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.
We had some delish cazuela for lunch, a sort of beef stew with potatoes and other veggies.
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.
We hung out a little more at the feria, watching the traditional folk dance
and drinking wine with peaches soaked in them. Super yummy.
There was a football game at 6 that evening which Karem’s brother had to attend, so we did too.
It turned out to be a really boring match, so I self entertained and took random pictures instead.
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.
The main highlights were the University of Concepción
and the huge Parque Ecuador.
…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.
I bought tickets for the full “tour” which included admission to the museum,
and the abandoned mine, Chiflon del Diablo.
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.
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.
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!