12/24/2010 - 01/10/2011
Susan flew out Christmas eve and I had planned on returing to Viña for the actual day of Navidad to be infused with that holiday spirit by passing the time with my host family....However, my hostel in Santiago was this super sweet old mansion with a good crowd of people and I ended up checking in and out on three occasions due to a lack of motivation to do any more traveling. I passed most of the time playing pool with this Costa Rican-Argentenian med student filled with superb travel stories and then just kicking it in the courtyard reading and making plans and what not. We went out with a few people to the club district on Xmas night and after some time in the bars, meandered to a nearby salsa club. Being the only gringo, the dances came easily....but also being the only one not raised on this kind of dance, my moves were at the bottom of the heap and I was quickly abandoned by all of the señoritas, gorditas included....it was crushing to mi confidencia. The buses were running no more when the club closed and we had to walk back about an hour to the hostel. Some dudes smacked my friend in the face in the process but nothing ensued.
After a couple more days in the capital city, I eventually made it back to Viña del Mar before the world famous New Years celebration. It is claimed to be the second most epic firework show of the year next to Sydney, Australia; and for it backpackers and vacationers from neighboring countries alike flock to Valparaiso, more than tripling the regular population. I reunited with the old host family to watch the fireworks from their uncle´s apartment which was strategically located on a hill over-looking the ocean, where they launch the fuego artificiales from multiple sites. Being that the host mom comes from nine brothers and sisters, there was a good crowd in the apartment from around Chile and Argentina. The Argentenians brought a bottle of Fernet, which is this pretty strong, earthy, nearly medicinal tasting alcohol hailing from Italy that apparently now reins supreme over the Argentenian drinking class; we mixed it with coke. So we sipped drank and ate finger sandwiches until blastoff, then they cut cake, popped champagne and we walked around hugging one another wishing everyone a feliz año. I must say it was probably my favorite firework exhibition of all times, I´m really not usually a big fan of the sky fire but these ones had me thoroughly enthralled for the full 25 minute duration.
After some parting words to the elders of the family, us younger folk journeyed into the city central to partake in the festivities of a couple of the clubs....inebriation ensued and parts of the night became a bit ambiguous but it was enjoyable and in the end we all made it back to the lodgings around 8am. I had had plans of heading North directly after the New Year as to make it into Bolivia or Peru quickly preserve my ducketts by travelling in a country with living costs a fraction of those in Chile. However, a romance sparked between myself and a chica I had met earlier in the school year and I extended the time in Viña another week.
But alas, I have said my final farewells and my journey begins in the morning. I have about 2000km (1,300 miles) and 40 hours to make it to Peru and have chosen to partake in the hitch-hiking method of transportation, just to put myself at the mercy of the Chilean driving class and see what happens. It should also be a good way to get to know the country, people, and practice the spanish. I´m also planning on hoarding even more of my cash by sleeping in my hammock, but I´m still a little skeptical because of my luggage protecting needs. Anyways, stoked to commence; I shall keep posted.