On getting to Santiago at eight in the morning, a good two hours before the rest of Chile wakes up, I realised I had absolutely no idea what I was doing among the smog and dirt of what seemed to be a grimey take on Birmingham. I sat in the bus terminal for an hour trying to pull myself together, still feeling the affects of prescription sleeping pills my friends had given me before I left San pedro. In the end, I opted for a hotel my guidebook from 1997 promised to be cheap, clean and in good order. It filled two of those brackets...but in the last fifteen years, prices had perhaps tripelled.
Still the place had hot water (luxury!) and I had my own room with clean sheets...I decided to crash. Having foreseen that it would be a case of ´mouse alone in the big city´ before I left the North, I´d used Couch Surfing to see if anyone would be around to hang out for a coffee and could offer some accomodation. A lovely human rights laywer called Sebastian got back to me and I spent a really fantastic three days in his company, staying on his sofa and hanging out with his friends. Sebastian joked to me that Peru was stuck in the fifteenth century. If this be the case, Chile is in the 90s with businessmen who have looked like they´ve walked out of the film and kids who dress like nineties rappers and Fine Young Canibals and Paul Simon being boomed out of every cafe.
Sebastian shared my love of Sushi and Piscola and suddenly the grime and intense Santiago seemed a little less daunting. I´m still not convinced on any charm of Santiago (it had a few nice European styled cobbled streets but due to the amount of earthquakes destroying Colonial buildings, ugly estates and skyscrapers seem to dominate it) and am in no rush to head back. Buenos Aires it ain´t.
In Valpo, my friend Tom from school has a job at the YMCA hostel and invited me to stay with him. I realised I was pretty keen to see a famaliar face and so travelled the small 1.5 hrs to Valparasia, a coastal city outside of Santiago. After a wild goose chase around Valpo to find the hostel (which in fact isn´t a hostel but a series of floors with gyms and loud areobics music played through the day), I finally found Tom. In the last three or four days I have been discovering a city which is in fact two cities in one, one resembles a coastal Santiago with grid streets and grey buildings the other colourful, like how I´ve heard B.A is and Bohemian. In fact every Chilean here looks like they´ve stepped out of The Porter in Bath. Valpo really is a city I can´t get my head around at all and with the joining of another friend of mine, Biggy, tonight I am looking forward to experiencing the night life- the real gem of Valpo.