Six months of nothing to write home about has started! First stop: Chile
I don't think we arrived in Santiago with an excellent idea of what it had to offer, and our plan to stay for a couple of days was as much about breaking up the trip as it was to take in the Santiagueno sights. In retrospect, it's not really our kind of town – dense smog obscures the view of even close-ish hills, the kinds of places tourists seek out (those that there are) are on the small and functional side, and it's expensive but without the associated glamour.
All this in mind, we're still glad to have been (we’d otherwise wonder what we'd missed), and our first couchsurfing experience of the trip was an excellent introduction to Santiago yuppiedom. Leo and Andrea had lots to say about Chilean life (everyone aspires to a life in the south, but feels economically chained to the capital), and helped us get around the city. They had plenty of advice on Chilean travel (much of it to do with how most people will steal your stuff, and receive no punishment because of a judicial system focused on social opportunities for offenders).
Other tidbits of Chilean wisdom we’ve picked up:
Chirimoyas must be exactly ripe to be worthwhile buying (impressed on us emphatically by Andrea)
Per capita consumption of Coca Cola is second only to Mexico
All the prettiest fruit and veg is exported, leaving seconds for the locals
Chileans don't talk to strangers, unless they're foreigners (in which case, Leo and Andrea tell us, they're invariably helpful)
Street dogs are well looked after by communal effort
In Chile it's normal to find all kinds of sweets, including pastries and cakes, sugar-free
After two full days of touristing (or attempt to, as far as it's possible in Santiago) which included visiting fish market and choosing reineta, a serious looking pomfret, for dinner, checking out little clay figurines at the Museum of Pre-Colombian Art and enjoying our first empanadas amongst downtown's lunching businessmen, and a jetlag-induced midday nap in a central park, we were ready to leave the city. By happy coincidence (and a handy illustration of bullet #4), Leo was headed for Talca (our next stop) for work on the same day we were, and dropped us at the bus station, where we micro-bussed (with surprising efficiency) to San Clemente.