10 October, 2008

Chile: The land of “HERE WE ARE...Now what?”

Santiago is big. And confusing. Seriously. First of all, the ATMs at the terminal wouldn’t accept our debit cards. We tried with both of them, but to no avail. Finally, we gave in and exchanged 300 Argentine Pesos at a less-than-great rate so that we would have enough money to last us until we found an ATM that would accept our cards. After that, Victoria and my first goal was to get ourselves and our luggage to Cascadas de las Animas, an adventure resort 45 kilometers southeast of Santiago, where we have family of friends-of-the-family. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done.
First of all, we didn’t know exactly where Cascadas de las Animas was. When we finally figured out the general area and explained it to one of the cab drivers at the terminal, he told us that getting down there with all of our luggage would cost something around 200,000 Chilean Pesos (approx. $400 USD). So we immediately nixed that idea and began look into the idea of taking various metros and buses, as had been suggested by one of the members of the “family of friends-of-the-family”. The problem with that plan was that there was no way we were going to be able to transport 2 bikes (in boxes), 2 suitcases, 2 bike bags, 1 backpack, and 1 messenger bag 45 kilometers via metro and bus.
This is where the next useful piece of information came in: at bus terminals, there are frequently “custodias” (cheap baggage storage). Overjoyed by this new piece of information, we paid a luggage carrier 1000 Chilean Pesos ($2 USD) to transport our luggage to the nearest “custodia” and paid to have our bikes and 3 of our remaining 6 bags stored overnight. Then we had to figure out public transportation in Santiago, Chile.
First we had to get on the “Linea 5” metro. We ended up asking the ticket lady, and after she gave us our tickets, she pointed to the stairs directly behind us. When we got down the stairs, we realized that we were on the platform for “Linea 1”. Because “Linea 1” is not “Linea 5”, we went back up the stairs and asked the turnstile guard. He also pointed us back down the stairs. Getting slightly worried, we trekked back down. It was at this point that I realized that “Linea 1” would bring us to “Linea 5” if we got off at the correct stop. One down.
Once we reached “Linea 5”, we knew that we had to take it to the “Mercedes” stop. When we realized that we had 20 stations to go, we relaxed slightly and began to look around. The first thing I noticed was that we were getting closer to the mountains. I was overjoyed by this prospect and pointed it out to Victoria roughly a million times. This started our discussion of where we wanted to live in Santiago, and we both agreed that we would be perfectly content to live outside of the city. Two down.
At the Mercedes stop, we had been told to get on bus #72 to San Jose de Maipo. Unfortunately, we watched 10 or 15 busses go by in a matter of minutes, and none of them was #72 to San Jose de Maipo. So we walked across the street to the shopping center called “Puente Alto Shopping” and used the pay phone. We spoke to Pangal (the son of the family) and he gave us the following directions: “Take bus #72 to San Jose de Maipo. Then take the bus to San Alfonso and ask the bus driver to drop you off at Cascadas de las Animas.” That seemed relatively easy, so we crossed the street again and as we approached the stop, we saw bus #72! Three down.
Once we hit San Jose de Maipo (fortunately, the bus driver told us when we were there) Victoria and I almost immediately decided that we liked San Jose de Maipo and would be content to live there. We bought 4 empanadas at the corner store where the bus dropped us and were given directions to stay on the same corner to await the bus to San Alfonso. Imagine our surprise when the bus to San Alfonso (it said San Gabriel, but we asked the driver and he said he went through San Alfonso) was also #72. We decided not to let this phase us and finally arrived at Cascadas de las Animas, which people kept calling Cascada de la Anima (I found out later that that is because no one pronounces the letter “s” at the end of words in Chile). At Cascadas de las Animas, we met Pangal (after having spoken to him multiple times on the phone) and he brought us up to his family’s beautiful home on the side of a mountain above San Alfonso. We met his parents, Sergio and Gordita, ate a light dinner and went to bed. Four down. Success!
Note: we didn’t take many pictures during this part of our adventures. We were too concerned with survival...

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