I woke up before dawn to pack and catch a bus to Santiago but moved slowly, not really wanting to leave this city or Hostel Po where I had found a comfortable home — as much as that is possible in this traveling life. I made coffee and ate some food before dragging the explosion of camping gear and clothes out from the wooden locker below my bunk bed and into the hallway where I could pack without disturbing the people still sleeping in room six.
Today I’m headed to Pichilemu, a small surf town south of Valparaiso, but the only bus connections run through Santiago.
The hostel was totally full Saturday night, but last night my room had emptied again — just me, another Michael and one other person I hadn’t met yet. Other Michael is from New Zealand but has been living in South America for six years. He travels between Lima in the summer and Santiago in the winter and was in town for Mil Tambores. He designs websites and software and only works about 60 hours a week because the pay from the New Zealand companies goes much further here in South America, he told me. But every time I saw him this weekend he was on his laptop working…or maybe just checking Facebook a lot?
“This is a pretty big project but it’s good because I’ve needed the money,” Michael said.
“Why do you live in both cities?” I asked.
“Because Lima is unbearable in the winter. Everything stays wet for months. Your clothes get moldy and nothing ever dries,” he said cringing at the dampness. “It’s not healthy. I don’t know how people stay there all year.”
I can imagine. Even with the little exposure I had in the early spring I only saw one completely sunny day, the rest were cloudy and foggy and dank.
Finally packed, I walked the mile or so to the bus station with my 20kg pack on my back and my backpack strapped to the front, turtle style, as usual. It was nice to see Valparaíso waking up and going back to work after the crazy weekend. Volunteers swept the park that had been ravaged by crowds of crusty hippies and college kids off for a weekend of partying. White paper confetti dotted the sidewalks and streets and broken beer bottles, cigarette butts and other festival detritus still cluttered the gutters. It was nice to see the city for one last walk and at least I got some exercise today — I will probably spend about seven hours on buses while making my way to Pichilemu.
At the bus station I buy a ticket for a TurBus double-decker that departs in about 15 minutes and actually it’s already pulled into the station when I step outside of the terminal to find a place to sit and wait. I take my bags to the rear where a man puts a sticker on the bag and hands me the corresponding ticket so he can verify it’s mine when I get to Santiago. This simple act would have likely stressed me out a few weeks ago but it has now become routine, funny how that works so quickly.
I’ve settled into the traveling life and look forward to whatever comes next. Now I think a short nap is in order as the bus rambles down the highway to Santiago.
Slept the whole bus ride away and woke up in Santiago around 10:30. From the TurBus station I walked across a small one-way street and into the general terminal where I followed a sign that said ‘boletero.’ It only took a moment to find the Nilahue window that I knew sold the tickets to Pichilemu because I looked online earlier this morning. There are a number of easy-to-find resources online that compile searchable databases and prices for all the bus routes. The next bus to Pichilemu is scheduled for 11:10 a.m. and I buy a ticket for 6,000 pesos, or about $10, and have just enough time to buy a snack before finding gate 25 and boarding. It was surprisingly easy and there are many bus companies and schedules and destinations — from here in Santiago it seems possible to reach just about any city in Chile or beyond by bus.
The driver boards and his hefty carriage rattles to a start.
Just got to the beach and I’m really excited to be here and smell the ocean and get into my private room in an AirBnB/surfer boarding house — but it’s all spoiled for the moment by the news of another mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas. The video I saw was disturbing with people running for their lives in total panic and hitting the ground with no clue where the shots where coming from. Do we really need to let people have fucking automatic weapons in this country. Will this terror ever end? I sit in my room and cry. I can’t do anything else for the moment. I am dumbfounded and distraught. I’m paralyzed with grief. The pain and sorrow of the victims and their families and everyone who was there, now traumatized for life, washes over me. How? Why? There are no easy answers but there has to be some change. We say this every time and honestly nothing changes. This is not the world that anyone wants to live in and we need to work together to change it. I don’t think I have anything else to say about this.
Walked to the grocery store and bought some essentials and hopefully enough dry food for the week for CLP 15,000 and after a quick peek at the Pacific (just a few blocks from my room!) I walked back to Atlantis, the name of this boarding house. Instead of eating dinner I have some cookies and made Nescafé, my new guilty pleasure. Chile is destroying my willpower little by little…
I met the other two guys staying in (I just love to type it…) Atlantis: Ben from Ohio is living here until December teaching English and surfing the days away. He is really nice to me already and seems stoked on life which is great. He was happy to tell me where to find some shops that will get me surf lessons. I also briefly met Paul from Germany who is making some grilled cheese sandwiches and speaks the most perfect English I’ve ever heard with barely any accent. It’s bizarre actually. It seems like Carlos, my AirBnB host, is totally outnumbered by English speakers and I will have to go out into Pichilemu if I want to practice at Spanish.
Night settles in easily at this quiet beach town and I indulge in a long, late nap that turns out to just be what most would call sleeping…see you tomorrow beach bums.