Santiago - San Pedro, Chile
It is fair to say I have rarely seen a place where so many people are suffering from shocking hangovers - New Year's Eve and summer festivals included. The streets are almost deserted, shops are closed and many of those either making their way home or venturing back out are clutching at cans of Red Bull. Chile, Campeones de America! Each time we pass a restaurant or cafe we see them replaying Alexis Sanchez decisive penalty in the shoot-out, or we hear golllllllllllllllllllllll, Chile, Chile, Alexis, Chile campeonas!!! coming from some half open window or side street. As predicted there were deaths last night. At least three people died during the wild celebrations.
Unbelievably i manage to bump into German Charles in downtown Santiago, a couple of hours before leaving the city for good. Charles, veteran of five Copa Americas is the meister blagger and managed to get into the final yesterday despite having no ticket in advance of the game. The head honcho who knocked me back yesterday two hours before kick off, took sympathy on Charles and gave him stadium access one hour before kick off. I am really happy for Charles. He certainly deserved it more than me. He is so devoted he even went to the third place play off in Concepcion. I mean who in their right mind goes to the bronze medal game? Haha. Anyway, like i said I am really chuffed for Charles, who I exchange a man hug with before promising to meet up with him at Copa America 2019 in Brasil.
Anybody who knows me knows what i am going to say next: I spend the whole of the day extremely pissed with myself that I gave up so easily trying to get into the final yesterday. I have been to several World Cup, European Championships and two Copas but i have only ever managed to get into one cup final: Copa 2011 at the River Plate in Argentina. Had I stuck around for an hour longer yesterday, I would no doubt have bumped into Charles and also managed to blag-beg my way in. Yesterday was still amazing: the unforgettable atmosphere in the city before and after the match, and being with Chileanos for the game. And of course attending eight matches during the Copa, seeing 11 of the 12 teams play, including the champions three times. But if only I'd managed to get into that final yesterday!!!
With the Copa over it is clearly time to boost out of Santiago and start heading for Bolivia. The weather is crap today; pollution levels extremely high as a thick smog hangs over the Chilean capital. I had planned to head back to Valparaiso for a day but the end of Copa America 2015 feels like the end of a chapter in this adventure.
Now it is time to begin chapter two, starting with a 23-hour bus journey north into the Atacama desert.