27/2 Saturday: We woke in the night to several minutes of tremors but it wasn’t until the next morning we realised what had happened: an earthquake hit Conception, 8.9 on the richter scale and devastated Chile’s infrastructure as well as several cities and towns. We had no power, but running water and gas. Moroni had a little mobile Internet from time to time, but we were starved for information and made several visits down to the bus station asking when our bus would be running. Some mobile networks were running, but we couldn’t make international calls on it or on any of the town’s payphones.

Puerto Varas, Chile - where we waited out the earthquake
Puerto Varas, Chile - where we waited out the earthquake
It was mid afternoon when we got power: we switched on the TV and started to understand the scale of the earthquake … It was massive. As we saw the toppled buildings, fallen bridges and 2 meter cracks in the highway, we realised this was no small tremor. Since we had electricity, we decided there might be Internet, so Janine and I headed into town to buy lunch and find Wifi – having found it we spent an hour contacting friends and family outside of Chile and starting to contact our friends throughout the country.

The bus company systems still weren’t online, so we booked back into our guesthouse for another night, thankful we weren’t near the epicenter.

The following days…

Lake and mountain views from Puerto Varas
Lake and mountain views from Puerto Varas
28/2 Sunday: today was kind of lost as we slept in, watched news and tried to make fresh plans to get to Santiago: home for Moroni and our bags and moving north for us. We considered getting to Temuco and doing some volunteer work and started looking for alternate routes and options. Power came and went, but the only noticable difference was the huge queues of cars, sometimes more than 30 vehicles long, waiting to buy petrol. Looting began in Conception this morning … The difference is staggering.

We were unable to draw out cash at several banks and were feeling a bit worried. Luckily, later in the day we managed it without prnlems. Big ups to ASB customer service who responded to my email for help within a couple of hours.

In the afternoon we moved to a couchsurfing host, Nico and Andrea, who have never fit 4 people in their small spare room. We lunched together and I worked through the evening while Moroni and the girls went to the beach. We sit around watching news together, wondering if it’ll be safe to head up to Santiago on the bus tomorrow night. Or even if the company will be able to run it.

1/3 Monday:A lazy morning, lunch with Nico and Andrea and preparation for the bus journey north, which is expected to take 3-5 hours more than normal. We spent some time walking the beach before discovering Pullman, our bus company, wasn’t running their bus! Until Thursday!! They just didn’t have any vehicles available; their logistics managers had made a huge mistake.

We quickly headed up to the Cruz del Sur offices and booked tickets to Temuco, where we’ll stay with Moroni’s Aunt.

2/3 Tuesday: a lazy day at Moroni’s aunt’s house doing lots of writing and recording, eating with the family and playing games with Mackarena and Pati.

3/3 Wednesday: A similar morning to the last, but headed to town in the afternoon to get online and buy a gift for our hosts. On the bus to Santiago in the evening.

Driving towards the damage

4/2 Thursday: The bus journey was surprisingly fast and smooth, although we were obviously on a secondary route for some of the journey and there were some really bumpy patches where the road was broken up. We were travelling overnight so didn’t see much, but the occasional large pile of broken bricks and corrugated iron on the roadside was a grim reminder of the recent earthquake.

Driving through Santiago, it seemed that little had changed. On the route that we took from the bus terminal to Renca, there seemed to be little damage. In Renca, however, several buildings were roped off with tape and the now ubiqutous piles of blocks on the sidewalk increased. At our host’s home, the building was fine, but there was a lot of damage to glasses, momentos, etc.

This morning was spent napping, a long lunch with Moroni and his family, then we went into town to buy our bus tickets to Antofagasta (we couldn’t buy them online) and to collect our bags from Maria Paz — our previous couchsurfing host.

Maria Paz and her family were all OK during the earthquake, but their tall apartment building had shaken greatly and large cracks now decorated the walls. A nearby office block which is being built had lots hundreds of large glass panes which had only just been installed. They cracked and fell from the 18-20 story building … Aparently the noise of the shattering glass could be heard over the shaking. We talked and caught up with Maria Paz and Christoph over the better part of a bottle of mango sours then back to Moroni’s for the night.

5/2 Friday: Today was our last day in Santiago. We spent the morning working at Moroni’s and spending our last few hours with him and the family. We headed into town and visited the Museo de Artes de Pre-Comumbiano, which was something I had really wanted to do since I read about it. The galley is a little expensive (3,000 Chilean pesos) but I found it really worthwhile. I knew nothing about the art or culture of Central and South America but came away with a good idea of the textiles, crafts, artwork and the shapes and colours used throughout the continent before Europeans arrived.

We had time for mote con huesillo and icecream in Plaza de Armas, then a coke and a quick shopping jaunt in the bus station before heading to Antofagasta on the bus.

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