After all the nature and rather small cities, Santiago is on my way further up north and I need at least make a short stop there. After not enjoying that much being in Buenos Aires, I like that I can stay in Santiago as long or short as I spontaneously want. It’s off season and plenty of space in hostels plus there are buses every 15 minutes every day running to my next destination, Valparaiso. From Pucón it’s a 10h ride to Santiago in a night bus. I slept not too bad (but not enough), arriving at 7am in a dark and empty city. I didn’t think about the fact that it’s May 1st and a public holiday. So far everything was usually open, even on Easter holidays. The metro station only opens at 8am on holidays, but the very kind bus driver takes me for free close to my hostel (because I could only buy tickets in the closed metro station). I drop my backpack at the hostel and head straight to the Cerro San Cristobal. I need to get going so I don’t get too tired, plus it’s such a beautiful light over Santiago with the sunrise. Due to the smog the view is not really clear, but the atmosphere at the statue is very peaceful. Only a few people made it up here so early on a holiday and there’s some nice religious songs playing.
But I don’t have a lot of time, I want to do the 10am Tours4Tips guided tour. I realise it’s actually 3km away and I have only 20 minutes left, so I just start running downhill. There are a few other runners but as I am wearing sandals they look at me bewildered. But it feels good to go running! I just make it to the tour. We are only a handful of people, unfortunately due to the holidays the markets are not all open. But the fishmarket is and we get some insights to local dishes.
Then we take the metro to the cemetery. It’s the biggest cemetery I have seen so far, it fits 121 football fields and 2 million people are buried here. Visitors come drive inside with their cars. It’s also very diverse, from the smallest graves shared every 5 years to huge monuments built at the time of the sudden nitrate (white gold) richness (with contests of building the most interesting grave, but as most people lost all their money once the nitrate rush was over the graves are often not maintained).
We learn about the very interesting concept of both animismo and animita. Animismo means that Chileans behave as if the dead person was still somehow alive, coming to the cemetery and sharing beer (I.e. drinking à bottle and leaving a bottle for the dead person) or parents come to visit the grave of their child every week, decorating it according to the season. And without this being a sad obsession. Google explains animism a bit differently but that’s how I learnt it on the tour. Animita is a concept of treating a specific dead person as a saint. Often it’s a person that died tragically while having been an exceptional kind person. Chileans come and ask for wishes to be granted and if the wish comes true, they return and put a tag on the grave. Very interesting tour!
Then I walk back to the hostel with one of the Germans I met at the tour. I am very tired and need to wash my clothes, so I don’t do much more that evening.
The next morning I sleep in and enjoy the breakfast before taking the metro to the Museum of Memory and Human rights. Opened in 2010, it’s a memorial of the terror that the Chilean population had to endure under Pinochet. I spend sad and quite tough two hours there.
But then I am out again in the streets. The contrast to yesterday. Now the shops are open, cars, busses, people everywhere. It’s noisy, loud, smelly. I walk to the vegetable market and have lunch. Another very healthy chilean dish…