Surprise is not something we can seize; sneaking up from behind, it seizes us. This is pretty much how I felt after spending some days in the capital of Chile; Santiago. Coming from really low standards, bad food and cold showers in Bolivia I was certain things would be better in Chile and Santiago, but I did not expect a modern metropole with standards on level with big cities in Europe or the US.
The city itself is perhaps not the most beautiful nor has it the most attractions or things to do, pretty average I would say. But the feeling of coming to a place where the standard of living reminds you of home was a blessing. Except a few hill it’s a flat big concrete city surrounded by mountains. Usually not the kind of places I like, but I guess your preferments and needs can change based on what you recently have experienced – and I needed a break from all action to find some serenity. Perhaps the biggest “gift” was to finally have quality food! I have no problem with long hard days or bad sleep, but the food is important to me. I’m a pretty big guy and always active, so just like a sports car I need fuel to keep on going. When eating french fries, chicken, crackers and Snickers for two weeks both my body, brain and belly freaks out.
The days were spent without any big “wows” or super cool attractions – they were spent pretty much like if I would have been home. Working out, hiking, enjoying the nice weather (20-25 Celsius and sunny) and talking to lots of locals! It was actually really nice with some days not hunting the big “wows” and picture perfect adventures. The locals here were super friendly and I spoke to a lot of them; in bars and at the different out-door gyms I used. Friendly, talkative and interested in hearing my story about my home and my travels. At the same time I was interested hearing about theirs. It struck me that this is almost like my one home, Norway. In Norway we live good lives with a long stretched country, cold coast with seafood, mountains and lots of oil which people profit a lot on. Here it’s pretty much the same – except they have mining instead of oil, but the salaries are really high and reminds me of the oil industry back home.
Another fact that was a bit frightening was that there were a lot of people from Venezuela moving here to life and work. The people themselves were of course not scary, but the reason they had come here. It was nothing here that actually attracted them – but something back home pretty much forcing them to move. The capital of Venezuela, Caracas, is considered the most dangerous city in the world at the moment – and it’s history record is not very impressive either. It has been on the top 5 list for the last 10 years, but since the oil crisis started late 2014 it has got A LOT worse. Did you by the way know that Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world? Not Russia, US, Saudiarabia or Iran. There are of course many reasons for the violence and it’s not just the oil, even though of course a country so dependent of the oil will feel a crisis and make it even more poor. Colombia is the neighbor in the west and we all know the problems related to the drug industry there. This has of course affected Venezuela a lot and even if the drug war is more or less over, it has established gangs and a culture of guns, violence and people living their whole lives as criminals. In addition to this, the government has run the country in a really bad way! The corruption is said to be extreme and the way the government have tried to strike down on the violence has only increased them. When you think of it, it’s pretty logic: the criminal gangs have had weapons all for a long time and are not willing to surrender from their way of life without a real fight. So, the government forces staff up with bigger guns trying do defeat them – what happens? Of course the gangs step up their weapon arsenal too! Since the government has not managed to stop them, this has resulted in even more and bigger guns floating all over Caracas.
To put it all in perspective: there are about 50 homicides PER DAY in Caracas. Most victims totally innocent. It’s normal (even though it sounds totally sick) that if you walk around in Caracas it might show up some gangsters on motorbikes pointing their guns at you asking for your wallet and cell phone. If you not hand it over – you get shot in the open street! How sick isn’t that?! People actually kill another human without hesitating, just for a piece of plastic worth 500 bucks?! Another story that a young Venezuelan girl told me was that her mom every now and then were robbed walking from the grocery store. I mean, if you can’t even walk your milk and bread home from the store without getting robbed – it’s more than absurd. This young girl had a big heart though and was working in Santiago in order to get a better life and also to send money home to her mother. There is hope for humanity!
So, I hope you took time to read this and even if you wake up today wether it be in Oslo, Skövde, Stockholm, Moscow, Los Angeles or Sydney – I hope you will feel grateful living in a place where you can walk the streets without risking loosing your cell phone – or life.
My days in the big city are over for this time. It was nice, but now my adventurous alter ego has caught up with me and I’m off to one of the most southern places on earth; Patagonia and it’s mighty mountains. I think also this place will make me feel a little like home, I hope.
Link on the situation in Venezuela: http://www.businessinsider.com/caracas-yikes/#changa-tuki-gained-visibility-and-reputation-because-people-who-would-dance-to-it-or-practice-it-would-do-so-at-daytime-dance-parties-precisely-because-doing-so-at-nighttime-was-so-dangerous-especially-in-popular-sectors-velasco-told-business-insider-16