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Lovin' the Lakes District in Central Chile

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

We’re at the 42nd parallel in the southern hemisphere and moving south. If we were in the northern hemisphere, we’d be just below Oregon latitude-wise. It is January and Chile is in the height of their summer. Not that it feels like it – since leaving Santiago, we’ve not gone above 13 degrees. They heat their homes mostly with propane and wood or pellet stoves it seem - too expensive for central heating. Aaron thinks we’re gonna die from carbon monoxide poisoning so only fires up the stove when we’re freezing. I miss my bathtub. Tried to immerse myself in their tiny bathtub the other night as it was pretty chilly, and my knees were at my nose. Laid back, and my feet were ½ way up the wall.

The fruit is ripening regardless of the weather - they have buckets of delicious cherries for sale - $2 will get you a pound of them. As planned, we are trying to be careful with our money. Seafood is really hard to resist, however, and relatively cheap, so we’re not as careful as we could be. Yesterday, I bought a half pound or more of lox (cold smoked salmon) for $3. Aaron’s getting his fill of his favorite dish - fish and chips – here, the fillets are huge, and fried light and crispy. Besides seafood, they’ve got some other interesting dishes.

I’m a bit addicted to their delicious soups called ‘cazuela’ – big bowls of broth with a massive chunk of beef or chicken, a big piece of squash, carrots, and some rice or noodles – every soup is different.

And we tried the popular local dish ‘chorillana’ yesterday - a massive plate that fed both of us filled with french fries on the bottom, then fried meat and sausages, then three fried eggs on top. A bit heavy but good.

It’s not cheap to eat out – a basic meal with a beverage costs us about $25-30. We’re goin’ through the pesos pretty quickly. Tough to stick to $100 a day.

We haven’t quite figured out our beverages yet. Coffee is challenging – I still don’t know how to get a decent cup of coffee with milk, though I think I may have figured it out. Typically, if I ask for an Americano, I don’t get any milk with it. If I ask for milk, they look at me strangely then give me a bucket of it. I’ve figured out I can ask for a ‘cortado’ if I want coffee and milk, but it’s quite expensive and tiny ($3). However, I saw someone with a huge cup of coffee and milk the other day, and was told it was called a ‘cortado grande.’ So maybe I’ll soon have that big cuppa coffee I’ve been looking for. And they don’t just hand out tap water so you have to buy a soda or beer. Thank god, the local beer is cheap (a litre for about $5)

Grocery shopping has challenged us a bit too – apparently, you can’t just load up and take your items to the cashier. You have to weigh the fruit and bread you choose, on a scale in those departments. So many times, I’ve been sent away from the cash desk to go back and weigh my stuff. The stores owned by the Asian population are even funnier. You take your item to the till. They give you a receipt which you take to another glassed-in booth where you pay. They give you another receipt saying you’ve paid, then you go back to the till and get your item. Crazy.

Just like in most South American countries, a pee isn’t free. Public bathrooms cost you 300p (about 50 cents). For 300p you get a wad of toilet paper – way more than you need, but good to keep in your pocket as you’ll seldom find a toilet with a roll of paper in it. And I’m not sure what they make their toilet paper out of, but it ain’t Charmin. Sometimes the dispenser is on the wall outside the toilets, so you have to remember to grab some before you go in the stall. Weird.

I don’t know how the people here deal with the cost of things – I think that’s the main reason for the massive protests in Santiago. All their basics are costly and their wages are crap. The minimum wage is about $600 (of our dollars) a month and the cheapest rental home is about that. Many people work multiple jobs. Just the booze is cheap. Thank god for that. You can get a bottle of wine for $3. Or a small box for about $4. I haven’t tried the box yet, but may soon. I’m not proud. Lots of the disadvantaged are taking advantage of this one low-cost product – it’s really sad - we see many men lying on the ground, an empty box of wine by their heads. Worse in the big cities – horrible, really, the state that some of these people are in.

And it’s not only the people who are homeless. I’ve never seen so many massive dogs, of every species, loose and un-collared running all over the roads. Some look horribly uncared for – a mass of wooly dreadlocks on some of them. Others seem to run around happily – they’re probably content – they have their buddies, and they’re free to roam.

Obviously, some are well-taken care of - but maybe too well taken care of?

We’re getting around really easily. They have amazing transportation systems. Buses go everywhere, and all the time. There’s always a bus terminal in each town, with small booths inside advertising various destinations. The fares aren’t always the same, so it’s good to check to see if you can find one that’s cheaper than the rest.

We spend a lot of time on buses - love the scarf you gave me Lexi! Super easy to hitchhike on the islands and smaller towns. We’ve hitched twice and people stop quickly. In cities, the metro moves thousands of people around very quickly. A little confusing to figure the metro out, but once you figure out that you need to first buy a BIP card for about $5 and then you buy fares as you need them, which they’ll load to your card, you can get anywhere cheap and quickly.

In small towns, they have small cars (collectivos) or cheap taxis. They swarm the city day and night, fill the car with four people, drop them off, then look for more! Sometimes, they each follow a specific route, sometimes they just go wherever you want to go – for 500 or 600p ($1) anywhere in the town. Wish we had such a system!

Many of the drivers work 12 hour shifts and make about 40K pesos ($75) a shift. It’s their own car though and they have to pay their gas from that – and gas is the same price as at home!

The people are a mixed bunch – some horribly lost looking, lots of rural folks in well-worn clothes, many very well-dressed folks and everything in between. I don’t see a lot of name-brand clothes, but the short women here sure don’t like to be lower than the rest of us - they wear the biggest, chunkiest shoes I’ve ever seen. But we’ve met so many kind, honest, and friendly people here. I’ve taken my change from someone and they‘ve called me back to give me a bunch more bills. I really should pay more attention.

We’ve enjoyed our time in central Chile - As you know, Aaron is keeping you all up to date on Facebook on our comings and goings, but I'll include some of my fave pics on this post.

We're heading south to Patagonia tomorrow. Hope you all are staying warm!

Caryn and Aaron

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