On The Road Again
On December 19 I left Santiago and was officially ‘on the road’ and since then life has been very different. I want to compare and contrast this life with the 10 previous months living in Santiago .
Views and Vistas
In Santiago I lived in 3 different apartments. The first had a view over the roofs of the city centre, which looked a bit grotty, but also included some attractive older buildings and a view to the mountains. The second, which Juergen and I spent the winter in, had absolutely no view at all as we looked down from the 12th floor to an enclosed parking lot. The third had a cityscape view of the lights of Manquehue at night, and during the day I could get a glimpse of Parque Araucania, and a view to the mountains. None was particularly inspiring. I NEVER get tired of the view out of the camper windows and now I get a view of the mountains as we drive through them. We park in some amazing and varied places. Sometimes our camping places are little better than rubbish dumps, but they are also curiously often the quietest places to sleep. At other times we have discovered amazing places with incredible views. Our favourites almost always include water, whether the ocean, a river or a lake.
Sleeping Well – Light and Noise
The most important thing to me, wherever I am, is that I can sleep well. I love sleep and I don’t function well when I don’t get enough. For the first 3 months in Santiago I lived in an apartment building that was very noisy – music played loud, televisions at full volume, the lift through the wall at the head of my bed, and even a very bad trumpet player trying to perfect his art! The other thing that disturbs me a lot is too much light. In that particular apartment my bedroom window looked out on the windows of the stair well, which had lights on all night. My blinds were totally inadequate to keep it out. I felt like I was sleep deprived for most of the time I was there. The other two places I lived were almost perfect in comparison. But nothing beats a night in the camper where the only noise is maybe from the water of the river, lake or ocean nearby, doing its thing, and no light except the stars. This doesn’t happen all the time. We do have nights disturbed by noise or light, and sometimes both. But the difference is, it’s usually only one night and then we move on. But if we find a perfect sleeping place we have the option to stay and luxuriate in the perfect night’s sleep by repeating it.
Trees – National Parks and City Parks
Santiago has many parks and plentiful trees. I enjoyed the autumn colours and later, when the spring came, the buds and flowers. I walked around the city a lot as part of my daily routine as a teacher, going from class to class, and I always appreciated the parks and tree-lined streets. Since leaving Santiago we have spent very little time in cities. We prefer the less-travelled roads and search for interesting places, mostly in nature. In our quest for these places we have visited several national parks. These are often our favourite places since they have concentrations of unusual plants and trees, like the palms of La Campana and the monkey puzzle trees of Nahuelbuta . Or they have other attractions based on landscape and geography, like the incredible waterfalls of Las Siete Tazas (the seven cups).
Smog and Dust
One thing that disturbed me deeply, living in Santiago, was the air pollution. The layer of brown smog was obvious, most of the time, and the skies were hardly ever clear blue, even though there was no cloud. Only after heavy rain did we see the clear blue sky, and then for about half a day, if we were lucky. One of my students said to me, on one of these rare days: “It’s like seeing everything in HD!” and I thought that was a very apt comment. I spent most of the winter with a bad cold and a persistent cough, which sometimes seemed to get a little better and then relapsed into something worse which sent me to bed and kept me from my classes. Out on the road we face a different problem. As I have said, we prefer to follow the roads less travelled, and in Chile and Argentina this usually means ‘ripio’ (gravel) or ‘tierra’ (dirt). With either of these comes the inevitable dust. In most places it is so fine that it compares well to the bulldust in outback Australia. Our camper is fairly dust proof, but the truck has lots of gaps for it to get in – dust the dashboard one day and the next day it looks the same. I must say, I prefer to breathe dust than Santiago smog; I prefer to breathe the dust than miss some of the most interesting places; and we often prefer to breathe the dust to paying the huge tolls they expect us to pay on the highways, since they charge us truck rate.
City and Country
There are many cities in the world that I love – Sydney, Berlin and New York are the top 3 on my list. But they are all ‘nice places to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there’! When I decided to come to South America to teach English, I decided on Chile. I had hoped that I might find a job in one of the regional cities but all the responses I received were from Santiago institutes. So I went to Santiago. Living in Santiago was interesting, annoying, stimulating, noisy, beautiful, dirty, and I could go on… Leaving Santiago was a relief. Even though I had really enjoyed my work and the people I worked with, I don’t miss the crowded buses and subways, the people rushing in the streets, the noise, and the constant light. Since leaving we have spent little time in cities – we tend to avoid them as much as possible. As I write this we are parked by a river in Argentina, somewhere north of Bariloche (which we didn’t visit) and south of Mendoza (which we may also avoid). The only sounds to be heard are the river rushing, the wind blowing and the occasional car on the road above. There is sunshine glistening on the river and moonlight at night. I don’t think I would like to live here either, but for a day or two and then on to the next place, it is as near to perfection as it gets for me.