The coldest place ever!

Trip Start Sep 12, 2011
Trip End Dec 20, 2011

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Friday, November 18, 2011

To our amazement, we arrived at the El Calafate bus station to board our bus to Puerto Natales in Chile only to find this Spanish girl who we had sat next to on our last 5 bus rides!!! Was she following us???

Arrived in Chile safe and sound and had no sooner stepped of the bus and we were hustled away and bundled into the car of Maria Jose who seemed appalled that we were considering camping in this cold weather! We didnīt need much persuasion as the cold Patagonian wind whipped our faces! From the outside this hostel is very unassuming and looks tiny, but inside it is this maze of corridors and just the weirdest place! It looks like it has been built from old bits and pieces you might find in a scrap yard...think tin roof etc!! Anyway, we were pleased to get our own ensuite room at a bargain price after some time in the tent. We slept like a log (after a bit of Pirates
of the Carribean...feels strange to watch tv again!) The next day we stocked up on food for the next 10 days as we were off to the wilderness that is Torres Del Paine National Park.


I think this Maria Jose perfectly illustrates how Chile differs significantly from Argentina. Before I came on this trip I held the wholely incorrect assumption that Argentina was more advanced and commercial than Chile. My only exposure to Chile was the Chilean miner rescue which I watched live and also read a book about. From those two sources I had built the assumption that Chile was a backward country. Needless to say, this was a false assumption.

In Calafate, we were sitting in the internet cafe on the main street burning some time before our bus updating this blog and skyping home. When I noticed the employees of the internet cafe closing the blinds. I thought to myself, no way can they be closing for lunch when there are 20 tourists dropping 20 pesos an hour on the internet. I thought maybe they were just trying to reduce the glare on the computer screens. But no, they were shutting for 4 hours between 12:30 and 4:30. We had to close down our computers and quickly hang up on Gemmas mum as we were chased out of the place. This is just one example of many that I could share which shows the complete lack of commercial/entrepreneurial/business common sense in this country. Despite the internet cafe being located right in the heart of one of the most touristy places in the whole country and every computer being in use they decided to close for a 4hr siesta. Why? Because they can't be arsed! This approach to work and business combined with the left wing socialist government and powerful trade unions explains why a country with such amazing natural resources (totally self sufficient in natural gas and oil plus massive exporters of beef and wool) has a 2nd world economy. Most of the population is employed by the goverment and the people are not encouraged to start their own businesses due to very high business taxes and employment laws which favour the employee. Combine this with strong unions and you get a population who are not really bothered about making money or delivering excellent service and go on strike or protest whenever their employement rights are infringed. This attitude means for substandard companies, services and a complete lack of enterprise. Its pretty clear from spenidng time in AR that a socialist country can never compete in the same leagues as a capitalist country when it comes to business and economic matters.

Chile on the other hand is quite the opposite. In sharp contrast to the internet cafe example, Maria Jose going to the bus station and kidnapping us was pure commercial brilliance. Firstly, she had the sense to not just sit and wait for people to fill her many rooms but she went to the bus station at the right time and then through simple negotiation methods convinced us to part with a little more cash than we had planned to stay at her hospedaje.

This 40 something woman ran two hostels in the townwith approximately 150 beds which were split up into doubles, twins and triples all with ensuite. So for the price of a really cheap dorm (7 pounds!) you got your own ensuite room with comfy beds and cable TV! On top of this she had loads of additional services which probably made her a load more profit than what she gets from the rooms. She had her own bus service where she ferries people from her hostel to the national park. This way she guarantees that the people will return to her hostel and stay at least one more night plus she makes a killing from squeezing 16 people into a minibus twice a day. In addition to this she also has within her hostel: a laundry service, a bar and a shop where you could buy camping supplies, warm clothes, books and bus tickets to Calafate and Punta Arenas. Finally, she also had a fancy dress shop bolted onto the side of her hostel. This woman was the most entrepreneurial person in Puerto Natales.

I reckon this lack of enterprise and commercial thinking it the main reason why Chile has the strongest economy in Latin America and Argentina lags way behind.
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