Travellers, myself included, love a good whinge about the escalating costs of travel. “Chile is unbelievably expensive,” is a common turn of phrase and “watch out for Patagonia.” I’m sure noodles, bread and cheese cant be that expensive. Though now in a new country the first important thing for me to do is go to the supermarket and gauge the price of fish. It is an important process and not to be rushed. Decisions must be made, which shall be my go to biscuit? Ideally not cheap and lacking substance but nor can they be top of the range that would be at least 30 pence over budget, somewhere in the middle, preferably with oats. I have a lot of stress in my life with all these big decisions. Chocolate is a no go here at well over a quid. It turns out Chile is expensive, its plain cheese sarnies for me, ham and salami are just a few bob more than I’m able. And don’t get me started on honey…its over a fiver!
The supermarkets are playing the below par Christmas music, the likes of frosty the snow man, I even saw my first distastefully decorated giant fake Christmas tree yesterday. It doesn’t matter how much tat you through at the problem of a hot Christmas it just doesn’t have the same festive feel as a wintery season.
We travellers are a touch self entitled, mainly from Europe, Australia and a few of the Americans who actually have a passport – coming from the “developed” world we feel that everywhere else is cheap or should be. When a traveller visits somewhere which is expensive they are taken aback, how can this be? You were rubbing sticks together to make fire a few years ago, things should be cheap. Well Chile doesn’t do to bad for its self, though I must admit I do wish that it was cheaper than things are at home. Once again I am reminded of how very affordable things are in the UK despite our complaints, whether people are actually complaining I do not know but the media often tells us that we are or comments on the sky rocketing price of a pint of milk; farmers are practically giving the stuff away. One thing that is cheap here is the fruit and my god it is good. The strawberries, simply magnificent. Life will never be the same again. I actually regret having them for I may never bother buying a great British strawberry again.
You don’t travel to Chile for the food though. Completo Italiano o Salsa sounds exotic, well Italian, which is perhaps exotic if you are a Chilean. But what it in fact is, is a “Italian” style hot dog. They are famous for them after all. You know, the sort you might feed to a lover whilst slowly cruising the canals of Venice and supping Prosecco. Oh wait no, its in fact the sort that you might nosh down at a ball game in New York or perhaps drunkenly purchase from a new hipster street vendor. Come the light of day the following morning you realise that your bearded hipster is actually the local homeless man using a shopping trolley as a make shift grill positioned above a steaming vent from the subway on which he also lives.
These hot dogs are everywhere and I cant help but think that the ingredients can only comprise of lips, nipples an another unappetising body part. Just look at the end of one and you can probably guess which. They are however disguised, hidden beneath an ample layer of tomatoes and smashed avocado; squint as you eat them, I always buy two, and it could be an Italian ciauscolo on focaccia with fresh tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and avocado to top it off.
The national dish is a mountain of chips, non descript meat, with two fried eggs on top. The cyclists dream but more the sort of thing you might have with a pint whilst watching the footy rather than in a place with table clothes.
Cuisine aside and Chile is proving nice, all country lanes and vast vineyards; in the distant the snow caped mountains loom, a number of them are that typical conical shape of now dormant or extinct volcanoes. Occasionally you see one with its top lopped off, a reminder of a more volatile time when it lost its head with and almighty pop.
The food might be questionable but the wine has a good reputation. Casablanca is their answer to their rivals Mendoza. They don’t always get on with their neighbouring Argentina. It dates back I believe to the Islas Malvinas translate the colloquialism, the Falklands. I have now however left the tranquil settling of winding roads through vineyards and fruit plantations and have moved on to the Pan Americana, the main highway through Chile. It is part of the longest road network in the world, linking the two continents of North and South America it stretches 19,000miles from Alaska to Patagonia. It does however have a small blip in the Darien Gap between Panama and Columbia; so it doesn’t really connect the two land masses. I’m in a rush to get to Patagonia and its the most direct route, I’m very excited.
You might think that a motorway or highway is frightfully dangerous but there is ample space in the hard shoulder and I am highly visible. Its the blind corners of the country lanes and the perilous edges of the mountain roads that pose the most danger. Plus the motorway is straight and flat just how I like it. That and I want to make sure that I am somewhere decent for Christmas, not camping on my tod in the sticks with nothing but mozzies company.