Weeks 80 – 90 | Chile [B]

The second part of an unforgettable Journey in Chile. My time in Santiago and the 5th crossing of the Andes mountain range.
My story in Santiago starts with this lovely lady here,
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ZUZANNA is a good friend from Poland. We had spent time together in Spain, back in 2013, and now we met again in Chile. ZUZA talked about me to her other half in Santiago, ANNA (pun intended), who was also in Spain with us but I had never met her, and ANNA (from Sweden) arranged with her flatmates to host me for a week at their appartment in the city center. The flat had a nickname:
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El Paraíso.

Truly a paradise as you can see and right at the right time because… I spent the holy week there, fortunate enough to attend the services and share these moments with my dearest friends from the Orthodox community of Guayaquil in Ecuador, that were at that time in Santiago.

Then my dear Zuza, who I owe her so much, let me know about her boyfriend Richie,
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who in this photo looks a bit serious. In real life he is more like this
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hahhahahaaa sorry mi amigo Richie! hahaaa! Richie is one of the persons that I meet and I have instantly a very good connection with. You know, there are some people where your vibrations sync right away. The feels-like-we-know-each-other-for-ages-but-we-met-yesterday thing. He is in my heart for many reasons but most importantly because he kept the two of us alive during the scariest 40 minutes of my life. Riding a vespa in the highway…
The post-traumatic stress had to be released in a meaningful way.
I invested in brushes and water colours. I still remember Richie that night at home, after the ride, singing with the guitar about me: “tenía mucho miedo pero sobreviví” = I was very scared but I survived.
And here Richie in the guitar, and Thomas singing.
 Thomas is a friend of Richie who
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I spent a lot of wonderful time with!
and this because he and other friends of Richie hosted me at their living room for a period of… 1 and a half month!
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my bed,
and the sofa where I spent hours of listening and admiring Thomas this time,
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playing the guitar and singing.

Thomas had the ability to take the guitar and start playing for hours.. from reggae to hip-hop to rock to… acoustic reggaeton, in perfect english, spanish, german. I was so astounded that I recorded him at some point, and throughout my stay in santiago I was listening to him every day, again and again, during the countless hours I had walking around downtown, chilling in parks, thinking, reading, painting and writing.

but to be honest, it wasn’t only Thoma’s voice that I enjoyed so much. It was also
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girlfriend of Thomas –
she had one of the sweetest voices that I had heard and it was such a pleasure listening to her.
Here  we are in Tunquén. Weekend excursion that apart from

it also had a very interesting visit to the Ballenario: the place where in the past the whales were brought to be processed and exploited. It was a visit full of sadness, or maybe better, some sort of melancholy and also… admiration!

You knew that

(blue) whales are considered the biggest animal ever inhabiting the planet? One of the reasons why they live in the water is that it would be extremely hard to sustain such an amazing weight (they reach the 180 tonnes, and only their tongue weight as much as an elephant) in land – that is, without the help of buoyancy. But here comes the best part,
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the captivating ultrasounds that produce to communicate (that can be heard underwater in a distance of 2.600 km!) is unknown to this day where exactly come from – what part of the whale is producing them and how; they don’t move neither the mouth nor their throat!
We also went for a walk by the beach,
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you know that Pacific means peaceful, right? So here we are, myself and the ocean.

I set the camera very far for this one; the essence though is intact.
And since I need a way back to Santiago in my story, and we are at the sea, I ‘ll tell you that the nickname of the appartment I was hosted this time is “El barco” = the boat. Two more “passengers” are the ones that you see on the right, next to Óli and Thomas,
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Franko and Laura,
You see, love everywhere in Santiago! I was surrounded by couples!
The good news was…
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another one resident of El Barco, that he too in this picture looks pretty serious. BUT, he can be transformed…
hahahaa!!! Nicooo! I admire this guy a lot because he was so responsible, organised, independent and at the same time he knew how to party and… (this is the important part) he was (almost) always available! Even if the following day he had to go to work. And if you are looking for some fun in Santiago de Chile, the nightlife is indeed vivid! Music, dance, piscola! The legendary bar El tunel – awesome nights of fun with Nico, Iciar Javier and Jorge (from Madrid) and many more – fun and sweating!! And the cheap amazing (if you are drunk) pizzas after… oh… Also, in Santiago there is a lot of electronic fiestas, fiestas in plazas with guitars and drums, lots of concerts, bars with live music and the typical clubs mainly at the Bellavista area.
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And because we have to imitate the good exampe of our friends, I tried myself too, apart from having fun and also lots of personal time in Santiago, to do something that is productive in another level. Something that I couldn’t have done without the help of
the last (but not least!) resident of El barco. As you most probably know, while travelling I am trying to enter elementary schools to do research for my dissertation in Education. For sure I am not dedicating as much energy as I would like in this area but it’s true that the intense travelling reality is absorbing me easily. Well, the point is that Heinz offered to help me gain access in a public elementary school in Santiago, and not only did he bring me in touch, but also he helped me a lot with translating the research documents I had prepared from English to Spanish.
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I had 3 days of attending all of the classes of one professor, interviewing her and the principal and taking photos. The whole experience was very intriguing as it was very different to what I had seen so far in the USA and to what I had experienced as a student in Greece. I would like to thank Sophia, mr Matus, and miss Magaly for all their help!

Now, as you can imagine my time in Santiago was amazing and for this I am wholeheartedly grateful to my friends there, and also to Zuza+Anna that we happened to be at the same time in the same city – again.

Anna, Zuzanna, and a not-so-serious version of me (yawning?)

The thing is that my time in Santiago was a lot more than having fun. I spent a considerable amount of time in just… being. I would walk to the park, sit on the grass, at the same tree everyday, and take my time. Or I would walk late at night with a bottle of hot water underneath my jacket because it was cold outside, and I would record some thoughts or observe the city when nobody was there.

It was wonderful and I feel extremely privileged for having the opportunity to experience such a vacuum in time and in space. It’s certainly a luxury in such a harsh and unjust world to be able for a little bit to be absolutely careless. When there are so many suffering or living in poverty or just preoccupied with so many everyday things, I was just taking time to work on myself and reflect upon the world, the individuals, nature and the overall surrounding reality (that is seemingly abnormal, chaotic and unrelated, yet there is an omnipresent and underlying causality.) #grateful

 What else in Santiago?
– Fun! with Zuza+Anna [terremoto drink = fermented white wine + pineapple ice-cream]
– More fun! with Zuza+Anna

– The psychotherapeutic effect of dance is proportional to how sweaty you  get. sweaty hair means good progress.

– My friends at el Barco and many others that I met in Santiago were well-educated, knowledgeable and they had an idea of what’s going on around the world. I had a lot of thought-provoking discussions, and it was interesting and indeed pleasurable to see that after one year of travelling in South America and listening “oh, you are from Greece?! Platón, Sócrates!!”, someone indeed knew about Plato, Socrates, about Alexander the Great etc. Of course I am not implying that the past year I had no meaningful interactions, neither I am comparing or complaining. I am just saying I missed this kind of communication and it fit well with Chile in general. Chile maintains, for me, a very nice balance between the cultural side (the latino-american element) and the functional side (having a state that actually works) (in Greece we are still lacking this).

– Also, the point I made earlier about my friend Nicolas, I realise it holds true for all the residents of El Barco (Richie is included as a former “passenger”). It is indeed a wonderful quality having the ability to enjoy life, live intensely, seize every opportunity and at the same time be responsible and make progress in every field (be it work, studies or I don’t know). It’s hard to keep the right balance.

– As I mentioned, in Santiago I was surrounded by couples. This was very beautiful but also irritated my desire to be in a relationship, despite feeling self-sufficient and happy with being single.

Love and being loved is something that we always seek.

Something crazy: In one of my night walks at the Bellavista I was invited to sit with a man who had a big portable speaker playing by the street. He was asking for money from the passers-by and in exchange we has… putting songs. He had some 2-3 friends around. He was one step before being homeless, but he had a shelter and some basic hygiene standards. We sat together talking for more than 1 hour, drinking cheap wine that they had to hide every time the police was around. Then they suggested to go for a walk, to sit at a park. I was ok with the idea. Not that I trusted them but I was willing to explore how this would evolve. The guy that initially invited me, who kept repeating how cool Greeks are, at some point put his hand into my pocket and took my mobile phone. For the 5 first seconds I thought “no way…” but then he was not giving it back, pretending that he wanted to make a phone call… Of course I wouldn’t engage in a proper fight, but I wouldn’t just let my phone away like this.. I was trying to reach the phone while he had his hands extended at his back, and while he was insisting on not giving it to me I was in the right position to bite him, and so I did. Oh, I bit him for good at the chest. Got the phone back in 2 seconds and left jogging and thinking: what a hypocrite?! I would prefer an honest thief!

Something awkward: in Santiago I read a book called On the road, by Jack Kerouac. The style of writing and the content were in perfect sync with my state at that point in time and the book affected me profoundly. The thing is how this book came into my hands. I only knew the name Kerouac, nothing more – if he was a writer or football player or astronaut I didn’t know. The name just rang a bell. And then someone at some point while travelling told me “you have to read On The Road, you ‘ll like it because it’s about travelling… it is what you do”. One month before Santiago I was listening some poems on YouTube by the Greek surrealist poet Andreas Embirikos and he mentioned the name; Kerouac, and then he had a poem dedicated exclusively to this book! AND THEN I go to Santiago, I found myself hosted at the house of the friends of the boyfriend of a friend of mine, and there it is, on top of the piano. and Thomas says “of course bro, read it!” and it is in English too! The original version, the language of Kerouac. wow!

Something annoying: I stayed 6 weeks in El Barco. Before I left we had something like a farewell party.. Lots of persons I met during that time, came. I was so happy that I got too drunk too quickly and found myself in a bed after throwing up. dammit

Something improbable: An awkward coincidence took place. Not only I met a Greek guy travelling – the 3rd in 1 year in South America – but he also was travelling by his bicycle!! What is the probability?! Dimitris!! We spent some time together, we met some friends of a friend of him (that were staying at the 14th floor in a small apartment which if not the first is definitely in the top 3 of the most beautiful houses I have been in my life), we talked about life, and I hope I ‘ll meet him again because we didn’t say goodbye properly.

Something AWESOME: My time in El Barco…! Thank you guys for everything… I know it’s been a while without being in contact but I always think of you with love and gratitude..

And after Santiago?

After Santiago…. it’s crazy, but this country had more to offer. I am sure it had much more to offer than what I finally received, but certainly what I experienced in total is… just crazy. After Santiago I took a bus to go again to the city that I stopped cycling before I go to Santiago. It’s called Antofagasta.

I am looking for a cheap place to stay because I had spent a lot in Santiago. First very cheap room: I woke up at the middle of the night due to an awful smell and smoke..! the roof leaks and drops of water are falling into the power strip (πολύμπριζο) and at the tablet…! the owner of that place doesn’t give me my money back (for the night) because as he was saying “I cannot control the water of rain!” – goodness… I leave this place. Second very cheap room: I forget my watch at the shower! ohhh yes, this story oh my god now I remember, check this story:

I am in Antofagasta. After so much time in Santiago I felt guilty that I hadn’t written anything about my already 2,5 months in Chile. I said I’ ll do it now. I stay awake for some 30 hours, writing and video editing, and then I decide to take a shower to refresh myself. I finish shower and go to bed because I was very tired.. I woke up in two hours time for no obvious reason (!) and I am very upset; the first thing I do is grab my left-hand wrist with my right hand.. MY WATCH!!??!! Instantly I think about the shower I took before bed, I run to the bathroom and the watch nowhere to be found. That time at the hostel it’s me, an Argentinian man, Marcello, who is extremely friendly and a couple that I met in the morning but they left before I take the shower and they are not back. The strange thing, among others, is that I woke up RIGHT at the moment the cleaning lady was about to leave. I ask her: did you find a watch in the bathroom? and the first thing she says is “aaaah, you shouldn’t leave anything in the bathroom..” I raise my voice saying “I didn’t ask you this, I asked if you found anything..” she said “no, no, no”. I almost beg her to give me my watch back saying that we all know it was her. She leaves without wanting to further discuss. The owner comes, a very good lady at her 50s, teacher. I am telling her and she starts crying because I let her know that this watch was very important to me, and I have it since my mother was alive, 2008… She calls the cleaning lady, (it was Sunday), she calls the cleaning lady asking from her to come tomorrow and not the next weekend, that it was her next working day. She says yes but never comes up because she was “angry because I accused her” (she said over the phone, the following day).

Screenshot (22) (Medium)This watch meant so much to me. This watch was more Angelos Georgopoulos than myself. Literally. And I mean it, literally. Since 2008 that I owned the watch, in terms of my personality I have changed immensely, obviously. In terms of my body, I am not the same either.. Every 7 years more or less the vast majority of our cells die, and new cells take their place. Only brain cells (except a part) and at heart (some of them), cells do not die/being replaced… This watch was more Angelos Georgopoulos than myself. Hahahaaaaa!! I lost it and I got very very sad, despite I don’t want to be attached to things.. I bought the same watch again.

The only reason for sharing this story is that for me it is a breathtaking proof that what we call consciousness is only the tip of the iceberg. I went to bed without the slightest idea that I had forgotten my watch upstairs. I woke up having the knowledge, the information, that my watch is not there, with me. This alone is crazy enough. Then, there is the awkward thing that I woke up right at the moment the cleaning lady was about to leave, and as it seems she took it. I mean someone has to take it; it didn’t disappear. Very awkward!

Thankfully I found someone from couchsurfing to host me and I left that place. I found Gabriela, who hosted me for 2 days and it was very nice because we connected straight away. Apart from watching the same YouTube channels, that nobody during the trip had no idea about these channels, we had profound talks about life and it was very beautiful! Thanks Gabi!

I left Antofagasta with the plan to enter Argentina taking the shortest route.

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By no means I didn’t want to go back to Calama, and then to San Pedro and then enter Argentina from the northern pass since there was another route that was shorter. The problem was the 250 km of uphill from Antofagasta to Socaire, because this road not being the main one, there was not even a simple kiosk… no water refill.. nothing.

It was insane and also the nice part was that I found myself in a wonderful and usually very touristic area but I was at the low-season so the hostel that I stayed was just (another one!) couple,

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Jesus from Argentina and Elsa from France…

We had wonderful time and the whole hostel for us.

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I prepared A LOT of food,

I bought emergency kits for warming-up, I checked the route and I left for what it would be extremely difficult…

It took me 8 hours for 42 km… and not only this. I almost reached the end of the first great uphill and I realized that the sun is about to set… I couldn’t believe it… I was feeling like I spent 3, maximum 4 hours on the bike, but it was 8… I am at 4.400 m altitude, the sun is setting, I just stopped cycling and I am all sweaty, I start feeling that this is going to be a COLD night. Not only this…

In an attempt to pitch the tent at a little opening that had no snow, I had to pass from a snowy area that it was frozen, but not… frozen enough! I take the first step, all good, the second OK, the third finds me 20cm into the snow and now I have snow for good into my one shoe and I am trying to carry everything into the not snowy area, set the tent, change clothes… my camera is off because of the cold, same with both of the phones, my watch was stolen.. I have no idea of time… my foot gets numb BUT… I can clearly feel pain.. I feel dizzy because of the high altitude.. I am repeating to myself “stay focused, stay focused, in a bit you ‘ll be ok”. The 6 liters of water that I had been carrying have started to turn to ice.. My sleeping bag (comfort zone -7 °C) is usually very warm but now I am wearing all of my clothes too and I am still in the border line… I try to use the warming kit but there is a verb in spanish in the how-to-use that I don’t know what it means… finally after 20 minutes of shaking this sachet of a chemical thing it starts producing heat.. I manage to sleep but I wake up in 3 hours or so when the effect of this is over.. I sleep and I wake up every 20 minutes. The sun comes out… Glory be to God.. the water is a solid ice piece, the food is 100%  frozen , the electronics don’t work… but I am ok! The only problem is that I have no water and there are no cars because the road is closed due to bad weather… I eat snow for some hours and then my stomach is on fire.. I put snow in an empty bottle and later in the day melts because of the stong sunlight.

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During the day, the camera comebacks to life

That day I had less uphill but still I had to focus to finish the uphill before the sunset because it was so steep that you couldn’t camp at all.

Next day there is some traffic. It seems that they opened the road for 1-2 hours. Drivers give me water, and I eat the pieces of food that I have put in a smaller pot and let them in the sun. There is a lot of silence, the sun is very strong, and then the downhill starts and I feel sooooo good! 5th time of crossing the Andes by bike, seems I am making it! I find this
and my tent is tailor-made for this little place there that offers excellent coverage from the stroooong winds. I try to sleep but I am thinking… all of these rocks that are close to the tent… how did  they end up here..? they  most probably fell. I got up and out into the extreme cold in order to relocate the tent. I still have two sos-warm-up sackets… One for the feet, one for the hands. I am again at the border line of being frozen because now I am not protected by the rocks and the wind multiplies the sense of cold. I managed to sleep, but I remember thinking “oh, Angelos, man.. you should plan for the worse… if the air-mattress gets a puncture… and you find yourself directly in contact with the ground what will you do??”
I wake up happy that I am alive but clearly it was a bad night’s sleep. I ride my way to the borders and… life is beautiful!

same photo, with decreased (left) and increased (right) brightness.

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Don’t forget, we LITERALLY are stardust!


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