Planned Riot?

Trip Start Oct 07, 2013
Trip End Jul 01, 2015

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Where I stayed
Trivento Apartments

Flag of Chile  ,
Saturday, March 22, 2014

So what do Canada and Albania have in common. Aside from outstanding hockey teams (?), they are two of four countries singled out by Chile for a very unwelcome entry fee (a substantial $132 each for Canadians). This steep cash grab is disguised as a reciprocity fee given that is roughly equal to the visa fee Canada charges Chileans (I couldn't verify this but I think this fee must have been put in place shortly after Andres P and Lorena O evaded border authorities before settling into Toronto). Chilean border officials would seem to be somewhat embarrassed by this daylight robbery as they hide this collection desk off to one side and it's only after you've stood in the extremely long immigration line that you are pointed to sullen official in the ski mask (which meant, of course, that you would have to stand in the very long immigration line for a second time). And in what can only be a classic example of brainless bureaucracy, we are told that two of our 20 USD bills are not acceptable to the government of Chile because of small folds in them. Resisting the urge to 'fold' our ski-mask dude we handed over our wallet and then raced over to the next of a number of remaining lines (we were in a transit position so the clock was stressing us out quite a bit). And just to rub salt in the wound, apparently there's a $30 exit fee built into airline tickets if you leave by a flight. 

With the flagship carrier of Chile, LAN, delivering us to Santiago from Easter Island in the middle of the night some four hours late (there's only 1 flight per day leaving Easter Island- how do you miss by 4 hours??), we weren't feeling the love from Chile. That changed somewhat when, despite the late hour, we hooked up with our contact for the apartment we had rented in Santiago. The apartment was a small and cozy arrangement but it was the landlord that went the extra distance, with a number of suggestions intended to make sure we going to make the most of our stay in Santiago. He also strongly suggested that we retreat to the safety of our apartment by early afternoon the next day because there was a "riot" scheduled right in our neighbourhood. I think he meant to say "protest" but apparently, in Chile, they are pretty much the same thing. We did as told, and after a morning of aimless wandering through Santiago Centro, we bolted the doors shut- after what initially sounded like a happy parade, the banging, shots, explosions, and sirens started up. Afterward we found out that most locals characterized the demo as a relatively mild affair despite the Molotov cocktails, and tear gas- apparently following the ouster of the dictator Augusto Pinochet, Chileans have learned to value even extreme versions of free speech (student groups pushing for free education are particularly volatile, and, like interest groups everywhere, after smashing and burning, they are less clear about financing their wish lists). 

This societal tolerance shows up in a couple of other areas that may also require solutions that don't involve destruction and anarchy. Just to be helpful, I might suggest that Chile ban all spray paint imports for at least the next ten years- the spray paint dudes of Santiago make the Melbourne Australia types look like paint-by-number amateurs by comparison. Very few businesses remain tag or mural free. A further solution might involve hiring a battalion of dog catchers- we've been to many places where the dogs wander freely but here they actually look well fed and reasonably healthy so the community seems to be looking after them. Lots of big street dogs, however means lots of traffic accidents, dog fights, and dinosaur-sized dog poop in the most inconvenient places. Perhaps if each spray painter were assigned a dog, both issues may be resolved??

Santiago is the capital of Chile- perhaps the oddest shaped country in the world  occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west (it stretches over 4,300 km north to south, but only 350 km at its widest point east to west). Chile means “where the land ends” and that seems very appropriate. At 6 million people, Santiago is home to almost a third of the countries population and apparently most of them were walking around the same streets we were just as we decided to do a little exploration of the Spanish architecture present in the downtown area. 

To avoid further pedestrian gridlock we signed up for a 9 hour mountain bike tour (recognizing full well that we would be walking funny for a few days afterward). Our two wheeled guide was enormously proud of his city, and given that he was a full time architect, his tour took us through the history of the city as told by its evolving building designs. For sunset, and after a bit of a grueling uphill ride, we ended up at the top of San Christobal which provided some amazing vistas of Santaigo.

As a bit of an unexpected surprise Andres P set us up with some of his family members living in Santiago who treated us to a wonderful dinner. I certainly wouldn't hold his father accountable for his looks, but it was easy to see/hear where Andres got his unique laugh from. 
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Lorena on

:( sorry you have to pay such high entry fee. but from what I recall now your payment is good for 5 yrs.. :)

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