La bestia needed quite a bit of attention. As already mentioned in earlier posts, her brake sensor required repair; in addition, her steering had become wobbly over the course of many weeks on pretty bad roads, and I was worried that the wind we’re expecting for Patagonia would require more precision than she’s been able to offer lately. Her timing belt and serpentine belt were also worn, and the problem of wheel grease bleeding into her front differential had continued. On top of that, the exhaust system had a few loose parts that I was unable to locate and fix myself. Following some research, I decided that Chile’s second largest urban agglomeration–Concepcion–was the right place for her to take an extended pit stop.
And so Harry and I checked out of “hotel la bestia” on Monday, April 11…
… and into Concepcion’s ibis Hotel, one of the very few in the city where Harry was welcome (for an additional fee).
I found a coffee shop right across the Toyota dealership where I became a regular. The location allowed me to stop by the dealership whenever they had found something that required attention and approval, while also getting some overdue work done.
The pit stop also gave me the chance to explore ordinary urban life in Chile, including some of the best bakeries I’ve come across on this trip…
… as well as some rather odd discoveries: this active firefighter station houses an expansive restaurant popular among local office workers.
I had already noticed back in 2005–the year of my last visit to Chile–that spaces of social interaction in Santiago were oddly worn, seemingly left to their own devices decades ago. This impression only grew stronger as I was wandering across the center of Concepcion. Whether wall colors (pastels), floors (linoleum), furniture (dented and cracked), table cloths (polyester) or entire apartment buildings (prefab, mostly grey) — stylistically, urban Chile appears firmly stuck in the 1970s. That certainly has its own appeal, but it stands in surprising contrast to the country’s otherwise hypocritically modernist development trajectory.
On Wednesday evening I asked a cab driver for a dinner recommendation. He praised the seafood at Rincon Marino. Let’s just say that it neatly fit the general pattern. The food –cheese empanadas, clam stew, mussels and battered corvina–was very good and the pisco sour was perfect, but the decor… oh well.
Fortunately Toyota once again kept its promise, and after some final streetworthiness tests we should be back on the road before the day’s end.