Monday, January 1, 2007

Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt

Lazy start to the day. We had our last Chilean breakfast for the trip and looked at the pictures of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid hanging on the wall. We realized that our drive out to Cochamo the day before yesterday took us on part of the Gaucho Trail, which was traveled by the pair 100 years ago. I think Erik got a real kick out of that. I remember him renting the movie for me several years ago when he learned that I hadn't seen it before. It's one of his favorite stories.

I checked around town to see if there might be a laundry service open. No luck, its Sunday. While this means I will have to sit in dirty clothes for the 20 hour voyage home and then have to do laundry when I get home, I kind of like the idea that there's a stinky surprise in my bags if someone decides to snoop.

I bought some fresh fruit from a little fruit stand by our hotel. For about two bucks, I got a big tub of fresh raspberries. It was about six times the size of the little tubs that usually cost five bucks at home. Being closer to the source, they were also in better condition than the ones I'm used to at home. I love good deals.

Erik and I went for one last ride to tucker ourselves out for the long ride home. The weather was outstanding again today. Sunny and just under the 20 degree mark, with only a light wind. Perfect for riding. We chilled out at the halfway spot for a snack and to soak up some rays. I tried not to think too hard about this being our last few hours of our trip, but couldn't help myself. When it comes to holidays, I've heard a number of people say one week isn't enough, and two weeks is a bit too much. I disagree. It's not like I dislike my life in Calgary. There are many things that I'm looking forward to returning to. But I really really like these trips, and its been great to share this one with Erik. I wonder why it is that some people have had their fill after two weeks. Is it boredom? Is it homesickness? Those are two things I haven't felt on this holiday. Boredom has been impossible with all of the things to see and do. Having Erik with me also keeps things interesting and fends off the need for something familiar. I suppose I should just be glad that my biggest 'issue' is that the fun can't last.

We had our last Chilean lunch at a nice italian place overlooking the lake and both faced the water. It was relaxing to watch everyone playing at the beach and the food was great. In Calgary, we often see each other for a short time on weekends, and that's not always even guaranteed. Going from that to 24 hours a day together for two weeks, we actually get along even better. He's a great companion.

We realized that we've been eating lunch at four, dinner around eight and going to bed at around midnight. Taking in to account the four hour time difference, we have been sticking pretty close to our Calgary schedule, which should avert jet lag.

Our flight from Puerto Montt to Santiago featured an episode of the Simpsons as in flight entertainment. Erik and I enjoyed our last opportunity to watch spanish Homer. I still don't know how to say 'don't have a cow man' in spanish.

As we get ready to sleep on our New Years Eve midnight flight from Santiago to Dallas, I feel like this has been a really great experience. I like this part of South America. I think it is under appreciated by many North Americans, who lump everything south of Texas together with Mexico. I'm not knocking Mexico, my point is that I think Chile and Argentina have more in common with Canada and the United States than they do with Mexico. I'm reminded of a quote from Vincent Vega just before he gets into his bit on Le Big Mac.

It's the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over
there that they got here, but it's just - it's just there it's a little

So, I will finish my final vacation note with an inventory of the 'little things' that are different. Here are ten for starters, in no particular order.

Artificial sweetener: noticably more common and popular than in Canada. It comes in more varieties, powder, liquid and tablets, and brands than I ever knew were available. Maybe it's to offset the effect of a diet centered around empanadas, jamon, queso and papas fritas.

Car horns: significantly less malicious tone than in Canada. This enables the horn to function as a useful communication tool, rather than a catalyst for road rage.

Bus service: regular routes running city to city and through urban areas with frequent stops appear to be an effective, economic and well used method of transportation for individuals of all ages.

Cash is king: credit cards don't appear to be well used here. Our airline tickets from Chaiten to Puerto Montt was paid in cash. They even wanted us to pay for our five day car rental with cash. Should I assume this means everyone walks around with several hundred dollars in their pockets?

Debit machines: relatively hard to find, typically only located at the bank. There are two systems operating (plus and cirrus), so the presence of a cash machine doesn't guarantee access to cash. Even if you do find a machine that 'speaks your language', it seems like a fifty fifty shot whether you're going to get what you ask for on the first try.

Accommodation: small scale family owned accomodation with breakfast included seems to be the norm. I like this concept. Fancy hotels aren't really my thing, I just need a clean, quiet, safe place to sleep. Staying with someone that owns the place means the service is good too. They are more willing to go the extra mile to accomodate you than what would be expected at a larger 'chain' style hotel.

Bread: I'm pretty sure that most people in this world would agree on the desirable properties of bread. Yet, it so hard to get good bread in Calgary. We found decent bread even in the most remote little supermarcados in Chile and Argentina.

Attire: the range of attire in Chile and Argentina seems to be more limited. On one end of the spectrum, we didn't see people walking around in junky clothing or sweat pants, and on the other end, we didn't see much by way of flashy, designer fashion. Generally, people exhibited some personal sense of style, rather than store bought style, or foregoing style altogether. While they earned points for style, they lost points for practicality. If you live in a rainforest, it seems to me that a rain jacket should be part of your wardrobe.

Driving: people don't drive as fast as possible everywhere and all of the time. It might a difference in attitude. Or, it might be because it's impractical to race around on roads shared with horse drawn buggies, buses that stop frequently, and tiny little renaults that work part time as offroad vehicles. Whatever the reason, the result is a traffic situation that is substantially better for cycling.

Dogs: Chileno and Argentine dogs are everywhere. It's just part of life. But they go about their business and don't generally initiate contact with strangers. This is in contrast to the typical Canadian dog, that greets strangers by smelling their crotch. But, fundamentally I can attest to the fact that they still share a universal passion for smelling each other's butts and chasing cars.


Blogger SHARON said...

Hi Tori,
Were enjoying your journaling!! Thought you should know that with regard to "THE ONSERVATORI" we would like you to add NIECE & COUSIN to your "a few insights on the world from the perspective of a ........".
Looking forwarding to seeing you upon your return - missed you at Christmas.

January 2, 2007 at 9:15:00 PM MST  

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