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Santiago, Chile

I had been hoping to steal some of Tess's photos for this blog, but they seem to be even further behind than I am, so I've had to make do with the three photos we took between us over four days in Santiago. I'll steal some of Tess's and post them later when they are up.

Back in Santiago (for the third time), we checked into Casa Roja, the same hostel as Liam and Tess, who recommended it after their last stay in Santiago. Santiago is such a hub, everyone seems to pass through it several times. Chilean independence celebrations were already underway and there seemed to be quite a few hangovers around the hostel. Keen that we be prepared for similar circumstances we all went out to find a pharmacist and stock up ibuprofen, re-hydration salts, and Berocca. We struggled for a bit in Spanish (Tess's Spanish is better than mine, but she was still struggling to explain re-hydration salts and what Berocca are), before the pharmacist revealed that he could speak English. They were all in high spirits in the shop and the pharmacist offered us each a pisco sour; apparently they were all drinking on duty. What an excellent pharmacist, to dispense pisco sour free of charge to the customers!

Now fully prepared we bought food and booze from the supermarket, which we were told was going to close early and be closed for three days. Tess sent Liam out so she could sneakily buy him a birthday cake and we bought him a bottle of Havana Club rum as a present, and also, for us, a bottle of the Pisco Mistral we had the kids had let us taste on Easter Island. Of course we had wine and beer as well; we didn't want to run out. Back at the hostel Liam took charge of food and I was assigned the task of making a fine chop concasse, tomatoes with their seeds removed and chopped up into tiny bits. This was mixed through the rice along with some more Longaniza sausages and served with lemon chicken. Stomachs lined, we headed out for the start of our celebrations.

That night, most of the people at the hostel were going to see a band, called Banda Conmocion, playing at a venue very close to the hostel. The support bands were quite good, but the headliners were fantastic, combining several chaotic musical genres I like: ska, Balkan, gypsy-punk, and a hint of salsa. There were at least twenty band members, many of the dressed up in bizarre costumes (one was satan) and parading around the stage apparently oblivious to the rest of the band; however the cacophony all came together somehow and there was a lot of bouncing in the club. The previous bands had been far more salsa and some of the dancing then had been intimidatingly proficient, but this was far more my sort of thing: plenty of knees up, running on the spot, and straight-forward bouncing for the real climaxes, so I got stuck right into to the sweaty masses. At one point, during one of the earlier bouncy bits a girl tapped me heavily on the shoulder and, when I turned round, said Baila como la mierda, which I thought was a bit rude and it dented my confidence enough to make me retreat to the back and resume the indifferent shuffle. However from there I could see that she was the only person in the whole place still trying to salsa dance to crashing cymbals, booming bass drums, and parping trombones; everyone else was bouncing around, buffeting her, until eventually retreated looking disgusted with everybody. She was the one who had got it wrong, not me!

The next day the drinking just continued; this was the actual independence day of Fiestas Patrias, and we paid a visit to the bar where Tess and Liam had befriended the staff during their last stay at Casa Roja. The owner had incredibly cool long dreadlocks, of which I was very jealous, but he had been growing them for ten years. All of these friends of Tess and Liam were very patient with our Spanish, which was just as well because none of them really spoke any English. It's amazing how much easier it is to speak another language when you know English is not an option – and you've had a skinful!

The next day was Liam's 30th birthday, but also “Military Day”, the last day of Fiestas Patrias and we started it with a great hangover breakfast: leftover longanizas, fried together with leftover chicken in rolls, the finishing touch being the HP sauce and Coleman's English Mustard I had bought in New Zealand. A girl eating a vegetarian breakfast in the garden near where we set looked on at our massive meat sandwich breakfasts with a mixture of disgust and admiration, I thought. Maybe it was just disgust. Straight after breakfast (well it was already late afternoon) Liam started on the Havana Club, so we started on the Mistral. Rinse and repeat.

The next day I felt absolutely awful. I could barely speak to anyone, and a brief attempt I made to be sociable with all the people we had met in the hostel over the last few days, had to be abandoned in favour of a large take-away pizza for each of us. Liam was even worse that I was: he had drunk almost the whole bottle of rum himself in less than an hour, just to start the day off. He only managed to get out of bed long enough to eat half his pizza then disappeared again.

All I could think was, we can never drink like this again. We're too old to be celebrating 30th birthdays; I thought it would be OK because we had managed a 21st previously but, in retrospect, 21st birthdays are probably safer and tamer, because 21 year-olds have not yet had the time to develop fully-blown disgraceful behaviour, whereas 30 year-olds certainly have, and have not yet started the long decline where they can no longer maintain. Or maybe it's just chefs. Liam and Tess were planning taking a month of alcohol as well as quitting smoking the next day. At least we didn't have cigarettes to quit, but we couldn't stop drinking: our next destination was Mendoza and the only reason we were going there was wine.

We definitely needed some sort of rest though; apart from all the alcohol we had barely slept except through the drunkest of slumbers, because our dorm of eight beds was also the thoroughfare to the neighbouring dorm of another eight beds, and during the last few days people were keeping all hours, so it was never quiet. To help us recover, Joanne booked a double room in a hostel in Mendoza which was recommended for being quiet. That's what we needed after the last two party hostels we had stayed in.

It was another night of almost no sleep and the next morning I was still feeling terrible, so we had leftover pizza and a can of beer I found in my bag, hoping it would clear away the last vestiges of the binge before we properly began our better, cleaner lifestyle. Tess and Liam did not look like they were going to wake up, so we just left them, and headed of to the bus station to catch our bus to Argentina. It was a shame we didn't see more of Chile, but we did go to Easter Island, which was the main thing, and afterwards we joined in with the national celebrations, so we didn't do too badly on the right schedule we have to stick to for South America. I liked the people and the atmosphere in Santiago, but it would have been nice to make it further south to Pucon and the lake district, or even further to Patagonia. Oh well, there's always next time.

permalink written by  The Happy Couple on September 21, 2009 from Santiago, Chile
from the travel blog: Michael's Round-the-World honeymoon
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