Adios, Chile

“You only do two days. The day you come in, and the day you get out.” (quote from The Wire)

If I only remember two days in Chile, let them be the first and the last. Of the three weeks I spent here, the weather was best on those two days. Temperatures in the 60s, and sunshine.

The defining characteristic of my time in Chile might be the missed opportunities. There are so many beautiful places in the south of Chile, but through poor timing–or poor planning–I didn’t get to see them. I hadn’t heard of Torres del Paine before arriving in Santiago, but from pictures it looks amazing. It’s also at the southern end of the continent, where the current high temperature is 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is the Lake District, between Temuco and Puerto Montt. During the summer months, tours can take hikers across lush landscapes, and climbers can scale volcanoes. Those tours close down for the winter, however. And the views tend to be obscured by the rainclouds.

I could have used another day in Valparaiso. I could have picked a better day to ski in Chillán. I could have…

Wait a minute, am I complaining? I just spent three weeks traversing an amazing country. I met cool people from all over the world. I learned how to estimate Texas summer temperatures in Celsius (40 seems to be a pretty good guess), and I can now say it in Spanish (cuarenta). Instead of laying by the pool–because that’s the best thing to do in the Texas heat–I went skiing. In July. Twice.

At the same time, it’s only been three weeks. Is that enough time to forge a connection to a place? I’m feeling nostalgic, so for me, maybe it is.

I spent an hour of my last day walking through a cemetery. While that might sound like a strange way to spend my time, I assure you that Chilean cemeteries are worth a visit. The dead are interred in mausoleums, some of them huge and ornate. It was one of the prettiest places I saw in Santiago.

Cemeteries also tend to be quiet, making it a peaceful setting for an afternoon stroll. I wandered aimlessly, taking note of names I found interesting. My thoughts meandered as much as my stride. To the people, places, sights, smells, tastes…

I ate pastel de choclo in a local restaurant. It’s sort of like a shepherd’s pie baked into a cornmeal crust. And it was probably the best meal I’ve had here. What that says about Chilean cuisine, I’m not sure. But I can tell you I won’t exactly be craving it when I get back to the States.

My walk led me through neighborhoods where I came across bars that I had been to but forgotten the locations of. And the memories hit me again–flashes of barely remembered nights, in places I never knew existed, with people I had just met. If that is life on the road, then I’m glad I’m living it.

On to Argentina.


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