Our arrival into Santiago was smooth. All airports are the same these days and our lack of sleep for 2 days justified a USD11 shuttle bus to the hostel. Chatted to a young guy next to us from Brasil who had 11 months in Brisbane studying English. He arrived in Australia with no English at all and was returning home with great conversation. My thoughts jolted to optimistic wondering if our 2 week crash course in Spanish lessons could deliver the same results.
The van ride to the hostel seemed to take forever. Santiago has a wide industralised urban sprawl and here we were amongst it dropping off the locals on its outskirts. A new place always kicks in our senses of smells, sights, sounds. My first sights amongst the heat haze is the amount of stray dogs around; the Spanish words on shop signs; the many “carne” (meat) eateries with pictures of cows till I saw a horses head. Farmicias (chemist) are as prevalent as our milkbars – one on every corner. So there was no need to take a large bag of toiletries or medication for the ‘just in case’. I was taken in my the surroundings and noise when the Brazilian guy pointed out we were driving on the other side of the road, oh yeah, that too. A quick mental note to be aware of crossing the roads.
Rudy the owner, was there to greet us at the Blend hostel. A grand old 2 storey house located an inner city suburb called Barrio Brasil. Our room is Spartan but comfortable with old creaky timber floor boards and typical Latin colonial windows with shutters that open out on the side street. With a shaded courtyard out the back covered in grapevines, we are pleased with our guesthouse choice for our introduction to Chile.
Love the Metro here. A lesson learnt after our jetlagged first day of walking the streets battling with the city crowds and reading maps showing blocks that appeared only 5 mins apart instead are 20 minutes, finding our local Metro estacion around the corner became a pure convenience. The Latin American pocket phase book is religiously carried each day and we gain confidence in asking for two tickets please (Dos boleto por favour). Santigao’s Metro, with 4 lines and about 80 stations, is easy to get around and designed like the other metros around the world. Just need to know the stations at the end of line to choose the needed platform. They are modern, clean, fast and we feel safe on them.
Exploring Santiago brings new photo opportunities, but also the start to new conversation challenges in a non English spoken country. We head over by Metro to the Bus Terminal Alameda on Saturday to organise our overnight bus trip to Pucon. It is holiday season here and buses with destinations outside the city fill quickly. After standing in two wrong queues we realised we should have translated north, south and central signage first as these are regional counters to book a ticket from. We don’t know Spanish numbers yet past 10 or Spanish times but narrow it down to dias (day) tardes (afternoon) or noches (night) and writing times on paper helped. There are 3 different types of seats, semi cama (half recline), salon cama (3/4 recline) and premium cara (bed). Due to our budget constraints we choose salon cama, which is still vastly superior to any bus in Australia!.
Finally between sign language, hand writing and pointing at the computer screen we succeed…two Bus tickets purchased to Pucon completar!