Hanging in Santiago has its benefits. There’s good food, drink and all the modern conveniences of home. You can even brush teeth and drink with tap water and throw toilet paper into the toilets. When walking cars actually stop and give pedestrians the right of way. But beyond these simple appreciations, Cristian is a veritable ringleader when it comes to attracting motorcycle travelers. The other night after hanging up the phone with one of his friends in Buenos Aires he proudly annonced that another traveler would arrive on Wednesday (January 17, 2007). When questioned about who, his information was light. The guy wasn’t American but had been in the states. He thought it was Salvador, but not sure. He thought he was Italian. But he was coming to Santiago to get his bike serviced at BMW.
My brain racked. There couldn’t be two Salvador’s riding BMWs in South America. “Is it Salvador Carlucci?” I asked with curiosity peaked. Sal and I have been communicating for well over a year. In fact, he’s one of the “Friends of WorldRider” whose donations keep this website going and put gas in Doc’s tank. But could it be? Last time I checked his website he was in Bolivia. Or so I thought.
Sure enough. Wednesday night Salvador Carlucci, tall and mixing Nicauraguan and Italian blood, speaking quickly and matter of factly showed up at Cristian’s door. Like old friends absent for well too long we embraced and shook hands as if we’d known each other for years. I’d never met him before. But Sal left Huntington Beach, California last June and has already made his way to Ushuaia more than a month ago. He came to Santiago to service his Dakar.
We’d have time to catch up later, but Cristian threw us all in his car and took us to a motorcycle barbeque — that is, a barbeque attended by nearly a dozen motorcyclists. Six or seven bikes were scattered around a back yard in this Santiago suburb, while motorcycle movies including the ubiquitous Easy Rider played on a television set outside on the patio and heavy metal favorites including Black Sabbath cranked out the speakers. A massive asado (barbeque) of meat and vegetables cooked over an open flame on a satellite dish converted into a massive wok. It was the most unusual BBQ I’d seen, and until the protruding part of the dish was produced for proof, I would’ve never guessed. When the chow was sufficiently cooked everyone received a spoon or fork and a roll. Delicious. Later we set up two laptops, mine and one of the other riders, and shared stories and travel pictures.
My last night in Santiago Cristian took all of us (Jeremiah & Salvador) to an Asian Fusion resteraunt located in one of the tony malls of Las Condes. Afterwords, we emptied the shelf of wine and polished what beers were left in Cristian’s refrigerator as we stammered, philosophized and recorded interviews, comments and stories that will make for an interesting WorldRider PodCast sometime soon (I gotta make some time to produce at least 4 episodes in queue). In the morning a knock at my bedroom door and a hug and handshake later and Jeremiah was off for Buenos Aires. By the time I stumbled into the living room where Salvador made his camp, he moaned I was the one to blame for his headache.
Santiago Satellite Asado! — thanks to Nicolás Varas for the photos!
Yet it was time. I hung around until Cristian returned home for lunch before hopping on Doc and heading south. My original plan was to make it to Pucón, a lake resort sitting at the foot of a snow capped volcano about three hundred miles south of Santiago. Instead I got as far as the mid-sized agricultural capital of the region, Los Angeles. The road south bordered by vineyards, orchards and ranches was quite boring. But now I was just making time.
Salvador & Jereimah.
The shaved headed, mumbling and slurring owner of the Hotel Santa Maria, a flea-bag hotel just off the plaza in Los Angeles, Chile really pissed me off. First, he couldn’t give me a key to the room. When I came back from unloading and parking the bike he had to change the door handle in order to give me a key. The place smelled of mildew and squeezing through the door to use the shower in the awful shared bathroom was a lesson in castration prevention as the sharp edges of the door gleamed in the dim lighting. I can’t imagine how someone with a few more pounds and more girth around the waist could get into the filthy vertical coffin. EVen worse, when I arrived the guy burned incense to try to mask the smell and when asked for rates he pointed to a sign that showed a single for 10,000 or 15,000 pesos. I agreed to the 10,000 pesos, but when I came back from dinner he told me that the room I was cost $15,000 pesos (about 30 dollars). I argued and he told me the cheaper rooms were all occupied. Disgusted I headed back to my room passing another where smoke oozed into the hallway and through the haze I spotted at least 5 guys sharing a room my size. I couldn’t bring myself to slipping between the sheets, opting to use my silk cocoon bag liner as my bed-sheet.
But all wasn’t lost in Los Angeles. The next morning I met a most gracious and passionate man as I loaded Doc for the journey to Púcon. A middle-adged entreprenuer about 5’8″ runs a business just below the hotel offering adventure tours, selling real estate, offering fax services, publishing a local newsletter, video production and photographic services. This guy does it all. He had me on the street for over an hour sharing photographs, magazines and his life’s story. He had his first child when he was just fifteen years old. His second at sixteen. Fifteen years later he’s divorced but would rather not sleep alone. At 44 years old the guy has an army of grand children, keeps a blog, foto log and snapped a couple dozen pictures of me before I finally broke free and headed to Púcon.