Day 86 – Catapilco to Santiago

Waking up in the tent this morning was a lot easier than last time. Falling asleep early (like 8:30PM early) made waking up at 7AM a much easier task. I didn’t grump at Kay, and because I was paranoid about someone finding us in the cemetery and getting upset, we were quite efficient at packing up. We were on the road around 8AM, where it was chilly and misty. I don’t think I was fully awake yet when we hit the first tunnel, which was LONG. Longest tunnel we’ve been in on the trip. But it was well-lit, so go Chile. You’ve got your shit together.

Lots of tolls this morning. Three or four toll booths in the 150km coming south into Santiago. We seem to have left the desert and come into the mountains, and the mist and mountains in the early morning sun were quite beautiful. Alas, Kay’s camera, which he uses to take pictures while we ride, was completely dead, so we have no pics. But we’ll have to make it a point to ride early more often, because aside from the cold, it was beautiful.

Rode until we got to a gas station, where we stopped for gas, a bathroom and gas station breakfast. Yes, that’s right, my friends – gas station hot dogs for breakfast. It’s a time-honored tradition from Mexico that we’ve been forced to abandon for most of the trip, as most of the places we’ve been don’t have mini-marts in gas stations. But Chile is now the land of infrastructure surprisingly similar to the United States, so we have gas station hot dogs for breakfast. And pay to use the bathroom, but my bum prefers actual toilets to holes in the ground for my morning business, so I’m just happy we found one.

While we’re at the gas station, a crazy woman gets annoyed at us for sitting on “her” bench and eating our hot dogs. She starts flinging the benches around, literally, and then sweeping up with a broom and a dust pan as though we’ve gotten the place dirty, glaring at us all the while. But she’s not an employee of the gas station. We’re amused when she goes to glare at a trucker who is backing up and whose truck is going “beep, beep, beep” as he reverses. She walks over to his truck and stands glaring at him, hands on hips. Kay and I ponder going back to the benches to see if it’s enough to tempt her to return and glare at us more, but opt to move on toward Santiago.

With surprisingly little fanfare, we hit Santiago around 10AM. Traffic is well-behaved; there’s no lane-splitting, the merging is civilized and people are going at or BELOW the speed limit. Chile has surprised us for its adherence to traffic laws. It is unlike the rest of Latin America. Chileans actually *stop* for stop signs at railroad tracks, they mostly obey speed limits and stop lights, and drive in a very civilized manner. We’ve gotten into some bad habits in the rest of Latin America and it’s nice to be back where people drive so sedately – especially when trying to navigate an enormous city with crap GPS maps.

We make it as far as the city center before realizing we’ve missed our turn and then turn around and head back out. Luckily, the turn we missed the first time is actually marked in a way we can recognize on the way back out (into town, it’s marked only with the neighborhood name; going out of town, it has the road name marked, which is what we’re looking for) so we get the right turn. The rest of the directions are surprisingly easy to follow. We pass the BMW dealer and look for a place to turn around, as it’s a divided road, but at the last second, Kay spots the motorrad service area, which is down the street and across the road. We turn in and park in the service reception area.

Alas, this time pulling up to a BMW dealer is not like being visiting princes welcomed from afar. This time, Kay says it’s like “being a valued customer.” We take off our helmets, and no-one comes to greet us or instruct us to bring our bikes around to the back. We go inside and ask the pretty receptionist if she speaks English, which she does, lucky for us. So we tell her we’ve emailed because we’re traveling from Boston, we have two bikes that need service (one of which has an oil leak), and we’ve also got a package coming there. She asks for our paperwork so she can put us in the system and start work orders for us.

No, this is not like the other BMW dealers we’ve visited.

We get the paperwork, she goes off to make copies, and we sit down while she puts us in the system. Then she asks if we want coffee or water – the sole allusion to the BMW generosity and focus on taking care of customers that we’ve encountered in our prior visits. While she’s putting us in the computer, I ask Kay to get the dealer’s address from the bike, as this is the address where my package is being shipped. I want to make sure the address is right.

He gets it and brings it back. We ask, and she says “No, this address is the one down the street.” (there are apparently three locations). Kay asks if she can call to see if the package has arrived, and she does. No package there, but she calls another place. No package there, either, but Claudia, the person who receives the packages, knows to send her an email if our package arrives, so they’re expecting it. So at least there’s that.

She does the intake on our bikes, and we say we can stay until they’ve had a chance to look at the bikes and diagnose them. She says that’s fine, and asks if we have email in case she needs to communicate with us. We tell her we do, but that we don’t know if we’ll have internet because we don’t know where we’re staying. Can she recommend someone? She can, but the local neighborhood is quite expensive, so the hotel she can recommend is $120 per night. We’d have to go quite far into Santiago to get a cheaper hotel.

So Kay pulls out our South America book, which we haven’t used in ages, to try to find the name of a place we might stay for cheaper in Santiago. Much staring at the book and flipping pages. While we’re trying to decipher the giant section on Santiago, some techs come out and look at our bikes. The sprockets need to be changed, which we’d asked them to check, so Kay goes and pulls out the spare sprockets he’s been carrying around in his panniers. They confirm that the brake pads are still good, which I find hard to believe because my bike is STILL using the stock brake pads and they have almost 18,000 miles on them. Well done, BMW?

Time for a new sprocket

After a quick look under my engine, the tech confirms that the problem with the oil leaking is just a gasket that needs to be replaced. We’re not sure exactly where or what gasket, but it sounds simple, so I’m relieved. Much better than some of the horrible scenarios that I’ve been imagining. Hopefully the labor isn’t that expensive, as I can’t imagine the gasket being expensive.

Kay’s note: It’s the gasket around the gearbox, at least I *think* it’s called the gearbox. I know what it is, just not what it’s called. There’s a big cup-like piece of metal that screws onto the left side of the engine and covers a bunch of gears. Around the edge of that is a big-ass gasket. That’s what has gone. Drain the oil, remove a bunch of screws, remove the piece, replace the gasket, put the piece back on, screw, screw, screw, and voilla. Should be quick and easy, although whoever does it will be covered in oil.

So my bike is diagnosed, which means we can leave. Do they know when our bikes will be ready? Tomorrow afternoon, late. 3PM maybe? This is not ideal, but we’re waiting for my package from RevZilla to arrive in Santiago, anyway, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. So we find a hotel in the book that looks like it might be in our price range, and ask if she can call us a cab. She explains that if she calls a cab it’ll take 30 minutes to come, as there aren’t any in this area, but we can just hail one in the street and it’ll be much faster. So I suggest we haul our luggage out to the street so we’re ready, and Kay goes out to hail a cab.

We try. And try. And try. In well over 20 minutes, I see three empty cabs – one didn’t stop, one stopped but told Kay he couldn’t take us where we wanted to go, and one went by while Kay was talking to the cab which ended up unable to take us. So after 20+ minutes, we go back inside and ask her to call us a cab.

In the meantime, Kay has noticed a moto shop next door. I’ve been wanting to buy chain lube for ages to lube my chain manually, since the Loobman is doing what I consider to be a sub-par job. Kay’s front tire is also getting quite low, and I’m concerned about it for the dirt to Ushuaia, so I suggest he check there for a tire. He’s annoyed that I don’t go check there for chain lube. We frustrate each other, and he goes to check for a tire (which they didn’t have in stock at the BMW dealer).

While he’s there, I stand by our stuff and guard it. Now that it’s been moved outside, we must apparently stand in the sun and make sure no-one steals it. I’d rather be in the shade, and Kay snipes that this is why he wanted to leave it inside. So I stand there and work on a sunburn while Kay is checking for a tire/chain lube. And while I’m there, a manger-type-guy from the BMW service center comes out and I see him watching the road. A minute later, a cab comes by. He crosses the street and hails it. I see him gesturing to the cab to go down the street and turn around, and the cab does. So I surmise that he’s just gotten us a cab, and Kay is still in the shop talking to the guy about chain lube and tires. I run in and tell Kay that the guy has hailed us a cab, and he’s annoyed because he’s in the middle of a conversation. I ask for the book that has the address of the hostel where we want to go, and take it out to the street, prepared to see if the cabbie can get us there.

The manager guy who has hailed the cab walks back looking pleased with himself, and tells me he’s gotten us a cab (in Spanish – apparently the only English-speaker here is the receptionist). I thank him, and he starts to walk inside, where the receptionist pops her head out and says “two minutes.” She’s just called for a cab. They argue a minute as he tells her he just got one, and she tells him she’s called one. So Kay and I aren’t the only ones having communication difficulties today.

In the meantime, the cab pulls up. I take the book and try to show the driver where we want to go. He seems confused and starts asking questions in Spanish. I flip the pages to the map of the neighborhood, and indicate which number I want on the map. While I’m doing this, the receptionist comes out and gives him the name of a Metro station. Apparently that’s supposed to help him find the place. There is much back-and-forth and he looks at the map for a while and I’m not convinced he actually knows where it is, but eventually he says he can get us there. Luckily, Kay has appeared from the shop next door, so we load up the luggage and start our drive across the city. (Yes to chain lube, no to tires, although the guy at the shop found one for him a few blocks away. But now we’re in a cab trying to find a hotel so we have no chance to go look for it.)

It’s a LONG drive across the city. It goes on for what seems like forever, and I keep looking for roads that are on our map but none of the names match the map. After a $15 cab ride, we’ve apparently found the place. Kay goes up to the door and asks the cab driver not to unload our stuff just yet… which is good, because there are no vacancies. But the guy at the hostel calls another place, confirms that they have a room, comes out and gives the cab driver directions and sends us on our way again. Yay!

We go another mile or two around several more corners and end up at another hostel. Kay runs inside and comes out a minute later with the thumbs up. Yay! We start unloading the stuff from the cab – after a $20 cab ride. With another $20 to get back to the BMW dealer tomorrow, and this hostel being more expensive than the last one, it’s cost us more than $100 – we might as well have gone with the hotel that BMW would have recommended and saved ourself the hassle. But the hostel has wi-fi and they speak English, so it’s not all bad.

Haul our stuff up to the third floor, and we’re optimistic about the services available here… so Kay runs down to see if they have a laundry service. They do!! We haven’t had our laundry done since Colombia – we wash it in sinks when possible but you can only do so much with Dr. Brommer’s in a sink. Our clothes had gotten to the point that they weren’t really getting clean anymore when we washed them, so we were psyched about a laundry service. She brought us a laundry basket and we filled it up with our clothes… and then pondered washing the gear.

The bikes wouldn’t be done until 3PM tomorrow. We might have to be here another day anyway to wait for my package from RevZilla. And check-out time here is 11AM, so we wouldn’t know until after checkout (and a $20 cab ride back to BMW) whether the package will arrive tomorrow or Friday. So we make an executive decision to stay two nights, and have them wash our motorcycle gear, which gives it time to dry properly. While we don’t care about the dirt and the grime, it’s getting stinky again, and we’re not fans of that. So laundering them is a nice treat.

Kay’s note: I was fairly confident we’d have to stay here two days anyway because of the package, which made the pricey cab ride here totally worth it. We checked on the net when we got here and, yup, it just left the US. So, it’s unlikely we’ll see it tomorrow. It’s shipping USPS international guaranteed which is actually USPS handing it off to FedEx because USPS can’t do jack once it leaves the United States. But, I’m thinking the USPS didn’t really feel motivated to get it to FedEx quickly, so now FedEx will have to hustle to meet the guarantee. But, that’s OK. FedEx understands words like “motivated” and “hustle”.

We take off as many clothes as we can to send down to laundry. I’m lamenting again that I only brought two bras, which means I can only send one down to be laundered (it won’t be done until tomorrow morning). We both decide to go commando so we can send all of our underwear to be washed, and we find our least-worn shirts so we can get the ones that we wear most often washed. Yay laundry!

By then we’re effing hungry so we head out looking for lunch. We walk down the street to a restaurant that the staff recommended, and go inside, in spite of the slightly high prices. It turns out to be a fancy, fine-dining restaurant, and I feel out of place with my unwashed hair and unflattering tank top. But I order a Kobe beef steak, which is DELICIOUS, and Kay orders his first beer of the trip. We splurge but it’s totally worth it. The meal is wonderful.

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5492279707/][img]http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5212/5492279707_c7cc7c18f8.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5492279707/]The first alcohol of the trip[/url]

Kay’s note: I had a total brain fart when looking at the prices on the menu outside and thought everything was about 1/2 as much as it was. I would have voted to go on if I had of thought straight, but yeah, really tasty, and yeah, nice to splurge on good food for once.

Out to explore the city. Santiago is by far the nicest city we’ve encountered on our trip. Chile in general, and Santiago with it, is effing expensive. (We’re spending $70+ per day on gas some days, and the hotels we’ve been staying in when we stay in hotels are $60-70 per night – far above our price range, and one reason we’ve been keen on camping here in Chile.) But Santiago is a city that clearly has money, as it’s NICE. The buildings are nice. The streets are clean. The traffic is well-behaved. And the city actually seems like it might be worth exploring. Since our first impulse is usually to get far from cities as fast as possible, it’s a big plus in Santiago’s favor.

We each pick a direction, which proves to be rather lame (and hot) and I realize I haven’t put any suntan lotion on, and don’t want to court another second-degree sunburn. So we start to head back to the hotel, but then I spot some artisan tent things and remember that the lady at the hostel said there’s an artisan craft area this way, so we poke around the neighborhood a bit. I spot a frozen yogurt stall, which sounds delicious, so Kay and I each get one (mine wins). Then we find some stalls that have a few cute things for us to bring back for friends, which hopefully won’t get broken in our panniers.

Kay’s note: They give you a chocolate or vanilla base and you pick one, two, or three different fruits to have blended in with it, plus sugar or some artificial sweetener. Great idea.

Bull under a china shop
Scratch it!
Santiago Street Art
Street Art

Done, and back to our hotel for the afternoon. We’ve got posts to write to catch up our blog and ADV, and it’s hot out, anyway. Maybe we’ll try one of the pizza places we passed for dinner. We’ve been pushing hard lately because I’m worried about the timeframe, but it’ll be nice to have a day off tomorrow. Hopefully my package from RevZilla comes so we can head out on Friday and be ready to tackle the crossing to Argentina and the final country on our trip!

Kay’s note: bad headache. I think I’m dehydrated. I go to take a shower, because I’m done with my post. Warm water is awesome. I come out, and there on the floor is my pants, my underwear, and my shirt…. wait a minute… my underwear?! I’d intended to go commando, apparently got sidetracked before removing them for the laundry, and then not noticed for the rest of the afternoon. I guess it just goes to show how comfortable Ex-Officio underwear is.

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