Endurance is defined in the English Dictionary as “the ability to continue doing something difficult or painful over a long period of time”, and tolerance “willingness to allow people to do, say, or believe what they want without criticizing or punishing them the degree to which someone can suffer pain, difficulty etc without being harmed or damaged”.
During the past week, we have redefined both endurance and tolerance as these definitions, although accurate, do not define a backpackers point of view. The South American definition of endurance, is the ability to stay at various South American hostels and be able to continue to function with 4 hours of sleep over 5 days. Tolerance is defined as the ability to not permanently hurt the English Man whom decided to attempt to pick-up a French girl less than a metre from our hostel door for a total of 8 hours, eventually relenting with the French girls email address at 6am. Now don’t get me wrong, this would clearly be considered as an accurate definition of “perseverance”, as anybody that was able to maintain a civil and constructive dialogue in an attempt to pick-up for 8 hours, I would take my hat off too them. However, this English man apparently worked in the house of parliament and it is clearly obvious that verbal diarrhoea is not limited to politicians.
After departing Easter Island, we arrived in Santiago 5 hours later. The hour was late and the touts were in abundance. We managed to tactfully navigate our way through these leeches and secure a nights accommodation in the La Casa Roja. A wonderful large hostel in the centre of Santiago. Leaving the acquisition of accommodation to the last minute is probably not the smartest thing to do in a country where your ability to speak the local language is somewhat limited, as you generally have to be grateful for what you are able to get. However, in this case I believe that “grateful” maybe an exaggeration. Our dorm room was nice and I called bottom bunk, whilst Jayde, drawing the short straw, got stuck with the top bunk. Our room mate kept decent hours, based on “Santiago club scene” time and had an early night of 3am. This was fine, the problem began when the nice German’s whom shared the dorm room, that was only able to be accessed through our room, felt that is was perfectly fine to start their day at 5:30am and that it was also acceptable to stand in the door and hold a conversation about their plans. From that point onwards, La Casa Roja did not get better, and within 24 hours it was time to leave.
Prior to departing Santiago, we managed to pound some pavement as we explored various areas of the city. In most cases I would say that it would be near impossible, nor fair to say that it possible to see all there is to see in a city in a matter of hours. However, in the case of Santiago, it is definitely a starting point for adventures outside of the city. We left for Valparaiso, 48 hours after arriving. Valparaiso is one of the major port towns of Chile, if not the most important port, where millions of tonnes of cargo go through daily. The town itself is built on the side of a mountain. As late as 1906, the town was hit with an earthquake, and with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, has not managed to recover as far as tourism, however, with a bit of imagination, it is possible to see beauty of this town and hope that it will return to it’s former glory. It is here that we had our first near miss.
On the second day of sight seeing, we found ourselves walking along one of the main roads that overlooked the town. A bus pulled up as we were taking some photo’s and frantically pointed to his eye and proceeded to tell us to go back. Unbeknown to us, the frantic eye pointing meant that someone was watching us. However at the time, there was not a soul to be seen apart from the bus driver and us. We heed the drivers warning and made a beeline to a touristy church that was less than 500 meters away. To get there we would have to walk down a residential street. It was here that a wonderful lady came out of her house and began speaking frantic Spanish and pulled us into her house. She took us into her lounge room and pointed back up the street where we saw 3 men that had been following us. We were saved from a very costly mistake and made our first police friends, as we got a police escort from one of the most feared areas of Valparaiso.
After this wake-up call, it was time to take stock of our possessions. The Bose headphones, although would serve us well on our many flights were promptly given to DHL, to be picked up at a later date from Richmond Virginia. Bags were packed and repacked to ensure that we were as streamlined as possible. Success, we felt comfortable with what we had achieved. Our hostel in Valparaiso, the Hostel El Yo Yo did not disappoint us, as we had lowered our expectation of accommodation to that which would expect to find a dog in. The room was spacious with a bunker style window that looked out, if it was possible to scale the wall, onto a beautiful stairway that the locals would frequent all hours. The room had a appetising aroma of cat’s urine and mildew, and was what one would expect from a sub-terrainian cavern. The time had come that tolerance, was no longer free flowing, after a night of listening to a English man’s dribble, it was time to move on. The simple response to the gentleman at the hostel reception when he asked why we were leaving was, “I don’t want to hurt the English man” seemed to be met with an unsaid understanding.
It seems, strange to say, but for an extra USD$2 we managed to find an accommodation called Casa Liesiel in the old town section of Valparaiso. The rooms were beautiful and airy, there was a total of 6 people in the house, and the owners were the nicest couple. After 5 days of minimal sleep, it became apparent that tonight, we would sleep well. The human body, although as amazing as it is to endure what we throw at it, without sleep will cease to function. However, within a short period, in this case 7 hours, the bodies ability to recharge itself will never cease to amaze me. With our bodies recharged and a wonderful breakfast, decided that we would not make the mistake of trying to sacrifice a measly USD$2 for a good nights sleep. Off to Vina Del Mer via the metro (train), this was the upper market of coastal towns, the streets were clean and the markets were in abundance. It was here that we found the Palacio Vergara, a beautiful colonial house, with well kept gardens, Quinta Vergara.
It was time to return to Santiago to stay at the Happy Hostel, which was renowned for it’s happy staff. Upon arrival, we were unable to find the happy staff, however we did not let that disappoint us, as the building and rooms were exquisite. If someone was to ever ask me, what I thought about the Happy Hostel, I would have to say that the building must have sucked the happiness from the staff as every time one would ask for help, it felt like it was an inconvenience to the staff. We travelled back down the coast to Isla Negra to see a famous poet, Pablo Neruda, whom we also nicked named the Bower Bird. It was a beautiful location and we understood where the man acquired his inspiration as we took some time to sit back and look out into the blueness of the Pacific Ocean. This would be a place that I could live (without the tourists of course). Returning to Santiago from our day trip to Isla Negra, we decided to journey to the top of Cerro San Christobal to see the “Immaculate Conception”, A huge statue of the Virgin Mary that looks out over Santiago. We sat and watched the sun set before returning to the Happy Hostel for our last night in Santiago. Tomorrow we would journey to Punta Arenas………