Crappy Concepción and Lovely Little Lota

Written 29 Jan

The bus ride from Pucon to Concepcion passed in a little bit of a daze, after my very exciting Villarica experience. I arrived in Concepcion and took a (rather expensive – 9000pesos for a 15 minute ride; compare this to 15000pesos for the 6hr ride from Pucon to Concepcion) taxi to my host Karem’s place. Once I arrived, it was off to a birthday party for one of her neighbours, where I met her very nice friends. Apparently, they had all lived in the same complex for over ten years, but only got to know each other after the massive earthquake in 2010, which left them without water, electricity and other basic necessities for over a month. Now they’re all really good friends, which just goes to show that there really is some good that comes out of everything.

The next day, we slept in and Karem, her brother and I headed out at about lunchtime to a feria with horses in a tiny little town called Yumbel. It was a traditional feria which happens once a year, so I was pretty lucky to catch it.

Yay feria! Yumbel, Chile, Jan. 2014

Yay feria!
Yumbel, Chile, Jan. 2014

We had some delish cazuela for lunch, a sort of beef stew with potatoes and other veggies.

Deliciousness in a bowl Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

Deliciousness in a bowl
Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

It reminded me a lot of kambeng soup that we have in Singapore, so I was quite pleased. After lunch, we headed outside the tent to watch the horses run around in circles in a pen full of hay. I have no idea what they were doing, but it was quite a sight.

Run, horsie, run! Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

Run, horsie, run!
Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

Walk quietly and carry a big pitchfork Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

Walk quietly and carry a big pitchfork
Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

We hung out a little more at the feria, watching the traditional folk dance

Dance like nobody's watching! Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

Dance like nobody’s watching!
Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

and drinking wine with peaches soaked in them. Super yummy.

My host Karem enjoying wined-peaches Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

My host Karem enjoying wined-peaches
Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

There was a football game at 6 that evening which Karem’s brother had to attend, so we did too.

Supporters of...the orange team! Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

Supporters of…the orange team!
Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

It turned out to be a really boring match, so I self entertained and took random pictures instead.

Cutie pie and his chips Yumbel, Chile,  Jan 2014

Cutie pie and his chips
Yumbel, Chile, Jan 2014

I don’t even know what the score was at the end. In any case, we headed back home to rest for a bit before going for another birthday celebration for another of Karem’s neighbours. The asado was delicious as usual – I really could eat asados every day. Just thinking about it is making me drool, so I will skip ahead to the next day.

Sunday, the day when everything in the city is absolutely dead. Nothing is open, everyone is in hibernation, and if you get lost, good luck trying to find someone to ask for directions. I went to the main city of Concepcion to wander around on my own because Karem had some stuff to prepare for her trip to Ushuaia. I can sum Concepcion up in three words – boring and ugly.

Random church in Concepción Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Random church in Concepción
Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

The main highlights were the University of Concepción

Main entrance of the University Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Main entrance of the University
Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Mural within the university Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Mural within the university
Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Togetherness, even as statues Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Togetherness, even as statues
Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

and the huge Parque Ecuador.

Interesting people at Parque Ecuador Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Interesting people at Parque Ecuador
Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Children's water play area Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Children’s water play area
Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Hippies singing and dancing Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

Hippies singing and dancing
Concepción, Chile, Jan 2014

…and that’s all there is in Concepcion. To tell the truth, many people have asked me why I went to Concepcion, even Karem and her friends, and I have no idea haha – that’s what happens when you travel without doing any research whatsoever.

On the recommendation of another CouchSurfer, Al, the next day, I headed down to a tiny little town called Lota, which used to be a prosperous mining town some decades ago, but had slid into poverty in recent years.

Welcome to Lota! Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Welcome to Lota!
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

I bought tickets for the full “tour” which included admission to the museum,

Old things in glass boxes Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Old things in glass boxes
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

the park,

Abandoned greenhouse Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Abandoned greenhouse
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Tomb of some guy Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Tomb of some guy
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Tour guides have to wear the traditional outfits of that era Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Tour guides have to wear the traditional outfits of that era
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

and the abandoned mine, Chiflon del Diablo.

Entering the mine Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Entering the mine
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Ex-miner turned tour guide Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Ex-miner turned tour guide
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Bricks stamped LOTA Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Bricks stamped LOTA
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Lota is more famous than you - it was the set for the film Subterra Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Lota is more famous than you – it was the set for the film Subterra
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

It was a lovely day, and I must say that Lota has a lot more character than Concepcion. It’s such a pity that it’s been sidelined because of its impoverishment, which fuels the cycle of poverty, because there definitely is a huge potential for tourism in Lota.

Cute, and with character! Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Cute, and with character!
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Remnants of a mining past Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Remnants of a mining past
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

I returned to Concepcion and went to the bus terminal to buy my bus ticket to Santiago the next day, after which I went to the supermarket to get some provisions for the journey, which is when something really stupid happened. I was counting out my change as I walked down the street and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have my purse with me anymore. It had literally only been two minutes between the time that I dropped my purse and the time that I realized it, but in those two minutes, my purse was gone. I walked up and down the street 5 or 6 times, asking people if they had seen my purse, but it was gone 😦 because of my own stupidity and carelessness.

Lost my purse right next to the courts - irony strikes again Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

Lost my purse right next to the courts – irony strikes again
Lota, Chile, Jan 2014

I was pretty upset, not because I’d lost any significant amount of money (10000 pesos/ 20USD), but because I had my credit card and my driver’s license (I couldn’t drive anywhere in South America ever again!!!) in it. And my bus ticket to Santiago the next day. Sigh. I headed over to the police station to make a report, but the policeman simply told me to call my credit card company to cancel the card and not to bother making a report because there was no chance my purse would be returned. 😦

So I went back, got my sister to call Citibank to cancel my card (thanks!) and that was that. I decided to head to the bus station early the next day and explain that I’d lost my purse and bus ticket in the hopes that I wouldn’t have to pay for a new one. But what a surprise I got when I explained my predicament to the guy at the counter. He passed me a slip of paper with a name and a phone number, saying that some kind soul had found my purse, and called the bus company to tell them about it. I immediately called her up and she said she would bring my purse to the bus station in 10 minutes. Can you believe my luck? Not only did I get my purse back (the money was gone, and my cancelled credit card doesn’t work, but my driver’s license was still inside) but I also managed to catch my bus to Santiago!

Thank you guardian angels, for working overtime and watching out for me again! Also, faith in humanity restored – good people do exist (thank you Ana for finding and returning my purse)! I don’t know what I did to generate this much good karma, but thank you, universe! 2014 is turning out to be a year to be thankful!

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