Chile begins in a mess of stray dogs and earthquake tremors. The latter occuring the night of my arrival, after surviving a day in a haze of jetlag and Escudo beer and making my first real use of Spanish in six months, I wake to a short-lived but violent shaking of the apartment block where I was staying.
“Is there a Metro station below the building that Cristian didn’t tell me about?”
I wonder, dreamily. And then:
“A plane must be taking off really close by!”
Both of which were fairly innocent thoughts to have while the earth is shaking around you, but then again, as earthquakes are not a regular occurance in Australia (!), the thought that one could be about to occur wasn’t an idea to naturally register with me!
It was only when I looked outside the livingroom window and saw dozens of other apartments’ lights being flicked on, that I realised that I was not the only one experiencing this shaky moment. My instinct to run the hell out of the flat is the more earthquake aware Ella gestures us to an internal doorway and our hosts tell us to wait it out. A minute later, the shaking stops. The four of us sit infront of 24 hour news channel listening to reports that it was, in fact, a tremor…while my foggy brain remembers the presence of the cordillera I’d only just been able to make out that afternoon, hidden behind the cloud of smog that forever hangs over Santiago.
“Of course, an earthquake’s a possibility. They’re why that massive mountain range over there exists, you dope!”
So, I was jolted into my trip with a 6.3 experienced communally by people along 600km of coastline. Welcome to Chile!
Wanders through the city of Santiago later on tug at my heartstrings while toughening other peoples’. The sheer multitude of dogs (and huge, beautiful, often pure-bred ones) venturing through the city’s traffic-clogged streets makes me want to feed and adopt each one, while violently smiting the owner who abandoned their pooch the moment the out-grew their modest flat. This attitude is deemed soft by some locals (who claim that the dogs eat better than a lot of people) and correct by others who attest that the general populous is unfeeling when it comes to the idea of abandoning a previously “loved” pet.My short-lived career as La Santa de los Perros Vagos continues the next day, when Cristian and I venture out to Cajón del Maipo (wine and trekking country) and are followed on our hike by two street dogs: both sleek, honey-coloured delights. Newly-christened Quillo and Simba run after us for kilometres, climb over streams and across log bridges, and run after us when we finally hitch out of there. I’m distraught. Cristian is unmoved! I think I need to grow a pair, when it comes to our canine friends.