I encourage others to share their travels in hopes it inspires others. Whenever a close friend of mine goes on a trip, I ask if they are willing to share on AngelaTravels. To my delight, my friend, Tobias, went on an epic trip to South America and was willing to share his story.
I love Chile. I love Chile like Love At First Sight, when the object of your affection can do no wrong, and make no mistake. Punta Arenas, Chile sits on the Strait of Magellan and offers a mild climate with friendly, helpful people. It is clean from the moment you step off of the bus, modern enough to be comfortable, thoughtful enough to preserve interesting, original architecture, and progressive enough to allow for the very public existence of many small strip clubs (names such as “Mon Cheri,” logos featuring near-naked women, and opaque windows betray the business inside).
It feels oxymoronic to state that a well-supported exotic dancer industry indicates a progressive society, but I base that sentiment on experiences in Seattle (as a resident), San Francisco (many visits) and Amsterdam (one nine hour overnight layover). Known for their pro-community programs, quality of life focus, and concern for social justice, each of these cities also take an open view toward human sexuality; Amsterdam famously so.
After school, but before nightfall, hordes of teenagers in Punta Arenas meet in the eye-pleasing, well-maintained parks to cavort, cuddle, giggle, and ride twenty-inch BMX bikes freestyle while merchants hawk souvenirs, street musicians perform, and friendly, healthy looking dogs roam freely. Kathmandu, which I visited in a previous trip, also supports a stray dog population, but the Chilean dogs appeared to be unusually and noticeably healthy compared to their eastern relatives. So it seems likely, as Thaddée hypothesized, that the Punta Arenas mutts actually have owners, but citizens allow their pet dogs to run free, per the social norm (we witnessed the same in Ushuaia, although residents seemed to keep the more aggressive beasts behind fences).
Growing up, my cousin and I watched the fictional BMX movie “Rad” often (I still watch and enjoy it today as I enter my forties), which resulted in many daydreams about becoming a freestyle BMX rider, though I lacked the passion and fearlessness to pursue that dream. So I lit up when I saw the bike park in the distance from the bus station when we entered Punta Arenas, and enjoyed watching the bike “gangs” perform nifty tricks off of public structures as we walked the city.
The two restaurants we patronized over the course of our stay were cute, comfortable, clean, pleasant and offered an interesting, yet cozy atmosphere. The dinner establishment featured remarkably tasty food and offered dairy free and gluten free options (though not billed as such, so perhaps unwittingly). The lunch cafe served quality fare at a reasonable price. The U.S. dollar goes far in Chile, thus contributing to my fondness for the city, and leading to the purchase of two souvenirs: the Flag of Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region of which Punta Arenas is the capitol, and a wool hat (Chilean and Argentinian countrysides are almost exclusively sheep farms, so the region specializes in wool).
We dined out on December 17, the night before the worldwide release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So we asked our busser, a twenty-something gent, if there was a movie theatre nearby and if they’d be showing Star Wars. He responded yes, but that Star Wars wouldn’t be shown until January. “It’s a small city,” he explained and thus thwarted my excitement towards the prospect of experiencing a landmark, global, cultural event in a very unique situation. However, the next evening, back in our shared hostel suite, Thaddée found two used Star Wars tickets for a December 18th 3D showing, apparently discarded by the two early-twenties-something French women also staying in our room. I reasoned that wherever the girls had seen the movie probably didn’t offer a midnight showing, so, given that we had plans for the morning and the afternoon of December 18, we wouldn’t have been able to see the movie anyway.
Punta Arenas is a late night city (most likely due to the long daylight hours; one could read a book outdoors from five a.m. to eleven p.m., which is yet another reason to love Chile) which doesn’t serve dinner until eight p.m., so there probably was a midnight showing, thus, I regretted. I regretted trusting our informant and I regretted not leveraging technology by taking the simple step of using the web, available for no additional charge at our hostel. If you’ve been following along closely, this means that, without remorse, I chose not to visit a strip club but am broken up about missing the opportunity to see the latest installation of the Star Wars saga on opening night. That is, despite being a heterosexual male, I had more interest in seeing the Star Wars premiere than I did in seeing beautiful, vivacious, Latina women dance naked on a small, intimate stage. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.
Written by Tobias Cortese.
Travel Date: December 19, 2015