One month gone already!
We have spent the last two days or so in Santiago, a city of 7 million (so I'm told) people with the grime and smog to prove it. I toyed briefly with the idea of taking in the sights but quickly realised I couldn't be arsed as I had so much else to do that was more important - washing, laundry, buying yet more stuff (thermorest, replacement camera, drybag for my sleeping bag, and last but not least and, because we don't seem to get to internet cafes with the regularity I expected, a crappy little netbook computer (on which this blog is now being written) for the princely sum of £205), drinking, saying goodbye to the leavers at the end of stage 1 and, finally, saying hello to the newbies for stage 2.
We have been staying at the Hostal Plaza de Armas the centre of town, a splendid establishment about 25 minutes from the truck park where Ernie is taking root - or is it a rest - from the rigours of the Chilean road system. Simon is desperately building more cupboard space to handle the increase in numbers from 14 to 24. If we thought the levels of chaos were high before I think we will be in for a shock later when we pack ourselves in sardine-like. The hostal is quite nice, with (most importantly) all day hot water in the showers; I have been showering not because of layers of accumulated filth but simply because I can.
The newbies seem like a good lot, if with too few names. Three Robs, two Chrises, a Nathan and a collection of johnny foreigners from Australia, Germany, and Switzerland. It will be interesting tracking their descent from perfectly decent people into HotRock scumbags over the next few days.
A couple of observations on Chilean people. Firstly they are somewhat chubby. No, that's a lie. They are, generally, enormous. Each with their own gravitational field. This seems to be due primarily to their high quality diet of, mainly, hotdogs with vast amounts of guacamole, salsa and mayonaise; carne or pollo a lo pobre (i.e. meat or chicken with fried onions, fried eggs and chips); and generally gargantuan portions polished off in double-quick time. Secondly they have been so friendly and welcoming it has been a real pleasure being here. Think the opposite of the good folk of the better end of Surrey ("What are you doing here on my land?") and you'll get the picture. I would recommend a Clilean journey to anybody. Take the road from the South to the North, on a road parallel to the Pan American Highway, and you are sure to have a great time.