South America: Celebrating the independence day of Chile

I got some money from the agency, but the problem was I had almost no clothes, no hygiene stuff, no towel etc. And it wasn't easy to buy anything because Sept 18th and 19th were holidays – 200 years of Chile. It reminded me our holidays in the communist era when everyone had to post both the Czechoslovak and Soviet flag. I heard you could be fined if not posting the Chilean flag on the independence day. That's why flags were everywhere. Sonia, the Czech lady's friend, invited me to BBQ that was organized by her friends. On the way there, we stopped at the city market which was open even on holidays. I finally bought a toothbrush, a toothpaste, a shower gel, a shampoo, underwear, and a T-shirt Vans which was only $8, probably not original though. Sonia's father had to drive the rest of the way to the BBQ because we got pulled over by police and sonia's driver's licence'd already been expired for 3 months.

The BBQ took place in a green valley closed to Arica. The city is surrounded by the dessert, but altought it doesn't seem at first glance the soil is very fertile and if you give it water you can grow virtually everything. I was like an attraction on the BBQ. First I had to talk to Sonia's 80-year-old mother who learned English like 60 years ago and wanted to practise. She's lost a lot of her English vocabulary and she always switched to Spanish in the middle of her speach, so it was rather guessing what she was telling me than chatting. Then little girls were coming to me and bashfully introducing themselves in English. Everyone wanted to take a picture with a big gringo. Who spoke English really well was a young English teacher although she's never been abroad to study English. BBQ food was pockets of dough filled with meat, onions, and sauce, cooked corn, brilliant beef, salads, potatoes, and rice. After eating, we played games – making up rhyms, throwing metal discs, flying kits.

I had to leave to look for a bus to La Paz in the evening. Unfortunately, there was none and I had to return to the hostel and stay there over night. Nex day, my bus was leaving at 9.30am and I realized at 9.10 that I left my sunglasses in the hostel. I didn't really want to lose another thing and ran back. I did 2 km with a backpack in 10 minutes. The journey to La Paz was OK, I just got unused to high altitude after four days spent by the ocean, so I had a little headache.

There was an easily visible difference between Chile and Bolivia. Chile was far the most developed country I've visited in South America. Bolivia is on the other end of the scale. It's got wonderful nature though. La Paz has excellent landscape. It's surrounded by a plateau, which is 4100 m above the sea level, and its surburbs are stretched on the plateau, but the centre is hidden in a deep valley.

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