While we are on a nostalgia tour of past trips, my 2009 trip to Chile with Mr. Mike stands out as an adventure of a lifetime. Though I originally decided against this trip, I changed my mind a few years later, and decided to go (a year after I retired). It was a great decision, and resulted in an adventurous, unplanned itinerary, with some interesting twists and turns.
We landed in Santiago to start our trip. Our goal in this city? Visit coffee “with legs” shops, try some of their famous conger eel soup, and see a few sights, before heading north. Why coffee with legs? The coffee shops are staffed with young ladies in high heels (and mini skirts), who serve as baristas and waitresses. One local tried to send us to a strip club with coffee, but we stayed on course. The eel soup or stew was quite good, at the famous Augusto’s. In fact, we met both Augusto (pictured above) and his son at their huge, but empty restaurant. And the entire Brazilian soccer team (also pictured above) toasted us!!!
But the highlight, at least for me, was meeting the famous author, barrister, and stand up comic, Barry the V from Cape Town, South Africa. We were both hanging out in the internet room, remember those? We started chatting while emailing, and our quickly formed friendship ended with an invitation for Barry join Mike and me for dinner. Little did we know……..
Perhaps you remember the story. After a few cocktails at various bars near the hotel, we ended up at a meat emporium next door to our hotel. At 6pm, we were the only ones there, as Chileans, like most others in South America, tend to dine rather late. Several bottles of wine later, the joint was packed, and we were still there at midnight!
Well, three steaks, and many bottles of wine later, we became best friends with Barry. He invited us to visit him in Cape Town. He was traveling the world, having sold his law practice, and leaving his beautiful English wife, home alone. As we staggered back to our hotel next door, we promised to stay in touch. Mike thought he was a little too edgy for our liking, but I thought he was quite entertaining! Maybe it was the wine?
Fast forward to 2012, and Mr. Mike and I were on several safaris in southern Africa. After, we decided to visit Barry and Mrs. V for a night or two, then head out on our own. Guess what? We ended up staying about two weeks at Chez Varkel, and had the grandest time as their guests, in their large and lovely home in Camps Bay. Their domestic help did our laundry, even ironing my underwear!
Barry left Santiago the next day, headed north to Lima, then across the Pacific to Australia and Asia. We figured to never see him again. We charted a course to the coast the next day, soon forgetting Barry. But we kept in touch, resulting in the Cape Town visit in 2012. We even met up again here in California (mostly the Bay Area, Napa, and Monterey), before heading to Colombia and Ecuador together.
So, yes, I miss those old internet rooms. I have met the best, and most interesting people there. Jason and Chun from Penang were hanging out in the internet room on the Malay island of Langkawi. After a meal together, we ended up visiting them on their home island, Penang, THREE times!!! BTW, Penang has the best food in the world!
Several locals we spoke to suggested a bus ride out to the coast. So, we took a cab to the bus station, and bought tickets for the 2+ hour bus ride to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, the “Riviera” of the Chilean coast. The trip seemed quite empty for a few days without Barry, but we managed to get back on track.
Next stop, the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world!