Sunday, March 11, 2007

Leaving and Landing

Goodbye Australia... Our final night in Oz began after an afternoon of frantic last minute camera purchasing- Angie had left that part of herself in the North Gong a couple of evenings prior. Dinner was at the Wollongong golf club- a massive meal was exactly what we needed to recover from a couple of days skipping meals because there was too much else to think about. After dinner was done, we went back to Angie's mums place where we were 'sleeping' that night. I managed to collapse in a pile and snuck in a couple of hours rest, but angie spent the whole night packing and organising. We loaded up our tired bodies with enormous backpacks and bundled ourselves into the car. Onto Sydney airport....

At the check in desk the scales informed us that angie's pack weighed in at over 18kg- the same weight as mine, which I had believed to be far to heavy to be comfortable even for me! Before Angie had the chance to say 'should i leave something behind?' the packs, along with my board were out of sight down the conveyer belt to undergo whatever mysteries await international baggage. Families began to show up to take part in the great goodbye and goodluck photo oppurtunity. We had a taste of the life of travelling celebrities as flashes erupted from all directions and a thousand pairs of eyes seemed to be trained directly on us- the fact that we chose the departure and arrival screens as the backdrop for our triumphant adios may have contributed to this phenomenon of unnatural amounts of attention. Tears threatened and then escaped as we finally said goodbye and headed off down the hall to customs. An hour later we were on LAN flight 800 (who said this was a qantas flight?).

On the plane a curs-ed seat holds me. When you're staring down the barrel of a 14 hour flight, one of the few things that can hold any consolation is the pospect of some decent in-flight entertainment. The small screen staring back at us as we sat down in our seats seemed to promise this- games, movies(james bond and the queen) and even an episode of the simpsons! (it was a season one episode but at least it wasn't friends) Everyone got seated and the plane trundled off down the runway, built up some speed, shook violently and manged to finally get it's nose in the air- followed closely- and apparently reluctantly- by the tail. It was about this time that my little tv system decided tht this was all too much and froze into a state of hibernation- not to be woken at any point during the next 14 or so hours i spent staring at it. My seat seemed to go out in sympathy with the tv screen as it jetisoned its headrest, and also, no-one told me I needed to contact the airline 24 hours before takeoff if I wanted a vegetarian meal. I really didn't want to be a problem passenger but sure as god didn't intend man to fly i felt like one.

Holy Crap!!! We're going to South America!!!

I mean new zealand. A quick stopover to pick up some extras was all we needed to discover why most kiwis seem to posses some sort of inferiority complex under that patriotic costume they all seem to wear- twisties that look like cheetos and feature a penguin on the blue packet? say no more. (PS I love you even more bimber.)

Holy Crap!!! We're going to South America!!!

This time for real!!

[Insert 11 hours in small seat, with a rude man in front of me that reclined his seat ALL the way back, cabin staff uninterested in passengers, leg room designed for people the size of Angie (not me)]

Hola South America!!!!.... One hour after we took off, we landed. Why can't I gain 14 hours doing something fun? This is no time for thoughts like that- I have 18 months of fun things ahead of me. But first I must leave this plane and get through Policia Internationale. We found our feet, got some bloodflow back to the legs and retrieved our bags from the carousel. Onto customs and now I would find out if all those Spanish lessons had paid off- the bags came through the x-ray machine and the customs lady uttered something so incomprehensible I was sure she must have been chinese. But no, apparently she was telling me I could remove the bags from the table. Even when she said so in English i was at loss as to what to do and it took a quick game of charades for the message to compute. So I hadn't picked up much Spanish in those classes, and had actually lost some English somewhere over the pacific ocean.

On the other side of the frosted glass customs walls, a scrum of taxi drivers and bus operators screamed manically at us. To my dismay, the loss of spanish wasn't temporary and I still did not understand what they wanted or if they were shouting at me. Using the luggage trolley as a plough, I separated the sea of drivers and all of a sudden found myself and angie outside in the heat staring up at grey/brown hills that rose up out of the horizon and seemed to encircle everything. A driver caught hold of us- 'Santiago?' he said. Good. I understood that much. Putting on my hardest haggling face a asked how much. '40,000' he said, Then I realised I had little to know idea of how much these strange notes I'd picked up at sydney airport were worth. 'Sounds good' I replied and gave him the knowing look of someone who recognises a bargain... He led us to the taxi, and i just managed to stop myself before getting in the drivers seat- its the other way round here. Angie jumped in the back seat and could not find a seatbelt anywhere- its ok- small cars are safer anyway aren't they? Out of the carpark and on the highway and those magnificent hills are still all around us. The earth here is flat desert and the feet of the hills that separate the land and the sky cannot be seen. The sky has the yellowish tinge of polluted city, the rich live on one side of the road in lego houses and the poor live on the other side where the walls aren't rendered. The road is clean and wide but the edges are dirty with rubbish. Our taxi driver gives us a quick rundown of the country as the city creeps foward to meet us, all of a sudden we're in tiny little cobbled streets lined by terraces of muddy pastel paintcoats. The driver pulls up outside a hotel in Barrio Brasil, a suburb of Santiago close to Centro. He tells us this is a good place, but the lp tells us its one of the more expensive roofs we'll find over our heads. After we've unloaded the gear from the boot, I go to pay the driver. My attempt to pay him what I thought was the original fare (which is actaully in the range of $120 AU!!) is foiled and he requests just 15000 pesos, closer to $45, but still double the maximum the drivers can charge when their meter is tired.

smog city santiago- (click to enlarge)

The LP recommended a little place just around the corner, so we walked a couple of blocks throught the streets to get there. The city is brimming with cuteness- all the buildings are painted in those colourful muted tones, and dogs and cats co-exist peacefully on the pavement and in the park. Looking closer, the dogs seem to have some sort of skin/fur condition, so angie promises not to pat every single one of them. Still, those mountains peek over the top of the tightly packed streets. We find the hotel easily- everything is in nice square blocks. Alas, once inside the hotel I realise i still have not managed to master the spanish language. We manage to communicate that we need a room for two for two nights. The room they show us is big, has a private bathroom and is 8000 a night per person. How much is that? Tiredness hits again- we pay, collapse on the bed and when we awaken, night has clambered up over those hills.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave and Angie,
Just found your email at work. Your blog is fantastic. I think you should write a book. I didn't know you were so good at writing as well as quiz shows. I can sympathise with you regarding your plane trip - especially after our lovely business class flight!! Enjoy yourselves and I look forward to your next episode.
Lyn (Cov Studios)

Anonymous said...

Que`onda Guero
Great blog smelbourn missis you its been a crazy week the fumes, dropkick murfeys, the pixies, gomez tomorrow then The v fest one sleep then marc&bimbers farewell THEN the big quiet.Stay safe & dont take any guff from those swine