On the fourth day of their trip, my family and I went to a beef restaurant on the nicer side of the city. Santiago is (like much of the US) divided by class lines, as in the rich live on the hill and the buildings have more bars on the windows the more you go West. The subway and bus system is therefore difficult to use to get to where we wanted to go. So we got as close as we could on the metro and then Dad put Gram, Gramp, and I into a taxi. We were on the right street, just about 2 miles down and turn left. I knew, I’d seen a map.
However, upon entering the Taxi, I knew our driver had not seen a map. He turned left and began heading away from our final destination. My initial thought was that the man was trying to rip off the super blanco tourists who had waived down his taxi in the middle of traffic. So I began asking him questions in Spanish. But, I soon came to realize – after he radioed his dispatch and asked them where our address was – that he was completely lost. He pulled up in front of restaurant with a large cow in front, and pointed, “Beef Restaurant,” so triumphant with a smile. “No,” I responded, “That’s not the one, it’s called Cuerovaca. We have to go to Cuerovaca.”
He asked me for the address again, but it had been on a piece of paper that my dad had showed him then taken so he himself could find the restaurant. Didn’t you see the address, I asked, but he had only looked at the city, and well, we were in the right city.
He turned off the meter and drove around a bit more. I spelled the name of the restaurant, telling him it was just off Americo Vespuchi, the street where he picked us up that he should not have turned off of. He pulled up in front of a street and pointed. “Cuerovaca!” No, I had to tell him, it’s a restaurant not a street.
He pulled away again. I began explaining that it was just a left off the street we’d been on, I spelled the restaurant, but he wasn’t listening. He began pointing to restaurants, “that one sells beef, that one is good,” and I explained to him that we were meeting family at the Cuerovaca and we had to go there.
“It’s in a small plaza off Vespuchi,” I repeated, and that time he was paying attention. He called his dispatch again, and found us our square and our fancy hole in the wall beef restaurant.
When my parents finally arrived, we had a lovely meal, one of the best of the week.
After dinner we started our journey back to the bus (since the subway was by then closed). But this is when Dad and I realized that we did not know the exact bus to get home. He thought I had looked it up and I thought he had. The only bus we could remember was 425 and 405. One of them took us home…
We decided on the 425. I asked the driver if he stopped at Toledaba metro, and he replied yes Toledaba. So we got on the bus.
Enjoying the bus ride
We sat there for a good half hour (it’s now about 12:40 at night) as we watched every passenger disembark the bus in progressively rougher neighborhoods. Until finally, the bus stopped on a dark street full of chain link, barbed wire and the wrong kind of graffiti. There, the driver came out from behind his cage. We were at the end of the line – 5 gringos on bus that I knew we could not get off of due to the look on the driver’s face when he turned around. Obviously, we were not supposed to still be there. I went to the front of the bus, and asked the driver why he hadn’t stopped at Toledaba metro, but he only shook his head: the bus stops at Toledaba street, not metro.
I was frantically racking my brain thinking how I could get my family out of cracktown South America, when the driver motioned for me to sit back down. He took the bus signs out of the window and got back into the drivers street. He took us back up the street to Toledaba, and dropped us off in front of a bus stop that was across from a well lit gas station. Still not the best neighborhood, but certainly much safer then were we had been. We were waiting for the bus that the world’s nicest bus driver had told us to take laughing about our circumstances.
Waiting at the bus stop
We’d been standing there about 15 mins when a taxi driver drove by slowly, looking at us with this strange look of confusion and worry. He rolled down his window and I asked if he would take 5 passengers in his 4 passenger car. “Yes!” he was emphatic in a way that once again told me we should not be were we were. As we piled into the car, a bus with all its lights out and a few cardboard windows loomed up to the station. Lets just say I was happy our taxista had come along.
We made it home without problem from there, though we did witness a motorcycle crash (no one was harmed). When later we recounted the story to my house mom, her eyes got really wide and her voice got hushed, “you took them where?!” Oops.
It was a good lesson in ALWAYS LOOK UP DIRECTIONS BEFORE YOU GO OFF INTO THE NIGHT!