For some reason, still trying to figure this one out folks,
I traveled 5600 miles to a foreign land without a guidebook. Though this has
satisfied my free spirit it has also driven me nuts. My solution: take any
opportunity that comes along.
I have the good fortune of living in a hostel that provides a complimentary breakfast every day. Home made fruit pancakes and homemade strawberry (or Frutisha in Chile) jam is a perfect way to start every day. One particular occasion over the succulent meal I struck up a conversation with two girls. They happened to be real cool and asked if I would like to accompany them on a trip to Cerro San Cristobal.
The hill is right smack in the middle of the city. It offers panoramic views of the city and serves as a sort of recreational park for the locals. In reality it is more like a small mountain with a zoo, public pool, convention center and several kilometers of hiking trails.
On the walk there we asked a carabinero (po-po/ Five-O) to take a picture of us 3 with the hill in the background. Then they asked, or rather emphatically insisted, that we take a picture with them.
The walk to the hill took us through Santiago’s bohemian neighborhood. We stopped for empanadas at a corner café shop and asked the cashier to tell us the story of the flag. After he saying he didn’t know the “official” story he gave us a creative alternative tale. The blue represented the sky…or the pacific. The red was blood…or the national flower, which no one cares about. The white stood for the snow in the Andes. And the flower? Well that’s because Chile is always alone!
The trip to the top of the hill was on a funicular car. Apparently the pope rode the same car up the hill during his trip to Santiago. At the summit stands a 14-meter statue of the Virgin Mary commemorating the mass he gave on San Cristobal.
While exploring the different vistas we met a group of Israelis that were staying at our hostel and a group of American study abroad students whom I had an acquaintance with from my participation in Santiago’s Critical Mass.
San Cristobal shows a sprawling Santiago. Mammoth Andes cast amongst the steel skyline to the east a reminder of the beautiful relationship between the land and its people. The blinding smog a reminder of the growing economy. I sat up there staring into the jungle that would be my home for the next two months in awe. As the sun laid down I descended the hill into the bohemian neighborhood of Bellas Artes which I would have the pleasure to explore another day. For now I enjoyed a pitcher of beer with my new friends and discussed life as a professional traveler. Salud!