Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday, February 7

Today we woke up at 7 in the morning to start the long drive we had ahead of us. The first stop was in Chillan, where we went to the huge indoor market first. There was an unsettling quantity of meat stores all around, that sold everything even the heads of pigs. I wanted to take a picture with the head, and the worker thought I wanted to hold it so he got it out and offered it to me. I decided why not and asked him if he had a sink where I could wash my hands after touching it and he assured me that he did. Eric and I took a picture holding the (surprisingly heavy) head, and then I gave it back to the worker and asked for the sink.
He gave me a damp and dirty rag and said I could wipe my hands on that. It was disgusting and I didn’t touch anything else until I got back to the car and used hand sanitizer. We went to see the only church in Chile with a rounded ceiling. It was huge and ornate and very Catholic and impressive looking.
Then we went to a feria atresenal where I started the tradition of buying a postcard from every city we went to. After we got back into the car and drove a little bit more to the monument of Bernardo O’Higgins, the liberator of Chile (like our George Washington).
He grew up in Chillan and we got to see the remains of his house that was destroyed in the earthquake. Then we got back into the car and didn’t stop to eat although it was almost lunch time. Chileans have a tradition of eating bread and hard boiled eggs with salt during long car rides, so we ate that and I shared my pretzels from the US. On the drive we watched 4 movies and I looked out at the scenery for a while and watched it become more and greener as we drove more south (it rains like all year in the south). It started raining as we drove into Temuco. We walked around the center of the town in the freezing cold, and we went to the big feria atresenal. Temuco, and a lot of the south, is the home of Chile’s indigenous people, the Mapuches.
They are the only indigenous people in the world who have not been conquered by the government within which they live, so there are a lot of Mapuche traditions, cultures, and knickknacks to see in the south. The signs for the bathrooms were written in both Spanish and Mapudungun. We bought some of their traditional seasoning, merken ahumado, which is super spicy but also really good.
Then from Temuco we drove to Valdivia. We visited the Kuntsmann beer factory and then found a camping nearby to pitch our tents. Although the ground was all wet from rain, the camping was on the side of a lake and had private bathrooms, so we were happy. We pitched the tents and inflated the mattresses while Nancy prepared dinner, and in about 2 hours we were eating. During the work, I had the first of many experiences with family fights on family vacations. I just kept quiet and stayed out of it, which would be my strategy most of the trip when I wasn’t involved in the fight. After dinner, we drove into the city of Valdivia and walked along the river where there is a feria artesenal and some Navy boats.
We got back to the camping late at night and some Argentinean guys who were camping nearby invited us over to talk and drink mate. They were from Cordoba, and apparently that is the city most famous for having a heavy accent. We were having a great time talking about the Argentinean economy and problems they are having when it started raining and we had to go back to our tents. We went to sleep at 1, but I had an absolutely horrible night. It was raining and everything was slightly damp, the sleeping bag was small and I couldn’t spread out the way I wanted to, the mattress disinflated and I woke up in the middle of the night lying on the floor. I also had that same problem with drinking too much tea and had to get up in the middle of the night to walk to the bathroom in the rain. Overall it was a bad first night in camping.

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