 2. Now it is 4 o'clock and I need to find out how to set the watch. Goodnight.