Hidden Secrets of Santiago de Chile
The guy in standing a few meters in front of me was the president of Chile. Chema’s tour turned out to be a comprehensive overview of Santiago, political figures included!
Chema loves his city and hosts a lot of couchsurfers, so he has the tour down to a fine art. I really loved this city. Clean, varied, and modern, but with lots of interesting European flair.
Here is “the Chema Santiago tour” in pictures:
We walked the city for hours, and I was soon wishing I hadn’t chosen to wear my motorcycling boots for the day!
When we got home I met Chema’s wonderful mother Laura. Originally from Germany, she is a doctor and spends a lot of time working with medical charities. I didn’t get to spend much time with her as she was hardly ever home, but when she was she was absolutely lovely, and very welcoming.
That evening Chema took me to another of his favourite places, up on a hill overlooking the city. To get there we had to climb some stairs, and then squeeze through a broken fence, but it was worth it as it was a spectacular night view of the city. Santiago is located in a big valley, and surrounded by mountains on all sides, although you can rarely see them due to clouds/pollution.
Chema is a 21 year old student, who, luckily for me, was on summer break and had loads of time to show me around. He went to school in English, so I didn’t even need to resort to Spanish very often.
I ended up spending four nights at Chema and Laura’s house. As well as hanging out by the pool, Chema took me for huge sandwiches at a place called Tio Manolos, for really nice pizza, and to a local mall. (Santiago is filled with malls. There are a lot of them, and they are the only places open on Sundays.)
One of my best friends in Canada, Salvador, is Chilean. His mum and dad spend half of each year living in Chile, and Maria, his mum, called me while I was in Santiago to tell me that her best friend’s son has a motorcycle, lives in Santiago, and that I should meet him.
So one evening I arranged to meet Aldo and he took me to meet his family. His mum, sister and dad were incredibly welcoming, inviting me to stay for dinner and showing me pictures of Maria as a young girl.
Also while in Santiago I had lunch with KLR Chile group. They were a super group of guys, very friendly and fascinated with my trip. I think I had to explain that I was traveling alone about twenty times. They just couldn’t believe it.
After lunch one of the guys, Claudio, took me to try and get my phone unblocked, because I hadn’t managed to find a code through the internet. Unfortunately my quest met with failure, because apparently Peru has a special way of locking phones, and it’s not easy to unlock them.
All phones are sold unlocked in Chile. If only I had known, I could have waited and bought one there instead!
On my last night in Santiago I went out for dinner with Chema, which turned out to be a bit of a strange experience. We’d been having a fun time together, but that evening the age difference between us started to really show. He was very excited about this buffet restaurant he wanted to go to. I was that hungry but was interested to see this fantastic restaurant he was raving about.
We went into one of the malls, and he led me to the food court where there was a tired looking buffet restaurant in the corner. The food looked like it had been sitting for a very long time, and was very unappetizing. Chema was upset with himself, because he’d been thinking of a different (apparently nicer) branch, and we decided not to eat there, much to my relief.
We went to an American style burger place, where they got my order wrong, and everything about the whole experience was strained and uncomfortable.
Along with the restaurant saga, Chema had started acting oddly, asking me uncomfortable to answer questions like â€œWhat one thing do you like the least about me?â€. It reminded me of the 11 year age difference between us, and made me miss Josh and Jordon and their easy, fun laughter a lot.
I was glad to be leaving the next morning, and was rescued from stretching the evening out by a text message.
The message was from my friend Erik who we’d met in Belize. He was a few kilometers outside of Santiago and the chain on his KLR had broken. I didn’t have a spare, but started contacting my new Santiago KLR friends to see if anyone could help.
In the end they did help, but not in the way I was expecting. One of the guys randomly found Erik on the side of the road. He told him he knew me, and managed to get Erik’s bike to another biker’s house, one who also happens to be a motorcycle mechanic. I found out about all this because that biker happened to have my phone number and so they could tell me what was going on.
Erik was pretty impressed that I seemed to be known by all of the bikers in Santiago! (As was I, guess it’s a close knit community!)
As I didn’t need to rescue Erik I went to the hostel where he had arranged to meet up with Tanya (who was still taking the bus everywhere and meeting him in each city). It was great to see her again! She and I went out to find her some dinner and me some cake to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Erik and Marcelo, the mechanic who gave him a new chain, showed up after midnight, and the four of us went out for a couple drinks (1am is completely normal Latin American going out time).
It was great to catch up with with Erik and Tania. I got back home in the wee hours of the morning, still determined to head south the next day. I was ready to get back on the road!
I left Santiago having thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many great people, and spending time in a modern, dynamic city.
My next stop was Maria and Alamiro’s house, where, before Phil’s crash and it’s aftermath changed everything, we had planned to be spending Christmas.