Posted by: glenswatman | December 21, 2009

20091210-19 CHILE

 

FRIDAY 11 DECEMBER
Late morning we take a brief walk around the neighbourhood but other
than the shopping centre it is all just big apartment blocks.  We spend another afternoon by the pool
topping up our tans but leave as soon as the children arrive as no one takes
any notice when they squirt their water guns everywhere.  In the evening Mark & Di take us for a
meal at the Chinese across the street where we really enjoy the beef dish.  The restaurant is packed out with most diners
arriving after 9pm.  I understand that
when the weather is hot it is nicer to eat late at night but we both find the
food lays heavy on our stomachs and now prefer our main meal mid day.

SANTIAGO 3, COUCHSURFING WITH MARK & DI

 

SATURDAY 12
DECEMBER –
We all get up quite late, not surprising as most nights we
have been up until almost midnight.  Obviously late nights and mornings are the
norm in Chile as many shops don’t open until after 10am.   I start
the curry cooking; it is out meal for tonight but always tastes better when it
has sat throughout the day.  Realise we
have had a different country meal every night since we arrived – roast beef and
Yorkshire pudding from England, pasta from Italy, a visit to the Chinese and an
Indian tonight.  Whilst the lads are
watching football in the afternoon Di & I head out to a couple of markets
but can’t get what we want and end up in the shopping centre by their
apartment.   

SANTIAGO 4, COUCHSURFING WITH MARK & DI

 

SUNDAY 13 DECEMBER
Many times whilst travelling people suggest I write a book about
it.  I am already running a blog with my
diary, www.glenswatman.spaces.live.com
but people still want to know how we can afford this lifestyle etc so I am now
starting a second blog with this type of info, www.glenswatman.blogspot.com All
well and good except I feel out of my depth from the moment I start but I am
lucky that Mark can get me over some of the hurdles.  Our other friends Kevin & Ruth have just
done a similar thing and Kevin tells me it is also possible to make a little
money from this by have some web links on the page and getting paid when people
click on them so at the end of the day I am rewarded for all my efforts with
23c!   Mark & Steve intend to watch
the afternoon Liverpool match so Di suggests we go out to buy some beer and the
meat for tonight’s BBQ.  It is at this
point that we realise that all the shops are closed.  We had forgotten that it is Election Day in
Chile and this must be the reason.  We
have recently read a book by “Isabel Allende” talking about Chile’s past in
years gone by alcohol was not on sale for the day of the election or the day
before and women and men had to use different voting stations.  Di is convinced that some of the smaller
corner shops will be open and after quite a tour of the neighbourhood we get a
result.  The BBQ is delicious served up
with a tasty potato bake.  We shall be a
little reluctant to leave tomorrow as we have had such a good time with Di
& Mark.  Can’t believe we have had 10
nights in Santiago, considering there are few attractions in the city, but it
has been the people that have interested us more.

SANTIAGO 5, COUCHSURFING WITH MARK & DI

 

MONDAY 14 DECEMBER
Just half an hour before we are due to leave we get a message from
our next host to say we cannot visit. 
She has just broken up with her boyfriend in France and is
distraught.  This throws me into a bit of
a panic as I have done no research on accommodation and we won’t be arriving in
Vina del Mar until 3pm.  I post a message
to the Couchsurfing group in Vina and begin to get replies within minutes
including one from our host who has changed her mind and will meet us.  Mark & Di drop us at the metro and it
doesn’t take long to get to the Tur Bus depot. 
We already have tickets for the 1.10pm bus, CP$3200 (£4) but find we are
in time to change to an earlier one.  In
less than 2 hours we arrive and are just sorting ourselves out when I realise I
have left my cardigan on the bus and it has left.  I report it at the office and they assure me
it will be handed in and I can collect it later.  Liliana arrives and actually seems quite cheerful;
think she must have written to us the minute the break up happened.  She speaks excellent English and we chat
whilst following her to get a colectivo to her home.  She lives there with her family and her
parents are motorhomers.  We also learn
that later today she has a Turkish family with 3-year old twins also arriving.  The family live in a big house high up on a
hill overlooking the city and we are given her brothers room as he is away at
university in Santiago.  Lili returns to
the bus station to pick up the Turkish family, Muhsin and his wife Nilgun and
their boys Alp & Mert.  Lili’s 10
year old sister Catalina is delighted to have new playmates.  Lili’s parents, Jose Miguel and Viviana
arrive home; they are also part of the Couchsurfing group in their own right
and just love having visitors. Viviana is keen for her guests to try Chile
specialities so we drink Pisco Sour and eat empanadas and other traditional
foods.  We enjoy some very varied
conversation jumping between motorhoming, life in Turkey, travel and living the
dream as 46 year old Muhsin and 40 year old Nilgun are also retired.  

VINA DEL MAR 1, COUCHSURFING WITH LILI AND FAMILY

 

TUESDAY 15
DECEMBER –
When we get up all the family have left but “Nana” has
arrived and is cleaning up.  The table
has been laid for breakfast and we are joined by Muhsin and Nilgun whilst the
twins are still sleeping.  They didn’t go
to bed until the same time as us and when they were awake they were never still
for a moment so reckon they must have been tired out.  We take a bus, CP370 (£50p) down to the city
centre and retrieve my cardigan from the bus station.  I’m very pleased to have it as there is a sea
mist and it is quite chilly.  We head off
towards “Castle Hill” and admire the buildings and peak from outside at the
Presidential Palace.  Down on the
waterfront there is free admission to “Castle Wulff” which is brilliant
inside.  Built on a rock outcrop the
bridge to the tower has a glass floor so you can see the ocean rushing in, you
actually feel like you are on a ship. 
The property next door had taken advantage of this and designed the
restaurant and hotel to look like one. 
Many of the museums are free and housed in nice Palace buildings whilst
Rioja Palace costs CP600 (75p).  Money
well spent as not only is it a wonderful building with furnishing but gives us
a good laugh.  We have both been given
information booklets in English but they differ to the extent that furnishings
in one room are classed as both Empire and Imperial and in others they cannot
agree on which King Louis it is!  The
main square is surrounded by more nice buildings and the Palace in Vergara in
the park is a most attractive Moorish style. 
Early afternoon the sun finally wins over the sea mist but it is too
late to head to the beach so we sunbathe in the park.  There’s a magnificent open area here with most
unusual poles suspended over the nonexistent roof.  Steve wants to get back to watch football on
TV at 5pm so we call it a day.  The
family are back and the boys are enjoying themselves running round, they seem
to have so much energy it tires us out just watching and listening to
them.  We take “elevenses” with the
family in the evening and enjoy chatting. When we phone up to wish Natasha
“happy birthday” we are upset to learn that she has just got home and found
Jack the hamster dead, needless to say she doesn’t want to talk to us.

VINA DEL MAR 2, COUCHSURFING WITH LILI AND FAMILY

 

WEDNESDAY 16
DECEMBER –
Taking the bus up to the shopping mall it is a short walk to
the beach.  We pick a nice quiet spot
away from everyone else but far enough back from the ocean that we are not
drenched by the spray.  There is a steep
drop to the water and the waves are pounding in.   In no time at all we have people surrounding
us in spite of the fact there are many other places they could sit.  We get people kicking sand around, other
talking loudly and using the phone and the last straw is when a couple of guys
plonk down by my feet and beginning smoking. 
I’ve offered to cook us all a meal tonight so we visit the huge
supermarket on the way back.  Although it
is almost Christmas and they are playing traditional music it doesn’t have the
same bustling atmosphere as English stores at this time of year.  The spaghetti bolognaise is warmly received
and Nilgun has brought a big fruit and custard tart to finish the meal.  We are moving to another host in Valparaiso
tomorrow but the family have nothing arranged. 
Lili contacts our host Dan and he agrees to take the family in as
well. 

VINA DEL MAR 3, COUCHSURFING WITH LILI AND FAMILY

 

THURSDAY 17
DECEMBER –
We are supposed to meet up with Dan in Vina at 6pm so
have the day free but it is cloudy and not a beach kind day so we hang around
at the house.  Lili’s parents are coming
back in the afternoon but Lili arrives first, phones Dan and finds arrangements
have changed and we must make our way to his house.   It is quite late when José Miguel and Viviana
arrive so we don’t hang around but begin to make our way to Valparaiso by buses,
CP370 (50p) and CP$450 (60p) whilst the Turkish family take a taxi as they have
a lot of luggage.  We get off at Plaza
Waddington and walk a couple of streets down to Dan’s place.  We are at the eastern end of the bay and up a
hill so have fantastic views.  We haven’t
even got through the door when Muhsin and family arrive.  Dan speaks really good English and seems a
very funny man.  The Turkish family seem
a little uncomfortable as this is obviously not a house for children and Dan
has lots of stuff around.  They set off
out for a walk but return a few minutes later in a taxi to pick up their bags
to move somewhere else.  At 8.15pm we are
hungry so take a walk to the shops on Plaza Waddington to get some stuff to
make a meal for us all, Dan has 3 other people who stay with him.  It is a small shop with a couple of people
working there and a couple of lads hanging around.  Before leaving I make sure to put my purse
away and secure my bag diagonally across my shoulders.  The minute I leave the store I feel a push on
my shoulder and the bag being tugged away. 
I try to hang on but the youth is too strong.  We turn round and see him running off and by
instinct we start to follow.  We are both
shouting anything that comes to mind in English and Spanish.  The thief glances back and I see that he has
a knife in one hand so shout to Steve, who is ahead of me, to warn him.  We pursue the boy who turns up the hill that
runs along the side of the park.  A man
in the park with a dog runs over and I am hopeful that he is going to set the
dog on the thief but instead he tries to kick the lad.  He backs off quickly when a knife is waved at
him in a threatening manner.  We keep up
pursuit, I throw down the grocery bag to try and gain speed, but the youth is
getting ahead of us, we are unfit and it is all uphill.  Many people come out to see what happens and
I shout to them to phone the Police.  The
thief is easy to identify with a bright red t-shirt but we lose sight when he
turns into a side street.  Steve is still
ahead of me and follows.  I slow a little
thinking this is the end of the chase but when I reach the street I can see
Steve fighting with the man and bringing him down.  I run over and between us we manage to get
the knife out of his hand but not before Steve has been cut a few times.  People come out of their houses and another
man helps Steve restrains the youth.  Steve
tells me he saw the lad hiding under the car with my handbag and he dragged him
out, he tells me to get my bag and check the contents.  Other than the strap that was slashed
everything is in order.  We are in a dead
end street which is why events turned out the way they did.  Another man comes up the street shouting and
cursing, walks up to the youth and gives him a kick in the nose.  I try to stem the flow of Steve’s wounds; the
worse is a cut to the outside palm of his right hand.  I place my foot above the youths head in case
Steve gets too weak to hold him down. 
Many people are now around us offering stuff to put over Steve’s wound,
glasses of coke and general sympathy. 
The Police arrive reasonably quickly and soon assess the situation and put
the youth in handcuffs.  The thief is put
in the back of the Police truck with us in the front.  Luckily one of the policemen speaks good
English so we ask to be taken to call and explain things to Dan before going to
the hospital.  In the hospital waiting room
the Policeman does the checking in.  Steve
starts to feel sickly and faint, looks pale and is obviously in shock.  I have him put his head between his knees but
he is still swaying around.  Policeman
says to try to hang on for just a couple of minutes.  Steve sits up to speak to me but suddenly
starts mumbling and sounds like he is going to start sobbing but instead his
eyes roll back in his head and he starts to keel over backwards unconscious.  I scream out for help whilst stopping him
falling over.  The Police and few other
people help me haul him up and then drag him on his knees into the emergency
room.  We soon find a doctor who gets
Steve up onto a trolley at which point he regains consciousness.  They take us into the treatment room and
begin assessing his needs.  Policemen
Miguel is very kind and talks us through everything.  Steve has a mid level cut in his hand
requiring a number of stitches and a minor cut just in front of one ear where
he has more stitches.  The rest of the
cuts are more like grazes so just need cleaning up.  However his left small finger (which he has
broken twice in the past) is a mess.  By
now the thief is also in the treatment room he has a badly bruised face and
obviously broken nose with blood pouring out. 
I explain to Miguel that this was nothing to do with us, another man did
it, and all we did was restrain him with the force required.  An x-ray shows Steve’s finger is not broken
but a Doctor tells him that there is a tumour under the nail and with the new
damage the nail and the tumour must be removed or he will (not could) lose his
finger.  Fortunately this can wait until
we return to England next year.  During
our time together Miguel has been asking our version of events and has written
down the details.  2 more Policemen
arrive to take us back to the station to sign papers.  Miguel says we must keep the story exactly
the same as we told him and be sure to say we never hit the boy.  We are put into another car and head to the
station but we notice the driver keeps braking heavily and we hear a clonking
in the back, on arrival we realise the youth is in there and would have been
having a rough ride.  Miguel appears to
brief the 3 Policemen who are ready to do the report but then he must leave,
but not before giving us Steve’s and the youths x-rays (as souvenirs), getting
our E-mail address and taking photos of us as we have been having some
interesting chats.  The Police fill in
lots of forms that we must sign, all in Spanish so I photograph them as well
feeling a bit odd signing something we don’t totally understand.  The Police chat to an attorney on the phone
and say we must go to the court at 11am tomorrow to make a statement to
him.  We don’t know how things work in
Chile and are most concerned that it is because the youth is trying to say we
hit him but are assured this is the normal system.  Arriving back at Dan’s he has been doing some
detective work.  At the shops where it
started he has established the name of the lad and this ties in with the x-ray
document but hanging around and listening to other youths it seems there are others
involved.  Earlier today our attacker Lee
and another lad mugged a cigarette salesman. 
The boys are all talking about how stupid Lee was to get caught.  When Dan tells us this it makes us feel very
nervous about staying in the area as all the buses depart and leave from Plaza
Waddington where these youths hang out.  We
retire to bed but can’t sleep for ages. 
As Miguel says Steve is my “hero” and very “valiant” but we are not sure
if this is true and really we were stupid to give chase.  With a knife involved things could have
turned out much worse but luckily the lad did not really know how to use one
and just had it to cut the bag straps and deter people.   So the
first mugging of our lives and overall did not turn out as badly as it might
have done. 

VALPARAISO, COUCHSURFING WITH DAN

 

FRIDAY 18 DECEMBER
Well we did get a little sleep but still feel pretty rough in the
morning.  We explain to Dan that we
appreciate him hosting us but want to get out of Valparaiso as we are now too
nervous to enjoy it and he understands.  The
washing machine has removed all the blood from Steve’s trousers and shirt so
really we just have my handbag to replace and that will be with a big bum bag
(to fit my big bum) instead.  The police
arrive to take us to meet with the attorney and are happy to transport our
baggage as well.  En route Miguel does
his best to be a tour guide by pointing out a few attractions, bet we are the
only tourists to get a personal police tour! 
Arriving at the court house we are a little surprised to find that this
is now a full court session with both attorneys, Lee (the attacker) and his
family present.  Christina is our
translator and a very nice lady.  Steve
has to go in first to be interrogated whilst I have stay in a separate room
with Miguel.  When it is my turn I am a
bit intimidated to see all the people in the gallery.  I can feel Lee’s attorney trying to place
doubt but stick to my guns on the story and keep my cool – until the moment I
leave walking past his family when I crack up. 
It is very hard to explain but firstly the interrogation is not nice,
then you get to look at the lad and of course this makes me think of David and
finally I feel for his family.  In fact his
sister is outside talking to Miguel and she asks him to tell Steve that the
family is very sorry for what has happened and want to apologise.  Steve accepts the apology.  They tell us we can now leave and that should
be the end of it from our point of view. 
Lili, our host in Vinas del Mar, has kindly said that we can go back
there tonight to sort ourselves out. 
Steve cannot carry any bags as one hand has the cut and the other an
injured small finger so we will have to take a taxi and Christina insists on
escorting us.  The police drop us at the
taxi station which is in a busy area of town so progress is slow as we watch
the meter ticking over.  CP$10100 (£13)
later we arrive at Lili’s.  We are just
relieved to be in a safe place where we can sort ourselves out, book somewhere
for tomorrow and have a sleep.  Lili’s
brother Phillipe returns from Santiago and initially is not too pleased to find
us in his room as no one had told him but seems OK once he understands our
situation.  We join the family for
“elevenses” then retire to our room whilst the others all go out to different
places. 

VINAS DEL MAR, COUCHSURFING WITH LILI

 

SATURDAY 19
DECEMBER –
Viviana is a nurse and cleans up Steve’s hand wound and
offers to remove his head stitches on Monday. 
I have found out that on the Falkland Islands there is a British
hospital with reciprocal arrangements so will try to get his hand ones done
when we are in Port Stanley 2nd January.  Cataina is going away on scout camp so Jose
Miguel and Viviana are out early to take her. 
I borrow and iron to smarten up our clothes, had almost forgotten what
clothes looked like without creases!  
Phillipe and Lili help load our bags into a collectivo ,CP400 (50p) pp,
which drops us near our new abode. 
Hostel Blest Gana is away from the main backpacking area in a quiet side
street and nice and clean.  Owner Adolfo
is from Argentina and greats us by name and helps us settle in.  CP18,000 (£22.50) gets us a double en-suite
room with cable TV, wi-fi and breakfast included.  There’s a street market in the next parallel
street so I get myself a good bum bag, CP2000 (£2.50).  There are lots to chose from so they are obviously
a necessary item here.  It is my turn to
help Steve in the shower, brings back memories of when he had to help me when I
ruptured my achiles tendon.  He feels
much better as I am also able to wash his hair. 
We get news from Dan and this is what he tells us – “When I went to buy
some beers last night the lady at the liquor shop asked me about you two
straight away, and I had not told her about it. So I asked how she knew, and
she commented that it was the story of the day that every shop owner was
talking about that day. And I bet it was also what the guys that hang out at
Plaza Waddington kept on talking about. The guy at the bakery told me that he
had found out that this boy Lee was encouraged by his friends to do the
mugging. He also said that Lee is usually a quiet lad. No excuses, though, but
that’s the background information on him. 
I’m sure it wasn’t a pleasant thing to be at the court, but at least you
got the little fucker behind bars. Word is at Plaza Waddington that it is
so.”  You never know we may even have
made the news! 

VINAS DEL MAR 2, HOTEL BLEST GANA

CP18,000 (£23) inc breakfast

 

SUNDAY 20 DECEMBER
We both sleep so well that the first thing we know is a knock on the
door with our breakfast at 9.30am.  It is
a really good spread with plenty of different breads, ham, jam, cheese and a
fish spread.  Coffee, juice and some flan
– enough to feed us for a second meal.  
We take a walk to the nearby hospital to see about Steve’s head
stitch.  Opinion is varied as to when it
should come out but the receptionist sends us away saying 1 week.  Steve is still feeling a bit nervous about
things so we hunker down for the rest of the day in the room. 

VINAS DEL MAR 3, HOTEL BLEST GANA

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Responses

  1. What a way to bring 2009 to a close!


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