How bad was our day? I asked Jamie if this headline was too offensive and she said, “No. Go with it.”
We are pretty easy going people. We know that the world is an imperfect place and sometimes things just don’t go as planned, and when something goes wrong we try to laugh it off and move on. That being said, there’s usually one stop that we just don’t like on each of our trips. Like Moscow, Russia. Or the whole damn country of Madagascar. Or Port Hedland, Western Australia.
To that list you can now add Santiago, Chile.
We have friends who have loved it here. Who’ve raved about it. Who can’t wait to come back. And we fully acknowledge that they may be right and we may be completely wrong. But everything has just been a little bit off since we arrived. Maybe we’re in the wrong neighborhood. Maybe we’re in the wrong hotel. Maybe we’re just in bad moods because it’s so smoggy that we can’t even see a hint of the Andes. Maybe it’s because it’s turned so cold after three weeks of pleasant weather. Maybe our expectations were just too damn high.
Whatever the explanation, we can’t wait to move on to Easter Island tomorrow because Santiago is just not doing it for us.
I have wanted to visit neighboring Valparaiso, Chile since I was a little boy. Its name has always conjured up poetry and romance and adventure. Well, that fantasy was fulfilled today and it was a huge disappointment.
I had envisioned a picturesque little seaside village just a few miles down the road from downtown Santiago. Maybe Laguna Beach with a Spanish accent.
Instead, it started with a fifteen minute walk to the central plaza followed by a twenty minute ride on the crowded subway followed by a ninety minute bus trek. And when we finally arrived in Valparaiso, instead of finding Laguna Beach with a Spanish accent, Jamie accurately called it a cross between Moscow, Russia and Venice Beach, California.
I just looked up the population of Valparaiso. A quarter of a million people live there and as far as I can determine, every single one of them was either walking down the street or trying to sell something to everyone who was walking down the street. It was noisy. Crowded. Smelly. We didn’t like it and question the sanity of our friends who do.
But we like to think we are glass half full kind of people, so we decided to take another twenty minute train ride further up the coast to Viña Del Mar, which had been described to us by our hotel concierge as “a lovely seaside town.”
She must have been on drugs. It was even more crowded. Noisier. And, believe it or not, smellier.
We said, “Screw it. Let’s go back to Santiago.”
That, of course, had to begin by backtracking twenty minutes on the train from Viña Del Mar to Valparaiso, which was followed by a twenty minute trek back up the hill to the bus station.
The bus, I must admit, was very nice as far as busses go. It even had a bathroom. A bathroom that I very much needed after the day’s frustrating series of misadventures.
As the bus started weaving through the crowded streets of Valparaiso, I decided to avail myself of the on-board baños, as they say in Spanish.
Ahhhhh, I thought as I seated myself on the tiny toilet, this makes up for everything else that has happened today. What could be better than taking a long-needed crap while hurtling down a lovely South American freeway on my way back to Santiago?
And then I noticed something very important. Something so damn important, in fact, that it just plain freakin’ capped off my lousy day.
There was no toilet paper.
There were no paper towels.
There wasn’t even a copy of this morning’s El Mercurio that I could tear up and use in an emergency.
The only good news is that I noticed this before I actually needed any of the above. If you know what I mean.
I hiked up my pants, trudged back up the aisle to the front of the bus, sat down next to Jamie, and pouted for the next 90 minutes.
So how was your day?