Chillán, The most populous urban centre in the central province in Chile. But not a single place to sleep…Hostel’s that is! On entering the outer stretches, an inconspicuous sign hangs over a small wooden door. ‘Hostel’. The ‘Hostel’, was not a hostel, it was a house that had just two rooms with two beds. To get to our room, you had to pass through the living room then the kitchen, up the stairs, past the owners bedroom to ours at the end of the hall. Without keys, returning to the hostel we had to ring and wait and after a short wait of 1 hour (insert angry facial expression), our host appears with us at the door. I could only curse words at her inside my head, hoping the money we had departed with would pay for a spare key. Gerrit was also adamant on our return that the lady owner had been though his bags as his bag which had originally been slung on the bed was now sitting beside the window, open. Gerrit did not find anything missing, but then he did question his ability to actually remember what exactly he had in his bag.
In the morning we waited for 2 hours and moved a distance of 30 metres. Walking back and forth between two different roads. From a region with a considered high population, good Samaritans were lacking. Failing to catch a ride, we walked 5 miles to eventually catch a lift with Horhay,(I mean George) who would explain to us the reason for such hostile hospitality.
“The previous day, a truck driver had been murdered by what was described as a hitchhiker and it had been all over the news”. People were obviously now sceptical about accepting company from wailing thumbs on the side of the road. I couldn’t imagine why then George wanted to pick us up.
Around midday we arrive at a Copec station, the equivalent of an all inclusive holiday resort. Food. Drink. Cars. Trucks and people. This time whilst shovelling burgers into our starved stomachs, we became or rather I became a curious foreign object to curious young minds.
School children came and sat next to me. “what is your name” they continue to ask and I think this is the only phrase that children here are taught in English, as they would repeat this over and over, even when I had already parted with that information. Soon I was crowded by a classroom of children, all wanting to practice this one phrase, fortunately they were beckoned by an elder to go back to their bus, not before a few of them hung back to part ways with a hug. So all they had asked for was a name and a physical motion of gratitude. I felt so used but also relieved as I had nearly lost my ability to remain sociable with these friendly kids.