June 25, 2015
Santiago - Temuco, Chile
'I will treat us to a decent coffee before we go', Hannes kindly tells me as I try to get my shite together after a chilly night on the airport seats near the taxi offices of Santiago Airport.
'It's bloody Nescafe!' Even after cashing out on the deluxe coffee option, somehow, for the umpteenth time during our time in Chile, we have ended up with a cup of bloody awful Nescafe. It is like Chile is stuck in the 1970's with some stuff, especially coffee. You've got Brasil, Colombia and Central American coffee being produced on Chile's doorstep and yet they love this awful crap.
Anyway, it is a fittingly silly note to go out on as Hannes and I part company. He's flying to Calama in the north of Chile, where he'll meet up with Olie before heading for Bolivia after a couple of days. It's been a great laugh and Hannes has, as always, been excellent company, but now it is time for me to get on the double-decker to Universidad de Santiago for my 7am, 800-kilometre coach down to Temuco, the venue for tonight's Copa America quarter final match.
After those couple of crap hours of sleep on the benches of Santiago International, I doze in and out of sleep so many times that it doesn't seem long before I've reached Temuco. Temuco is a city of 260,000, surrounded by forests, but stretches far and wide more than many cities of three times that size, with low-rise earthquake-proof buildings pushing the city limits. I am so knackered and my Spanish is so limited that I end up on a minibus for an hour, first leaving the city, before finally being dropped off about five blocks from Hospedaje Tribu Piren where I have a room booked. I wouldn't mind relaxing for a while but I have no sooner put my bags down than it is time to set off for the German Becker Stadium on the edge of Temuco.
The minibus ride to the stadium is taking forever and it isn't exactly clear where i should go when I jump off it. Fortuitously a sweet local girl called Marion offers to show me the way to the stadium and to the press entrance which is a good distance away on the other side of a park.
The German Becker Stadium is modelled, i am told, on Hamburg's stadium. It is a nice, compact arena but is not much more than half full until there is a late surge just before kick off. I am sat next to former pro footballer Juan Palacios Casas. Peru are the clear favourites in this one and, not long into the match, it is clear Bolivia just aren't good enough to cope with Peru's bright forward line. It is schoolboy defending from the Bolivians at times and Jose Paolo Guerrero - the golden boot at Copa 2011 - is tearing them apart.
Marion invited me into the VIP zone at half time so sIightly bizarrely I have joined the prawn sandwich brigade for half time eats and desserts. Marion's friend is the boss of the waiters and waitresses and many of her friends are waitressing to the rich and connected.
Guerrero 1-0, Guerrero 2-0, Guerrero 3-0. Bolivia are failing to pick up the talented front man and their offside line is way too high. Forgetting how poor Bolivia are for a moment, this Peru side must rank as the third or fourth best team at the tournament and deserve their place in the semi finals for the second consecutive Copa.
After the game, which ends 3-1 after a late penalty from Moreno, I stay in the VIP zone with Marion and her friends and surreally find myself helping a little to clean up after the VIPs have gone. Any plans for an early night catching up with my sleep are quickly dropped as Marion invites me back to one of her friends' houses for an after party.
What a great crew of Chileans this lot are. I drink local carmenere, they drink pisco and coke, and we chat and laugh and listen to some great South American music into the early hours. I might have got some of these artists' names wrong but I am introduced to the delights of La Ley, Soda, Los Jaivas, as well as Los Prisoneros.
I love this bunch - they are so genuine and full of positive energy - and I am sad to bail out with a taxi home at 3am. I have to say that ever since I arrived in Temuco, everyone has been super friendly. Surely a contender for the friendliest town in Chile.