Please, Say No to the Viaducto

Our plan in Chile is to travel north by car. Having the freedom of our own transportation we decided to leave lodging to fate. We would see unexpected things and stop where we saw fit. Each intersection was a choice to be decided on the spot.

The morning started out well, we ended up in the city of Frutillar and like many others of the towns in the southern region it had a German colonial background. We had a surprising Chilean fish lunch at the “Guten Appetit”. Then we visited the German museum in town, which had reconstruction of the old colonial buildings and relics that had been saved from the 1800’s. The most interesting relics where those dedicated to farm work as they where quite advanced for the times and far reaches of southern Chile.

As evening approached we ended up in the town of Valdivia. On the road in we spotted the tourist office and what better place to get information on lodging. As I walked in and exchanged pleasantries with the tourist information lady, Nora picked up the first brochure she liked and declared we would be staying there. The tourist lady agreed it was a great place and marked the location on the map and off we set. She did not happen to mention that the surrounding communities were in town for a vote. As we approached the hotel the street leading to it was blocked by a police officer. We decided some pedestrian fair might be going on, so we would approach from the east, blocked. North also blocked. Not feeling good about the chances for a westerly approached I suggested the hotel down the road. However, once Germans make up their mind they are a determined bunch. So we decided to ask the police officer for guidance, “None can enter”. “But sir, I am headed for a hotel at the corner”. “Sorry, this street is closed”. Pulling out the map that the tourist lady had marked I waved it at him, “But I am sleeping here tonight” while stabbing a finger at the map I implored. I had no plans to let him know that I actually had no reservation or knew what the hotel looked like. In fact by this point we didn’t even know the name. Taking the map from me he softened, “You have a map? Why didn’t you say so, clearly this is the street marked on the map, please proceed”. Excited we drove around the blockade while the officer radioed in our arrival to his fellows down the road. We parked as soon as we ran into another police car with a group of officers glaring in our direction and decided to walk the rest of the way. Even walking they approached us and queried about our presence. Being a quick learner I reached for the map at which point they became jovial and pointed us in the right direction. On the way to the hotel we passed another twenty fellow officers and 5 armored vans. Having found our hotel right across the street from the building that the officers where guarding we gathered it was not a street fair, but must be someone important visiting. We asked for a room and the hotel manager decided to show us one while he blamed the trouble outside on the acronyms, with no meaning to us, on the front page of the paper that was lying on his desk. Along with the tour of the hotel we got an explanation that the police was there due to a demonstration, based on a vote currently going on that should be over in a next few hours. After we agreed to the room and price he mentioned that he hoped the vote would turn out to be no. I asked why that would be a good outcome, and with a worried look he said, “It would mean no tear gas”. Turns out by random chance and not pre-booking we were going to sleep in the closest hotel to the demonstrations against a new proposed water drainage pipe and hydro-electric dam. If the plan was approved the environmentalist apparently have a habit of getting rallied and this reflected in the 100 armed cops outside. Trusting in chance so far we left our belongings and headed out to the street vendors for dinner and beer. If there was going to be tear gas then I wanted a beer.

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