I have a very comfortable ride in a fully reclining bus seat and I wake up in Santiago ten hours after leaving Osorno. I’m a lot better for the rest and any lingering malaise from last night quickly dissipates as I step off the bus.
For the first time in nearly a month, I’m in a world-class city. It’s a little disorienting. I’ve gotten used to getting dropped off at a bus station, walking two or three blocks to find lodging and another few blocks for food. There’s been very little in the way of decision-making. Now I’m back to navigating public transit systems and figuring out what neighborhoods to stay in. I end up heading to Bellavista, which a travel guide would refer to as a “hip” neighborhood, and is mostly notable for colorful street art and I guess a bit of a university vibe, although it seems to be trending upscale.
It’s kind of weird being in a city again – having convenience stores all over the place, overwhelming options on what to eat and what to see. I alleviate some of this pressure by cooking up a box of Kraft Mac n Cheese I have been carrying around since finding it randomly in Bocas del Toro, Panama (and nowhere else before or since).
That night, I end up in a bar called Harvard with some guys from the hostel. I contemplate calling my mother to tell her I finally got in.
I’m not going to be in Santiago for the weekend but it turns out that’s ok, because all the buzz among the traveler crowd is that Wednesdays are the best night for partying, due to a thing called Miercoles Po, which takes its name from the Spanish word for Wednesday and a Chilean word, which, like the Argentine che, is used for emphasis, I suppose like a Canadian “eh.”
The deal with Miercoles Po is that its location rotates through a variety of nightclubs in Santiago, and it’s free to get in if you’re any kind of woman, of course, but also, amazingly, if you’re a foreign male. Only Chilean males have to pay for entry, a system I smugly dub apartyheid. I head over with a couple of guys I met at the hostel. I am assured that I will love it, but it is just a pretty standard club. The hottest girls are there promoting something, and the rest are a mixed bag.
A photo posted by Pete Stasiewicz (@mostlyoverland) on
I spend a day renting a bike and cycling around Santiago’s sights. My first stop is the political center of the city to see the presidential palace and other civic institutions.
The Cathedral is placed on a bustling pedestrian mall, but the inside is fairly quiet, and far more ornate than I’d expect for an otherwise gritty and no-nonsense metropolis.
I also stop by the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, a newly built institution dedicated to the human rights violations of the Pinochet regime in the 70s and 80s. I’m vaguely aware of Pinochet’s human rights charges, but until then I had no real detailed understanding of what happened and why, except of the usual story, repeated in country after country I’ve visited, of a US-backed conservative government, a Soviet backed leftist insurgency, and the resultant human rights abuses that are both shockingly recent and yet hard to conceive, given the lack of any apparent strife evident to a visitor like myself.
As evening comes, my cycling brings me into a sort of dodgy market area, although I never feel unsafe. Plus there’s meat on sticks, so that’s a win.
To close out my sightseeing, I head back to Bellavista and take the funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, a large hill on the north end of the neighborhood which holds among other things, the Santiago zoo. It’s closed now, so I’m headed for the shrine to the Virgin Mary further up the hill to check out views over the city.