reclining seats) it was a bit of a surprise to find mountains in the distance outside the windows.
Our South American journey so far has been in flat lands with only gentle rolling hills at most. We are now up against the Andean foothills for a bit although we will move away again before finally crossing the Andes into Chile.
We arrived at our hostel on Christmas Eve and knew that there was going to be a Christmas dinner. What we didn't realise until we arrived was that it would actually be on Christmas Eve. We consulted to see if there would be anything for vegetarians and we understood that the cook offered a main course of vegetables cooked in different ways and we chose oven baked. We took a short turn around town to get our bearings and tried to buy some food, imagining that all the shops and cafes would be closed on Christmas Day. This was more complex than we had imagined as we could find no shops selling veggies. When we found a small supermarket there was a huge meat counter but no fresh veg! We resorted to tins and packets and made our way back to the hostel.
The meal was scheduled for 9.30pm but of course didn't start until gone 10pm. The starter was a huge side of beef served with vegetable crudities and some dips. We bypassed the meat and were quite happy with the veg and dips. When the main course arrived it was a large number of roasted chickens. We patiently waited for our veg dish but of course none came. Finally we approached the counter and the cook gestured to the last remaining chicken. 'No' I said 'we're vegetarian'. 'Yes' said the cook, gesturing again at the chicken 'Humita
'. It would seem that the vegetarian dish was a chicken stuffed with a sweetcorn stuffing. We declined and had more crudities and dips! We did, however, make big inroads into the wine and alcoholic fruit punch.
When midnight came we toasted each other with the traditional sparkling cider and our hosts ushered us into the street for fireworks. All over the town people were letting off fireworks and making a good case for a total ban on such things! One of the girls was carrying a plastic bag full of fireworks, lighting fireworks over the bag and handing them to the guests to throw in the road. We were each given a box of firecrackers like matches to strike on the side of the box and throw, luckily these seem to have got too wet in the rain to work! Unsurprisingly we could soon hear and see fire engines out to solve problems, hopefully none too severe.
Once the adrenalin of fireworks was over, we returned to the hall, where we were entertained by two guitarists and a girl singer. She soon got TP up and dancing, who in turn coaxed others up. We had a great couple of hours before the limited sleep from the night before caught up with us and we retired to bed. Whilst not exactly flawless, it had been a memorable Christmas night, even if we would normally still be looking forward to Xmas at home!
After the all night bus journey (which was better than you might imagine thanks to the roomy