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Chillan

Written on: Friday January 25th, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Chillán, Chile 

Author: Julie 

Hola! 

We were back on our own this morning with Mark and Maxine heading out on an early bus to Mendoza. We spent a lazy morning enjoying our free breakfast before Kevin headed back to the optometrist?s office for one last check-up before leaving Santiago. The doctor was very pleased with the vast improvements in Kevin?s eye, from the last 24 hours. The cornea was still slightly red but the swelling was almost gone and the intense itching he had been feeling had subsided. Now that things were better, we tried to book our train ticket with Chile's national railway, Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado. We were having difficulties purchasing our seats on-line so we hopped the Santiago metro to the Central Station stop and bought our ticket for the 5 PM train heading south. 

Chillán, which in the local Indian language means "where the Sun is sitting", is a city in the Bío-Bío Region of Chile located about 400 km south of the capital, Santiago, near the geographical center of the country. Chile's national hero, Bernardo O'Higgins, was born in Chillán in 1778. He was the force behind Chile's Independence from Spain, being elected Supreme Director and declaring Independence after the Battle of Chacabuco against the Spaniards (1817). His later victory at the Maipo battlefield cemented the country's freedom. He died in exile in Peru in 1842. 

With our tickets in our pockets, we walked around the haphazard market that was located on the streets around the train station. Mostly selling knick knacks, the vendors had a choice of sunglasses, the latest movies from Hollywood, shoes, clothing, cheap electronics from China, purses, costume jewellery, paper stationary, pens and crayons, etc. From there we walked back to our hostel along the main avenue of O?Higgins, passing by the narrow park that separated the bi-directional road. Old trees, grassy areas, statues, and the occasional fountain made up this tranquil area in the middle of rushing traffic.  

We left our bags in storage behind the front desk and spent the remainder of the afternoon using the free internet at the hotel. When it came close to our departure time, we grabbed our bags, hopped one last time on the metro and headed back to the central station for our train. We arrived with just enough time to relax for a few minutes before the boarding call could be heard over the speaker. We grabbed our bags and presented ourselves at our assigned train car where an attendant checked our tickets. Everything was in order so we boarded and found a train car with half the seats facing one way and the other half of the car facing the other. Our seats were located in the section that would be riding backwards. We locked our bags to the bag rack in behind our seats and settled in for the 4 hour ride.  

It turned out to be an easy ride and time passed by. There was an old attendant walking up and down the aisle with a cart selling drinks and sandwiches. We ordered a couple of hot sandwiches and a couple of cups of tea. After a nice little supper, I pulled out the laptop and worked on the blog for a while. At 9:30 PM, we arrived at our destination and disembarked to a small town quiet town. We followed the directions from our guidebook and found hostel Canada with our fingers crossed that there would be a room available for us to stay. We had luck on our side and the owner quickly showed us a nice room with a couple of single beds with a large window overlooking the main road and a TV. We were tired so we quickly got out of travel clothes and fell asleep. 

The next day we walked around the little town. We found the main bus terminal and inquired about the thermal springs located outside of town. This was our main reason for visiting the area. The guidebook described them as being a great place to spend some time soaking our cares away.  Unfortunately, what it didn?t mention and we only found out at the bus station, was that it was located 70 KMs outside of town and was part of the large ski resort in the area. Since this was summer time, there weren?t many people who came to Chillán for the thermal springs so the shuttle buses were not running. Since we only wanted to spend one day here, it meant our visit was a bust with no thermal springs to be found. We took advantage of our time at the bus station to book our bus to Pucon for the next morning. We inquired at the train station if there was a train that continued to Pucon from Chillán but we found that train ran on a different rail line so we would have had to double back to Santiago to take the correct train. 

With time to kill till our bus the next morning, we walked to the city center and ate at a German style restaurant. We each ordered a delicious stir-fry that satisfied our vegetable craving that we?d had for the past few weeks. Next we found the street where the clothing stores were located and walked around the mall. What was interesting was that a lot of the stores were named ?Canada (something)?, just like our hotel. Kevin thinks he remembers hearing that the Canadian Ski Team trains in Chile during our summer months. We returned to our room for the night and watched TV.