It's been a quick whizz through the northern reaches of Chile, in between my mad time in Bolivia, and Peru Take Two. I didn't stay anywhere around here for longer than two days; and my whole time in Chile has been less than a week. But it was a good introduction to this very long country, and it was certainly a big, contrasting change from Peru and Bolivia. Anyway, I'll be back here in about six weeks' time; second time round to see Santiago and the Lake District, which I imagine will be very different to the deserts of the north.
Yeah, and apparently the north is a fair bit cheaper than the rest! Unfortunately, Chile is a lot more expensive than all of its neighbours. Transport, food, accommodation, and everything else: all at least double what you pay in Peru and Bolivia. It's a very western and a very developed country, but this comes at a high cost. Chile ain't the rough, exotic, and budget destination that other South American nations are. It's pricey. USD$10 minimum for a night's board: that's a small fortune, compared to the prices I'm used to.
More like home
The north is apparently the "less developed" part of Chile; but even up here, being in Chile feels almost like being back home, compared to the radically different — well, everything — that they have in Peru and Bolivia. People live in proper houses. They shop in supermarkets. Many of them have light skin, and are a bit taller. They've travelled outside their own country. They have high-speed Internet and cable TV in their homes. And they go to university.
Being developed and westernised is nice, but it's also boring and bland. Doesn't really hold much appeal for me. And, of course, it does raise those prices.
You call that Spanish?!?
In my past week or so here in Chile, I've barely been able to understand a word that anyone has said to me in Spanish. Chilean Spanish is absolutely awful! They talk really fast, they mumble like hell, and they constantly use local slang that I have no idea how to comprehend. As Chris and I have agreed on: "they just vomit out their words". It would take me a lifetime living here, just to understand someone giving me directions to the bus station.
This is a big contrast to Peru and Bolivia, where I had no problem whatsoever understanding the slow, articulated, and textbook-like Spanish that they speak there. I guess it's because, for a lot of people in Peru and Bolivia, Spanish is their second language as well (first being Quechua or Aymara); so they too speak it like they were taught in school. Whereas in Chile, Spanish is all they speak, so they speak it as badly as we speak English. :P