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The International Writers Magazine
:A Year in Chile with Dermot Sullivan

A Santiago Diary - Part 4
Dermot Sullivan

Earthquakes, mountain climbing - now just everyday life in Chile for Dermot...

I have made it past the two month mark in Santiago. I am alive and fighting fit. I have been walking and climbing and generally doing outdoor things ... which is quite unlike me. Climbing mountains is a cheap form of entertainment. It's value for money as well ... it's when you want to climb up the big peaks that it becomes pricey.

I climbed up a mini-mountain that it outside my building on Easter Sunday. I had been meaning to do it for a while but my new flatmate was the spur that I needed. Well, it was either go climbing or stay in and watch some Crummy Mexican 'comedy' show called 'El Chavo'. It's about a family who dress up as children or something even though they're fifty ... I think. Either way it had shades of the Bumblebee Man from 'The Simpsons'.

One could use the road to climb to the top of the hill but we forsook it and went directly up. Unfortunately we met some hermit who lived in a shack with his six hounds (from hell). We beat a swift retreat from that lunatic and marched up to the top to where a statue of the Virgin Mary overlooks Santiago. There were many people there as it was Easter Sunday. On the way up we saw many people having barbecues and picnics with their families ... this would seem to be the way that Chileans celebrate Easter.

At the top of the hill there was also a little chapel. It appeared to have a connection to the Basque people as there was a plaque in Euskara nailed to the wall. The was also an oak tree that I suppose Basques go and dance around as in Guernica. There are many Basques in Chile though few speak Euskara. There greatest contribution seems to be have left an army of unpronounceable surnames, especially in the south of the country.

The weekend before last I went up to the mountains again. I climbed to the foot of a glacier which was about 3,250 metres above sea-level. I could have gone higher but I had to make a speedy descent jumping over scree to make sure I got the last bus home. It was great to be out of the pollution of Santiago and into the silent calm of the mountains. Chile has some excellent national parks. This one was called 'El Morado' and was about 15 km from the Argentinian border. It was super. Being a dumb gringo however I was unprepared for the sun at that height so my skin was microwaved a bright red.
Once you get outside of Santiago then you see both Chileans of Spanish descent and native people on horseback and wearing broad-rimmed hats.

In Argentina these cowboys (for want of a better term) are called 'gauchos' but here in Chile they are called 'Huasos'. In fact the national dance of Chile is called the 'Cueca' and is danced by a huaso. All you need is a hankerchief and the Chilean flag ... most Chileans seem to think the dance is ridiculous, I'm inclined to agree in fact. It's not something I'll be trying.

I experienced my first seismic tremor the other day. I was in a tall building (though not as tall as the one I live in) and I suddenly felt the earth sway ... as if I was on a boat. This place is apparently due an earthquake ... luckily Chile has a reputation for building earthquake-proof buildings. We shall wait and see. I was glad though it didn't happen when I was up in the mountains. The place was littered with large rocks. That's it for the moment. I shall write again soon.
© Dermot Sullivan May 2004

Santiago Diary 1
Santiago Diary 2

Santiago Diary 3
Diary No 4

Diary No 5

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