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Chillan, Chile

Friday 28th-Sunday 30th

Have you ever been so disappointed by something, yet at the same time been so pleasantly surprised? This, people, was our experience in Chillan, a town so well known for absolutely nothing that even our friend Karim was surprised we were headed there. Here’s the thing though, our Lonely Planet bible told of a couple of small attractions that we thought were worth a look, so we took a chance on it. Once we were there we thought we had taken a wrong turn into Snores-Ville, yet we were soon to discover that that if you add a splash of good- humoured human nature to any tragic tale you’re more than likely to conjure a happy ending.

On its surface Chillan was a quiet, spread- out town, one and a half hours as the bus drones, inland from Concepcion. Graffiti and murals were abound, as were the car-part, bit-part stores. A place where we had a big lunch and four beers for only $17AUD. You will be also pleased to know that Chillan boasts cheap accommodation too, devoid of crazy folk!

Our first ramble we went on was to the information centre to find out about the places that interested us, which were: the great murals that ‘represented Chile’s cultural maturity‘, a huge weekend market, and beautiful waterfalls that were a bus ride away but rumoured to be well worth the discomfort.

Our first disappointment was hearing that the building the murals were in was closed due to earthquake damage. Oh well, still things to do, we thought. After that knock back we asked about getting to the waterfalls, to which we were assured it was very easy to get to as buses left every half hour from the local transport station. Something for us to do after the markets the next day. At lunch we looked at a map and booklet on Chillan we got from the information centre and saw a museum that looked interesting. It had the word music in the description so of course Pete wanted to look. It was a few blocks away but we went for a walk in the scorching heat only to find that the building was not only closed, but completely destroyed from the earthquake the town had last year. Oh well, still more to do tomorrow, so we thought. We did go out for dinner at a great little buffet restaurant so at least our bellies were satisfied.

Saturday morning we headed to the markets. Rumour had it that they filled a whole city block and to be fair they were rather large looking. They were filled to the brim with the greatest amount of fruit and veg we had ever seen. The souvenirs took up a small fraction of the stalls, all of them pretty much selling the same tacky token trinkety thing. Not as we were anticipating, but the bananas tasted fan-tastic. We weren’t worried though, because we were off to see some waterfalls!

What were we thinking? That there was something to actually do in this part of the world? Well we were wrong again. We made it to the bus terminal around 11.30pm, only to find that the buses stopped going out there at 10.30! That’s right, so by now we were well and truly over it. Nothing had gone our way and we had seen jack-shit in two days, from a town that seemed to have a lot we were given little. To add insult to irritation, we couldn’t get back into the hostel. It was one of those places where you didn’t have a key to get in, you had to ring a buzzer and someone came to the door. That’s what’s supposed to happen anyway. We knocked and knocked and waited and yelled until finally someone from a hostel across the road came over with a key and let us in. Apparently the owners had gone out. How nice for them! Maybe they knew something we didn’t and had some thing to do!!

Disillusioned, we opted to go out for some afternoon drinks when we were invited into another room in the hostel by a bunch of Chilean guys who were in a band. We ended up spending the afternoon playing music with them and speaking very broken english. They were a lively, friendly bunch with big personalities and amazing musical talents that played traditional Chilean music. We received free cd’s and Pete even had them playing along to his music as well! Merrier from meeting the guys we headed off out for dinner where we ended up in a quiet restaurant that had wi-fi. It didn’t want to work on our computer so they gave us their computer to use. They also used the computer for translating so they could explain the menu to us. We were given free nibbles, our glass was never empty long and our waitress tried so hard to have conversations with us. Then, when we decided to leave after midnight, they offered us a ride home. The hospitality we received from this family which owned the restaurant, and the fact it was pretty much the first place where we had people go out-of- their- way for us was another bonus to our otherwise boring evening.

We were quickly reminded of the situation we were in on arriving at our hostel. Upon pressing the buzzer to get in, yep you guessed it no one answered. After ten minutes and calling and knocking on the front door and it being about half past midnight on a dark street, we decided to go and harass the man across the road again. He didn’t come over to let us in this time, but called them the owners of our hostel, and five minutes later they showed up in a car, no apologies, tango nada. The worst part is being angry with someone who doesn’t speak your language. Whatever you say they just look at you and shrug. They could have at least told us where the party was.

Chillan. A funny little place where even the tumbleweeds grind to a holt. At least when we were mind numbingly bored we could always count on counting dogs.

permalink written by  Pete+Rochelle on February 15, 2011 from Chillan, Chile
from the travel blog: Round the world!!!
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