The International Writers Magazine:A Year in Chile with Dermot
Santiago Diary - Part 4
Earthquakes, mountain climbing - now just everyday life in Chile
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
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 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.