Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Las Condes (Santiago), Chile

Hotel Park Inn

Not much sleep last night - maybe 3 hours. Up at 6:30 to pack up and check out of the Holiday Inn Express. I was out in record time, 45 minutes, and driving east to the Hotel Park Inn, two blocks from Williamson Balfour Motors (BMW). Checking in at 7:30, I was asked for passport and documents on my vehicle, which struck me as odd, but the manager said it's to avoid paying taxes during my stay.

I noticed the price was $40, not the $50 mentioned yesterday. Room 211 in this aging, but still well-appointed hotel, once someone's pride and joy. Meticulous detail and high-quality fixtures. The original owners were Swiss, I think.

Arrived at Williamson Balfour at 8:00, where Marcello wrote up a work order with a long list of items. I told him to replace the right hand pannier, at a mere $525. As Jim said yesterday, "it's only money." But the cost of maintaining and repairing this bike on the road has been far greater than I anticipated (in part due to my own inability to keep the tires on the ground.)

Walked to a nearby Starbucks, that was just one of their satellite storefronts. Searched around for something to have for breakfast (in too much of a hurry to eat at "Holiday Inn", and I didn't want to take a chance on the vacant Park Inn.) "Caved in" and went to McDonald's. Wanted a sandwich of some sort, but at 9:30, they were only serving their so-called breakfast. I passed.

Went to Lider Mercado, a huge subterranean grocery and department store, right across from Williamson Balfour. Mostly just browsed, fascinated at the modern complex, but bought a few snack items.

Down the street, an Adidas outlet displays their slogan: "Adidas: impossible is nothing."

Next, I walked a half-mile to Mallsports, a large mall devoted entirely to outdoor activities, with shops dedicated to surfing, motorcycling, camping, boating, skiing, etc. (Jim says this is the gateway to the ski areas.) There's even a BMW gear shop (a part of Williamson Balfour,) a Garmin GPS shop and Fox motorcycle accessories shop.

At the Andes Shop, I was excited to see a Petzl head lamp and thought I'd finally replace the one that died, but the price was over $50, about double that in the U.S.!

My motorcycle (on display in the BMW shop) sells for $21,320 here (versus about $17,000 in the U.S.) I assume that's plus 17% VAT!

With the affluence in the area, comes some of the features I find so repulsive in American culture: the intense "competitive lifestyle" (people dressed for the workout - even when shopping for groceries), cars racing, the joggers, the fanatical bicyclists, the body fat measuring devices and cardio meters, etc., etc. We've succumbed to the marketing god.

To counter this trend, I went to dinner at Botto restaurant and bar, ordering a "Chivito" sandwich heaped with ham, cheese, avocado, lomo (beef loin), fried egg, lettuce and tomato (!) on a great bread. I must do my part to restore sanity to this world.

Sunset around 9:00 p.m. I love it!

At one intersection, while I waited for the signal to change, I saw six BMW 1150s going in different directions, including two police bikes. These big bikes are very common in this city!

Also common is "stoplight entertainment": jugglers, acrobats, clowns. Thirty-second shows, then a quick walk through the vehicle line-up for tips.

It's hot here, which seems very strange. Not used to sweating!

Bought a little bag of Ariel powdered laundry soap, the stuff I've been using to hand wash laundry since Panama.

Unpacked everything once again. I see Santiago as the final opportunity to shed gear in advance of the great adventure riding of this trip. I'll try to send more things to my storage unit back in Sonoma County.

In La Paz, I was complaining to Geoff and Nina about all the plastics littering the Latin American landscape, but added I'm as guilty as anyone, going through all the plastic water bottles I've emptied. They said that since Mexico, they've been using their MSR filter to produce clean drinking water.

I've been carrying such a filter all along, but considered it only for emergency use. Odd, it never occurred to me to use it all the time! So, tonight I started filtering water into leftover plastic bottles.

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