Chile: The Lower Andes, San Jose de Maipo, and Concluding Remarks (December 2009)

Sarah and I flew back to Santiago leaving Alissa behind in Rapa Nui. Alissa is the type of gal who needs some down time and was more than happy to let us return to the Continent without her. Sarah and I arrived in Santiago on the evening of the 21st and decided to spend the night in the city before heading off on our next adventure. Our plan was to wake up early (early for me is 9am) the next morning, take a rather long metro ride to Las Mercedes, and grab a taxi from there to the Cajón del Maipo about 50 kilometers southeast of Santiago. From Santiago, I sent an email in Spanish to Las Lomitas de Guayacan requesting a cabin for night. I could only hope I got my point across. 🙂

I’m going to digress for a few moments now. Coming from a small town in Connecticut, public transportation systems are somewhat of an exotic entity to me. One might say I’m fascinated by them. I really believe that while riding on a city’s public train you can see the truth about people of that culture. You also get a glimpse of what makes humans all the same. It’s the little things to look for that make the difference. Do people here sit silently with both feet on the ground while staring stoically ahead like they do in Moscow? Or, are they more like Bostonians – either chattering incessantly with their friends or reading some pretentious novel while eating their hair? In Austria, people sit quietly and upright often talking in pairs, but if you catch the eye of a young boy or girl, you may end up unexpectedly falling in love (check out my Vienna entry). But in the end, people of all cultures carry a story with them and in one way or another that story is on display as they wait for their stop. On any train in any city you are bound to see sadness, young love, anxiety, or joy in the eyes of a traveler and if you pay close enough attention you begin to notice patterns. It’s in those patterns where the cultural differences manifest themselves. But let’s be honest, I love to people watch. Most of us do.

We made the hour and a half trek on the metro from the República to Las Mercedes on the blue line, switching at Baquedano and Vecente Valdes. The metro system in Santiago is more than adequate; trains seem to run on time and the stations and cars are clean. The trains are overcrowded in the downtown areas, but clear out nicely once they leave the center of the city. People were quiet, polite, but not rigid. I think I like Chileans. They are attractive (I’m a sucker for dark hair), good dressers, and seem like confident and reasonable people. They also like music from the States, but I’ve yet to visit a country that doesn’t.

We arrived at our final metro stop and flagged down a taxi to take us the additional 30 kilometers up into the mountains. The taxi ride cost us a mere $2 each! We rode in the back of the cab listening to a 80’s music montage while taking in the scenery the lower Andes had to offer us. Best $2 I’ve ever spent. Twenty minutes later, our cab driver dropped us in Guayacán and we somehow found the registration cabin at Las Lomitas de Guayacan. Sure enough, they had received our email and were expecting us. We settled into our cabin before heading out for a walk to the town of San Jose de Maipo.

Our cabin in the Maipo Valley

It was a super hot and dry day. Our plan was to hit up the supermercado for some fruit and wine. Halfway to San Jose de Maipo, we gave into the overbearing sun and had a long lunch at an empty restaurant. By the time we arrived at the market, it was closed (and yet there were three people standing at each register, funny how that works), so Sarah and I walked around the town taking pictures and wandering in and out of cafes. It took us about an hour to see every inch of San Jose de Maipo. We returned to our cabin and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool.

Restaurant in the Maipo ValleySan Jose de Maipo

The most remarkable thing about our excursion to the Maipo Valley was how well I slept. I enjoyed twelve hours of uninterrupted snoozin’ in the Andes with the wind blowing through our cabin. Next time, I’ll go to Valparaiso.

My final day in Santiago and closing remarks

Sarah and I returned to Santiago the next morning and did some last minute shopping before her plane was due to depart. I checked back into La Casa Roja and said goodbye to my friend. I really like Sarah and was sad to see her go. I hardly ever get to see her. A little down, I took a walk around Barrio Brasil and then had a glass of wine and a light dinner. Hoping to meet back up with Alissa after she returned from Rapa Nui, I went back to the hostel and took a nap. I awoke to someone unlocking my bedroom door, jumped out of bed, and welcomed Alissa back with a big hug and some rather loud remarks about how happy I was to see her. We had a mediocre Italian dinner that night and spent a few hours that evening getting to know some people at La Casa Roja. The next morning we left exactly how we arrived – with Marcelo from La Casa Roja. And that concludes my first trip to Chile.

So, what have I learned?

  • Chile is NOT a third world country. It is NOT like a third world country. It is wonderful and everyone should go.
  • Learn to love all kinds of seafood before you go, because that is your best bet when dining out in Santiago.
  • Chileans have a special way of conjugating the 2nd person singular (informal).
  • I should strike a better balance between staying up all night drinking and staying in good health while on holiday.
  • I have earned the right to say things like “while on holiday” – just ask my passport.
  • Rapa Nui is great place to visit. Once.
  • If someone asks what you are going to do when you go to Rapa Nui, the proper response is to tell them that you are going to “look at some heads”. It is important to finish your statement with a deliberate eye roll.
  • When given the choice between an excursion to the Maipo Valley or Valparaiso – go to Valparaiso.
  • LAN airlines is awesome.
  • 10 days is not long enough for a visit to Santiago and Easter Island.

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