The end has come. I flew home last Monday after five months of being abroad, after traveling through six countries, after over 20,000 kilometers without a plane, over 250 hours on buses, after countless hostels, beautiful waterfalls, foreign friends, and too few empanadas. I am home.
Anyways, I said goodbye to my host in Cusco, the same New Yorker who got stung by a freshwater ray in Paraguay, and got on a 18 hour bus to the Chilean border. After almost getting my trail mix taken away, I crossed into Chile and onto another 18 hour bus to a small beach town in Northern Chile. La Serena was a small town with a beautiful square and tons of churches. I used it to recover from Peru and prepare for Santiago.
My host in Santiago is a guitarist, an amazing one. I met him in Southern Chile as we got off a ferry onto a bus, amidst the Andes, beside the Futeleufu. He was playing the guitar, adding music to match the mood. After coming around and contacting him, he remembered me and offered a place to stay with him and his father.
I arrived in Santiago after a short six hours on my last bus in South America, the same bus which broke the shoulder strap on my backpack. With the directions Alvaro gave me, I came to his house with only his father home. After a broken conversation and an amazing meal, I took off to meet Alvaro, who I found in a jam session with a cute drummer. I sat in on these two as they played a collection of American Rock, Chilean Folk, and everything in between.
After a relaxed night, I was up early to see the city. I started in Museo Bellas Artes, Chile's National Museum of Art. It was a beautiful building, loaded with beautiful art, though portions were still closed off because of the earthquake. Same problem as always, it's an old building celebrating 100 years this year and it was a tremendously strong earthquake. Next was Cerro Santa Lucia, a garden with a view. I was able to take various paths to the top of a hill, then back down to a statue of a dog and a huge fountain.
Deciding on the central market for lunch, I needed to walk a ways to get there. The central Plaza de Armas lay in my path, and I enjoyed its eccentricities immensely; the standard tourist knicknacks, the beautiful Catedral Nacional, a man painting an excellent portrait of a completely nude woman (life size, out in the open, unfortunately from a photograph), and a group of comedic street performers, whose Chilean accents were lost on me. Lunch turned out to be delicious.
The afternoon was spent ascending the ascensors to the peak of Parque Metropolitano, giving a smoggy view of the city; LA is a lot worse though. The hike down was very pleasant, with a tree covered trail to the river followed by a crowded subway to Alvaro's. After a recharge, we head out to watch some Jazz at a club with some amazing harmonica. My host and the drummer from the day before were friends with the group and played on stage during the second set; again, they were incredible, she even stayed up for an extra song. A party followed that lasted till 5am, when I ended my last night in South America.
The next day, I woke up (relatively) early in order to be tired for the plane home. I had breakfast in a random cafe, and tried to visit another museum and was thwarted by closures due to the earthquake. I made it home to hang out with Alvaro and his father until leaving.
I spent my last Chilean Pesos on a yogurt, got on a plane, and came back to the United States of America.
--Things I missed include friends and family (obviously), flushing toilet paper, successfully eavesdropping, not carrying my passport with me, Mexican Food, Peanut butter, Sushi, Cayucos, my dog, news and information, and going to the Cinema. This list, however, is far from exhaustive.
--Things I did not miss include having a cell phone, schedules, obligations, waiting for the crosswalk guy, most of popular culture, and having a general feeling of security. Again, far from exhaustive.
--The entire process of coming home took 15 hours; my record for a single bus trip is 51 hours.