One Year Later: Santiago, Chile

I wonder what the weather is like in central Bolivia today.

I’ll bet that road from Potosí to Uyuni is washed out and muddy.

For it was one year ago today I took my fateful plunge into the mud of Tica Tica – a tiny Altiplano village in Central Bolivia. So today I remember and re-read the ordeal that sent me back to the United States for nine months. Jeremiah sits at the dining table here with me and his iBook. When we departed in cold weather under blue skies on the morning of January 15, 2006 I never imagined I would still be in South America one year later. And that Jeremiah would join me on this anniversary.

Santiago Skyline
The city of Santiago, Chile

Virgen Cristobal
Staute of Virgen de San Cristobol stands high above the bustling city of Santiago.

But here I sit in Chile. Still relishing in the down time provided by my hospitable and generous host Cristian — who’se offered his hand at cooking great meals while we’ve sampled similarly tasty Chilean wines. Busy studying for his MBA while working at a winery and serving on the board and consulting with a vocational school, Cristian still manages to find time to not only act as a great tour guide but to cook, sip wines and endure weighty conversations until 2am each night!

But as these January days pass by, I am anxious to get back on the road and to the bottom of the world.

We were joined for a few days by Levy, a young Hungarian foreign exchange student. During his high school years Cristian spent a year staying with a family and attending high school in Maine. Levy just finished spending a year in Valdivia, a Chilean city south of Santiago. From a small town outside Budapest, Levy arrived in Chile with a barely a grasp of the Spanish language. Today he’s fluent and lamented to me that he thinks, speaks and dreams in Spanish though he can speak Hungarian, German, English and perhaps other languages. For a 17 year old, returning to school in Hungary will be a culture shock. But little does he know today just how much his year in Chile will impact his life and provide an outlook quite different than his friends who’ve never left their hometown in Hungary.

For his last night in town, he didn’t want to go to sleep. He was saving it for the long plane ride back to Budapest. So after a tummy filling dinner of Tapas, beer and wine. Long after Cristian took to the sack I stayed up and chatted with him until 5 in the morning. Just before I could barely keep my eyes open he revealed a small gift for me. “I’ve been thinking what can I give you, Allan, so that you will remember me.” He unfolded a small Hungarian flag and presented to me. I promised to unfold it again when I arrive at the bottom of the world and send him a photo.

Allan Levy Santiago
Levii and I proudly wave the Hungarian flag during his last day in South America.

So while BMW of Santiago completes my 30k mile service on Doc, I think back and forward. For with new rubber, sprockets, chain, filters and oil I will in a few days journey south. Meanwhile draft stories and photos of my ride from Cafayate to Mendoza and offer the Andes here to Santiago await my attention. So I promise to catch up on my writing and photography, because the roads, scenery and people I’ll encounter in the weeks ahead are going be exciting.