20 Aug – managed to get up, and leave our odd host. Leave a note, hide the key, and go to the bus station. Finally find a bus heading in the direction we want. End up in a big airport-like bus station in a place called Neuquen. Get some food, and then try to find another bus to take us further. Find a bus to San Rafael – sweet. Then, a couple of hours sitting at a bar. Me teaching Pen some spanish – including how to say “not american” – rather more loudly than necessary, for benefit of other patrons. Finally get on the bus, and we’re served a hot meal. Sweet. Not sitting together though. I sit directly behind Pen, and made use of her big mess of hair blocking the lights to get some sleep.
Arrived in San Rafael the morning of 21 Aug. Grab some breakfast and then return to the hotel I stayed at last time. Get ourselves a room – and I hurry to make use of the decent shower I remembered existing. Then, a bit of a walk around town. Lunch at the cafe/bar where I’d met the french woman last time. Then, a walk to find the plaza I wanted to visit last time, when I instead sat at a cafe/bar drinking beer with a frenchie for several hours. Plaza is currently closed for renovations. Fair enough, as the small portion not behind hoardings contained several broken statues and benches. Next – to a huge park on the map. Walk along the old railway tracks, and a crappy old dead thorn goes right through my boot into my foot. Not sweet. Big park turns out to contain nothing interesting. So, walk back. All the way to the other end of town for some wineries. Drink a bottle at a restaurant while waiting for siesta to finish – then to the bodega I couldn’t find last time. This time, we are given a clue to the location by a huge sign, which probably existed last time – right where I’d walked past many many times. Nice enough tour of the bodega – with just us, by the guide who spoke english. Rather small place – with very old machinery. Then, a tasting, and we buy a red and a champagne. Back to hostel, and drop that off. Dinner time – but the best parrillada in town is closed. Instead we find a tiny cafe, and eat while watching the little girls at next table play with an automatic hair-plaiting machine. Looked dangerous. Back to hostel, and drink the day’s purchases.
Up on the 22 Aug, and check out. Straight to the bus station, and get the next bus to Mendoza. Two guys also waiting – one chats to Pen while I’m away. Argy who’d lived in NZ for a while. The other chap is a kiwi – but doesn’t seem interested in even saying hello. Argy only gives above information, and withdraws also. They get on same bus, nearly opposite us – but still no attempt of chit-chat. We reciprocate. Get to Mendoza, and look for a bus to Santiago. Turns out we’re barely too late for the last one. So, walk to the hostel I’d wanted to stay at last time. With free wine. This time – they have space available. So, we check in – then go get some food. Sitting on pavement, listening to rush hour traffic. They love to use their horns. Back to hostel, and make friends with the two dogs living there. One is a puppy which turned up on doorstep only a couple of days ago. Owner isn’t happy about it, but took it in as it was nearly dead. Trying to give it to any backpacker stupid enough to take it. Free wine comes out, along with some ‘cocktail’ the owner was given by somebody. Not too much wine – just one or two bottles – and it’s gone pretty quickly. So, then a few beers – and pretty much just wasting time until a decent hour for bed. Bed is in a dorm – first time for quite a while.
23 Aug – get up, and check out. Then more wasting of time until it’s time to go to the bus station. Catch a bus to Santiago with a very small company. Migration/customs goes without a hitch, despite my having a tin of yerba mate which I suspect shouldn’t be taken into Chile. We get to Santiago, and cross the road from the bus terminal to a hostel. Book ourselves a three-bed room in preparation for Ben’s arrival tomorrow. Then, book ourselves into the hostel’s BBQ that night. But – very hungry, so go to get some meantime food. Drink some wine also, and watch/hear 1980’s music videos. Back to hostel, and our expensive BBQ. Wine provided. Sit at a table with two English guys. Chit-chat. Pen is already rather intoxicated, and swears like a trooper from the outset, while I try to figure out how to subtly tell her that this is a bad idea until one knows the other person a little more. Then one of the guys mentions his father the priest. My unlikely fear seems to have come true. But then he immediately reassures that he himself is not a Jeebers-type. So, no harm done – I think. A large loud group of french teenagers are at other table. Annoying, but we cope with the aid of wine. One french woman grabs the bottle off our table – so we have to resort to some wine cooler I’d bought earlier. Then, with chit-chat still going strong, onto some beers. Run out of beers, and go find a supermarket. But – closed. Find a restaurant, and buy cerveza over the counter. Not long later, back in a dry predicament. Again to a restaurant, and again buy fresh supplies. Eventually we’re all sated – and off to bed. With far more alcohol in the body than I’d planned. Wanted to be nice and fresh-faced for meeting Ben at the airport, of course.
But, sure enough, wake up on the 24 Aug feeling less than chirpy. Battle through, and head to airport. Have told Ben that if I’m not at arrivals, which bar to head to. Pen & I opt for ignoring the arrivals, and just waiting at bar. Have my first Bloody Mary in a long long time. Not the best, and no celery stick. Then, onto pisco sours. Several pisco sours later – Ben arrives. With man in suit and ID card carrying his bag. I’m not sure if I’m worried or amused – probably a fair bit of both. They get closer – and the man is a taxi driver. The concern disappears, leaving only amusement. I’d specifically told Ben to ignore all the taxi drivers that would yell at him, but it appeared he’d failed. Not really sure what had happened, but the taxi driver left without insisting on money. Hovered for a while, obviously expecting something – but left before I got around to asking Ben if the guy deserved money or not. One more round of pisco sours, then catch the bus to town. Get to hostel, and then off for some food. Food and wines. Then – a supermarket to buy some wine for Rapa Nui, as everything is reputedly rather expensive there. Hostel – and drink some wine until Ben can’t stay awake any longer. I go and get some beer – but halfway through one bottle, I can’t stay awake any longer either.
Next update – Rapa Nui. Easter Island. Isla de Pascua. With moai. Or, as they are usually called, Big F&%$ing Stone Heads. Sweet.