Nikki’s friend Rodolfo’s friend Ronald put us up for three fun nights in Punta Arenas, “the largest city south of the 46th parallel south”. We were dropped on the side of the road on the outskirts of town by Mario #2 on a Friday afternoon, and the first thing I did when we got into town was draw money (very pretty, colourful Monopoly money in denominations of 1,000 Chilean pesos). I mention this only because it took me three tries and caused a wave of nauseating panic. Free tip: select “foreign client” when trying to draw cash in Chile. Oh and, a new country, a new plug-adapter adventure, of course.
While we waited for Rodolfo I had the famous Chilean completo (a hot dog), which is nothing like the Argentinian milanesa completa (a delicious, flat, crumbed piece of beef). The latter wins as far as I’m concerned but you daren’t be honest about that in Chile. See also: fernet versus pisco. Argentinians never seemed terribly fond of Chilenos. The feeling, it turns out, is mutual.
That night we drank wine out of giant glasses with Rodolfo and Ronald – it was my first foray into Chilean wine and I can confidently say that after nearly four months of trying I have not had a single glass of bad wine in this fine country. Everything you’ve heard about Chilean wine is true. We also rocked the karaoke that night; no, not out in a bar, right there in Ronald’s livingroom. The two Rs introduced me to three of my favourite Latin American rock songs, in order of preference: Sin Documentos by Los Rodríguez (from Argentina), En El Muelles de San Blas by Maná (a terribly un-hip band, I was later informed by a Chileno in Santiago, but oh, what a chorus) and Mino by Los Bunkers (Chileans who relocated to Mexico).
… Long story short, unknown songs in foreign tongues were belted out, many precious bottles of wine were cracked (Ronald is a collector) and 1X Rodolfo eventually passed out on the couch.
But the festivities had only just begun. Next day we went for an early lunch at Rodolfo’s cousin’s house. An early lunch where the eating and drinking didn’t stop, not even when the dancing started, and the brave ones (not I) eventually went out at about 2am. That day they marinated more salmon than I have ever seen and yes, I ate it.
One does not simply turn down home-made, Chilean ceviche (right, Craig?).
Damn, it was good.
On Sunday I bought me some legit Chilean hippie pants from a legit Mapuche dude at a street stall and we were treated to an air show – Punta Arenas is a base for the Chilean Air Force and both Rs work as technicians (?) for said air force. The crowd seemed quite into it. In hindsight, that display of military prowess was an interestingly appropriate introduction to the contradiction that is Chile.
After lunch the weather cleared and we went for a walk through the town, through the very striking municipal cemetery, and that evening Nikki and I prepared the meal before we sat down for a movie, all in Spanish, which I only followed because it was an animated children’s story.
Check out more photos of the cemetery here – they came out quite nicely.
I hadn’t planned on going through Punta Arenas at all, but the spoils of my spontaneity was made all the sweeter by the generosity of our hosts … and the ceviche.