Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chile, Day 15

Today was spent traveling: by plane, taxi, and bus; from Valparaiso, to Santiago, to Puerto Montt, and finally to Castro. Altogether I was traveling for 13 hours, and by the time I arrived in Castro it was 10:30 p.m. (and barely dark outside).

There’s not a great deal to share about today, though it did have its moments of interest. I checked out of Hostel El Mirador in Valparaiso, took a taxi to the bus station – with the owner, who was heading downtown to vote in Chile’s presidential elections, which end on Sunday – and boarded a bus to Santiago. It was an entirely uneventful ride, and upon exiting the bus station there I found a taxi to take me directly to the airport, where I quickly checked in and then had four hours to kill before my flight left. I spent some of my time in the airport lounge talking to a pastor from Texas, yet whose “heart is still, and will always be, in Alabama,” and a former exchange student from Calama, Chile, who had lived with the pastor for a year and was now going to show him around the country for two weeks.

Eventually I got hungry and decided to have lunch at a restaurant called ARS.

The best thing here was the free wi-fi.

I have no idea what the letters stand for, and even if I did know I probably wouldn’t understand their meaning. I ordered a ciabatto pobre (3800 pesos, or ~$7.75), which is a sandwich on ciabatto bread with two fried eggs and some flavorless, Steak-Um-like meat.

I seriously need to go vegetarian after this trip.

It wasn’t very good, but when is airport food ever worth writing home about?

With that heavy food sitting in my stomach I soon boarded my flight to Puerto Montt. Upon arriving I again grabbed a taxi, and the driver, who was a very nice and talkative local woman, got me to a bus station literally as a bus to Castro was pulling away. She called out her window for the station attendants to stop the bus, while I grabbed my bags, thanked the woman and tossed more money than I probably should have at her, and ran through the rain and onto the bus. There were a couple seats left, so I plopped down on one and realized that I wouldn’t get into Castro nearly as late I thought I would. Nice timing.

Why are these people looking at me?

The bus ride also wasn’t nearly as long as I’d been led to believe it would be. Rather than a four-hour trip, it was only three hours in the end, and for some reason the bus driver made me pay only 3700 pesos rather than the 5300 he initially quoted me. All in all, not a bad end to my trip.

At one point we had to take a half-hour ferry to reach the island of Chiloe, and while the scenery wasn’t spectacular, it was still nice enough to pay attention to. There were a lot of birds on the water, and a rainbow appeared at one point, and as we got closer to Chiloe a number of houses on a cliff came into view.

It was cold and windy as soon as I stepped out of the bus and onto the ferry.

You can see a rainbow off to the left if you squint.
What is it about an empty boat offshore that feels timeless and romantic?

It was growing slowly darker as the bus left the ferry and drove through Chiloe to Ancud and then Castro. I’m including below several photographs I took of Chiloe from the bus during the last hour or so of the journey. Again, they’re nothing spectacular, but there was something old and almost timeless about the place that made me happy to be where I was.

I wasn’t sure that in such a small town as Castro any restaurants would be open after 11 p.m., but at the hostel the young man who helped me check in explained there were several open until 2 a.m. I got a taxi to a restaurant called Restaurant Encuentro Nativo and, upon telling the waitress where I was staying, was given a free pisco sour that really hit the spot.

The wooden interior of Restaurant Encuentro Nativo was appealing. So was the working fireplace just off to the right of the picture.

The pisco sour was dark and had seeds, as if it contained mora berry.

I ordered a side salad, an Austral beer, and a bowl of caldillo, a stew of shrimp, clams, mussels, sausage, potatoes, onions, and apparently anything else fresh that’s lying around, which is a local specialty. The entire meal cost 5800 pesos (~$11.85).

A horrible, dark photo of a pretty decent stew.

I scooped up all the goodies I could in my spoon and snapped a photo...

Restaurant Encuentro Nativo can be found at Esmeralda 111, Depto. 3. Tel: (65) 532-883. Web: www.encuentronativo.cl.

As soon as I got home I got ready for bed and went straight to sleep. I simply didn’t have the energy to write all of this and upload any photos...which is why I’m posting this a day late.

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