Monday, 25 May 2009, Karlsruhe, Germany
South America is behind us and you will have noticed that we are now in Germany, travelling in yet another mobile home, which some fellow travellers, whom we met in Costa Rica, have loaned us. At the moment we are staying with Juergen, Petra and Laila just on the outskirts of Karlsruhe in the south west of Germany - we met them in Cusco last year. Finally we are in a space with enough time to put the finishing touches on our journal of this epic journey, which took us through 2 continents over a period of 3 years and 2 months. In this report we will share with you our experiences in Santiago and Buenos Aires, when we were no longer travelling with a vehicle.
After we left our camper at the port of San Antonio, we spent another week as the guests of Luis and Nancy in Santiago. The first days were still taken up with organising payment for the truck and camper to be sent to our bank in Australia, and Juergen also spent quite some time with Luis, explaining the finer details of living in the camper. Besides that, there was a great deal of sorting of clothes and possessions still to be done. And we also had to organise the first steps in our journey home. Thankfully Luis had Wifi in his house and we spent many hours sitting at the dining room table on both computers booking flights and checking out the availability of mobile homes for rent in Germany. We were also making contact with family and friends, eager to spread our good news that we had managed to sell the camper and were planning our next moves.
We found some time in the midst of all this activity to take a look at Santiago. First we walked to the Pueblito Los Dominicos, which is just a few blocks from where we were staying. There is an artisan's market next to the church, which sells a lot of crafts, including jewellery made with lapis lazuli. On the way there, we paused to rest in a park, and met 2 separate families of Australians - a couple with 3 kids from Canberra, who have recently moved to live in Santiago as the woman works at the Australian embassy - and then a couple from Mudgee who were visiting their son who lives here. We had lunch and then walked around the market in the pueblito. We rarely buy things from these places because of the eternal problem with bringing lots of stuff home, but I found a pair of earrings and Juergen bought a belt, both of which can fit in a smallish space if they are not being worn. There was also a huge Saturday produce market nearby which we walked through. The stall holders were in the process of packing up, but we managed to buy a couple of things.
The following Monday we decided to take a bus into the central part of Santiago. It has some nice old buildings and a pleasant feel about it. The centre has a lot of pedestrian only streets and this should make it much easier to get around except that there are such a lot of pedestrians using them. We sat in an outdoor café in the Plaza de Armas to have a drink and watch the world go by. That morning I had read in our guide book that we should take care of our possessions in the central area of Santiago, as there were many bag-snatchers around, usually well-dressed in suits and the like. While we were sitting there in the café, such a man sat down at the table next to us and made an elaborate move with his jacket, as if to put it on the back of his chair. I looked down and noticed his hand extended under the cover of his jacket to within a few centimetres of my backpack, which was at my feet. I moved my foot to hold it and he immediately leapt out of his chair and made motions as though he was greeting someone out in the square, and then took off in that direction. I have no doubt that he was trying to lift my backpack and when he realised I had noticed him, he left quickly. The most enjoyable thing about this whole affair was that the backpack itself in not at all valuable - in fact, it was replaced by a new one we found here in Aldi a few days ago - and all it contained was a dozen or so second-hand books which we were finished with - we hoped to find a place to exchange for new reading material whilst in the city. I think we would both have had a good laugh at this thief's expense had he been successful!
We did find a bookshop and were successful in exchanging already read books for unread books - in English. There were a few more Australian tourists around for us to greet - seems to be a popular place for people from home! And we were accosted by a very friendly local in the Plaza, who was collecting money for educating Down's Syndrome kids. He spoke quite good English and knew a lot about Australia. He carried with him a list of all prime ministers back to Gough Whitlam (he said he didn't like John Howard, which of course endeared him to us immediately). The university he attends in Santiago has an exchange programme with one in Melbourne, so he has met quite a few Australian students.
On Friday May 1, we said goodbye to Luis and Nancy, with much appreciation for their incredible hospitality. Chile had been good to us. We had been invited to stay at the home of a number of amazing people, who offered help to us in any way they possibly could. Juergen called a couple of these on our last day - Pocho and Gonzalo - and both of them expressed how welcome we would be to visit them again in the future. Gonzalo's words were, 'you always have a home in Puerto Montt'. Luis drove us to the airport and we flew to Buenos Aires.
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