Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Santiago

Hi all – I’ll be transcribing some of my South American travel-journal scrawl here in the Travel section of Polygonic over the course of the next month or so. Here’s the first small bit, though I promise entries will get more eventful once I find a computer with a decent connection!

3 December 2010

So this is Santiago. As is my habit lately, I don´t seem to write in these little books too much anymore unless making lists, sketching out chapters, drawing logos for hockey teams that don’t exist. The only time I write about my day it seems is whenever I’m away. Right now, I’m most certainly away – the first steps on a new continent, back in the New World, shoe soles pounding on the foothills of Pacific coast mountains. Welcome home!

I was nervous in leaving the old world for this one, primarily due to heavy snow in London and a tight connection I’d need in Madrid. By sheer tooth skin, I made the connection, and settled in for some fitful sleeping, and as usual, found the deepest slumber within about an hour of having to land.

I arrived in Santiago yesterday morning: got on a bus and was nearly immediately approached by a fellow traveller, a fellow called Rupert, a South Londoner (Streatham!) who didn’t seem happy map reading and wanted to know if I knew where I was going. I said that I hoped so. He was nice enough, if very wide-eyed by the whole place, and coincidentally, we were booked into the same hostel, La Chimba in the Bellavista district. A small pang of fear shot through me that I’d have a companion for life now.

Faith No More would be closing a world tour in Santiago the coming Sunday, and it turns out Chileans have a huge fondness for the old rockers. The hostel deskie had a live DVD playing in the lobby, and told us excitedly he’d be at the show, live and in person. His excitement and distraction may have accounted for the fact that Rupert’s private room was not yet ready, while my dorm bed was. R decided against leaving the hostel until his room was sorted, which left me a little off the hook, and out I went to explore the city for the afternoon. We made plans to reconvene around 7.

I got a plat of empanadas and a beer (honestly did not expect a one litre bottle, but that’s how it came. Hey ho) before hiking up a nearby hill for (850 metres, but starting from 500). The Bellavista craig offered fantastic views of the Santiagan sprawl, a Seoulesque wallpaper of unblemished concrete, stretching far into a hazy horizon of Andean peaks – actually, more like a long ridge than a jagged mountainscape, so there were few ‘peaks’ to note. It was a tiring climb after three hours plane-sleep, and my earlier lunch of fried dough and lager.

A dinner of small steaks with a couple of hostellers, including Rupert, who had seemingly drunk the day away and made little sense by dinner. A quick visit to a seedy bar afterwards, and we returned to the hostel no later than 10.45, for crashing and sleeps.

The next morning – short walk bankside down the river towards the fish market: asking permission of fish mongers to take photos worked everytime, and led me into very small Spanish conversations. I think I was able to confirm one man’s guess that Britain doesn’t use the euro. I hope that’s what I said.

From there through sprawling high streets to the Museum of Precolombian Latin America, stacked floor to ceiling with 2000 year old fragments, frescoes, pottery, images of forgotten deities, and many questions and scenarios running through my mind of what the Americas might look like today without the European cancellation of this entire assortment of burgeoning civilisations.

Now, I’m in Barrio Brasil, a low key and sleepy neighbourhood with a sometimes-student feeling to it: a smattering of small rock bars and terrasses, some outstanding graffiti, and dogs sleeping in patches of shade beneath what is a partly, even mostly, cloudy sky. It’s hardly steaming hot – I doubt we’re breaking 20. The undereducated eye, which is what I’ve got two of, sees this city and wonders how easily it would slot into central or southern Europe somewhere. I reckon very easily indeed.

Tomorrow, I abandon the city and head west to the coast proper: two days in Valparaiso before a night bus south into the Patagonian northern borders. Somewhere around there, I’m sure I’ll find this girl I’m chasing.

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