Walking down the clean streets of Santiago felt more like being in Europe than Latin America. The New Year’s Eve confetti and trash littering every inch of road and sidewalk had been removed by what must have been an army of nighttime cleaners. The streets and buildings sparkled in the morning sun. Every now and then I’d cross a neglected street carpeted with tiny pieces of colored paper, still strewn with bright banners, silly string, cardboard, firecrackers and the odd festive hat.
We continued on our mission until we came across a parade of Carabineros de Chile, the national police force, in full uniform atop tall sleek horses. Each mounted officer held a staff and flag, others on the ground blew trumpets or just stomped around in shiny black knee-high boots. A large stray dog lay sleeping amongst the noise and hooves, totally oblivious to the bustle.
Continuing on, we eventually found the Servicio de Impuestos Internos building where we succeeded in getting our RUT. This string of numbers allows foreigners to buy motorcycles registered to their name with semi-made up “residential” addresses. With the blessings of the RUT people and excitement building, we paid the $18 dollar taxi ride to Avenida Vitacura where we visited several motorcycle stores. On the shopping list were the Honda xr125 or similar Yamaha, a Chinese Euromot 200 motard, and a Honda CGL125. After some inspection (bouncing on the seat to check for comfort) and a lunch meeting to discuss our options, we decided on the CGL125, the very cheapest new bike we could find and a $1,000USD less than the others. This little beauty cost less than $1,300USD, with a body style straight from the ’70s. Kath and I liked it purely based on aesthetic reasons, but Rob assured us the engine was just as good as the Honda xr or Yamaha. We’d just pay a greater discomfort price when off-roading with less suspension, but the savings (and the bright red color) were hopefully going to be worth it. We decided to pick them up the next day, cash in hand.
We returned to the Landay Hostel, jetlagged and sweaty from the 6 hour mission around the city, and tried desperately to stay awake for another few hours. Rob succumbed to a nap while Kath and I had coffee at a little round table near a large open window, the sounds of the city streaming in.
It’s still strange being here. Just a few short weeks ago I was in Australia, planning a totally different adventure. The adjustment hasn’t been an easy one, but I am very glad for the company of these two friends. The reader may remember them from a previous blog post where I mention meeting them at a Horizons Unlimited event in Cavendish in October, 2013, and staying at their house a few weeks later while heading back to Canberra.
We’re all school teachers and rode the same motorcycles when we met (KL250 and a KLR650). Kath turns 30 tomorrow, I turn 30 in February, and Rob turns 30 in March. What better way to celebrate our new decade than with shiny new bikes at the foot of the Andes mountains? It is a bit daunting, but nevertheless off we go, three nearly 30 year olds on a serious adventure.
Welcome to 2014 and happy 30th birthday, Kath! We’re right behind you!