A Step Down
Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
27Trip End Aug 2006
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This weekend (Friday through Sunday) was spent travelling with CIEE, our organizing program, to Parque Nacional La Campana and to a beach near Quintero, north of Valparaiso. La Campana was impressive, situated in a climate much like southern Arizona or California. South American versions of saguaro cacti lined the roadsides. After arriving at the campsite-situated in a forest of, yes, palm trees- we hike off the trails, running through a gauntlet of thorny bushes, scrambling across the loose, dry, rocky ground. With nightfall came a barbecue and everything that goes along with it.
Most of the group went on a hike Saturday morning, but I caught a case of something like food poisoning from eating a raw carrot, unwashed and unpeeled. Simply put, I couldn't even hold down a few sips of water. It probably all had something to do with drinking-first, getting sick; and second, being dumb enough to eat unclean produce.
But by afternoon, I was packing up and almost fully recovered, thanks to some magical Chilean medicine. Reboarding our bus, we headed to the beach, or rather to a "conference center" by the beach. Basically, it was a weekend retreat for Santiago's wealthy (generally referred to, and not very positively, as "Cuicos"). This rustic campground included a restaurant, two pools (one heated), horseback riding, an adventure course and spacious tents with soft mattresses and clean sheets.
Strangely enough, in saying that I went to the beach, I'm not implying that I either swam or sunbathed. In fact, the water that laps up against the coast of Chile is generally freezing cold, and the beach was rocky, littered with trash and driftwood. It served the group well, however, for a bonfire Saturday night.
Sunday was taken up by reading, wandering across the grounds, eating free choripan (chorizo is sausage, pan is bread. So, basically, it's a delicious hot dog that goes well with a cold beverage) and drinking free beer. Cuico camping at its best, and a definite change from last week's voyage south. Hey, I can't impress you guys every week.
It's too cold these days for most Santiaguinos to feel justified in traveling out of town, so the place was practically shut down-only three other families were even staying at the facilities. We could have roamed, having the entire grounds to ourselves, but we mostly sat and talked-half of the group, after all, was nursing hangovers (I wasn't about to fall for the same trick twice in a weekend, however).
That night, well, we headed home.
I'll give you more this weekend, when I've got time to sit down and think. I've got a topic, I just have to sort it out. My host family, like most Chileans, will be traveling this weekend, and I plan to take advantage of the quiet to get caught up.
In other news, I've acquired an internship here in Santiago, helping out a freelance foreign correspondent named Jonathan Franklin. Technically, he works for London's "The Guardian," but has written for such varied news sources as The Washington Post, FHM and GQ. This ought to help me figure out where I'm going, in the most general sense possible.