Santago and Bikes

We are not city people; whenever I imagined ourselves on the road it was covered in dust in a small coastal town surrounded by faded paint and plastic chaired diners, exhausted from surf or riding. It certainly wasn’t drinking coffee in trendy bars in the Italian district of a sprawling city a couple of hours from the surf but that is exactly where we have ended up. Sitting here, squinting in the late afternoon sun on the 11th floor of a tower block in Santiago de Chile, I feel exhausted from walking miles through beautiful tree-lined avenues, past colourful colonial architecture, greenery pouring from every opening and surrounding the streets with life. This city has a pulse and I can feel it.

Amira and Felipe kindly agreed to host us in their apartment and have made us feel incredibly welcome, their home is our home, literally; we are so lucky. Tomorrow Amira is going to take us to the markets and another one of her favourite neighbourhoods and I am sure all three of us will eat cheap food and tire ourselves out with great experiences and conversation. Tonight we are going to watch one of Felipe’s DVD’s; part two of a documentary about the history and politics of Chile. Last night during part one, Felipe’s knowledge really helped us to understand the political situation leading up the dictatorship. This is a country that is packed with political history and the atrocities of the the dictatorship have shaped the country we are spending time in; it seems like in order to understand the country as we ride through its deserts, mountains and fishing villages; we need to understand it’s past and struggles.

Today was a big one; amongst all the bureaucracy and strikes in Chile, we rode motorbikes; our motorbikes. It was only 3 blocks and we don’t have any licence plates but we have papers and receipts to prove they are ours - and of course the official Honda photograph from the dealership. Alejandro, our Chilean ‘Mike Hill’, has been the hero of the trip so far. From the minute we walked into his workshop after a couple of badly worded Spanish emails back and forth, we knew we had met a guy we could trust. Head to toe in denim, 'Ride' and 'Luck' tattooed across his knuckles, grey goatee and a flatcap, a workshop full of custom bikes, hand painted signs and graphics. He has sorted everything out for us and really made us feel welcome in his city. The world is a big place but the circles we move in aren’t so big. Old punks are everywhere.

Tom Brace, a friend from Norwich is living here now, teaching English weekdays and cooking on weekends. He invited us to an event on Saturday, we said we would go. While eating lunch with Alejandro and his son’s friend yesterday, I mentioned our friend Tom was cooking at an event on Saturday, it turned out that it was in the very cafe we were sat in. “It’s funny, all the Gringo’s know each other and they are all called Tom!” at least I think thats what they were saying to each other…

Our Spanish is pretty terrible but we are determined to learn. every day brings breakthroughs and steep learning curves but we are both trying really hard and it is working. We are only three day’s in so we are struggling but it seems possible to learn a good working vocabulary by the end of the year.

It’s funny, everyone is getting on with their lives and jobs here and we are just ‘travelling’ - neither working nor on holiday. We are in the strange position of not wanting to spend any money but not having a lot else to do. We are drinking a couple of cups of coffee a day to sit in cafes; read, talk, think and write, thats our main expense, a couple of pounds a day - apart from motorbikes…

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