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Plaza de Armas

Wednesday, January 6th 2010

Back in Santiago it was a beautiful summery day. I had only an afternoon and a morning before heading back to Europe. News from home was that it was the coldest winter for years, and London was in chaos as a few inches of snow caused mass panic. Meanwhile I sat in the Plaza de Armas, enjoying the summer. An eccentric old man sat down next to me and started chatting. It was good to practice my Spanish, and at first the conversation was quite sensible, but later it became more surreal and confusing. When I could no longer understand what he was saying, I got up and left.

My trip ended badly. I got ill on my last night, and felt horrific the next morning. I felt so bad that I thought I might not make it to the airport, but I decided to give it a go. I threw on my pack and staggered out into the heat of the day. I managed to walk in the wrong direction for a few minutes, turned around wearily and shuffled along to the Alameda. As I reached it I felt horrific again, and ended up having to throw up in a bin. Two passing tramps asked me if I was OK, then asked me for some money. I wasn't feeling charitable and I think I told them to piss off and leave me alone, or something like that. I sat down, took some deep breaths, and then found the airport bus.

At the airport I could hardly stand up, and I slumped against the check-in desk, pale and shaking. I thought I probably looked like I was a heavy drugs user on a major withdrawal, and wondered if I'd have problems at security, but I got through. And whatever was wrong with me passed within a few hours. By the time we landed in Europe I was feeling pretty OK again. I thought I was hearing things when the pilot said it was -8°C in Paris, but sadly I was totally compos mentis and it really was 40°C colder than it had been when I got on the plane. The short hop back to London took us over a countryside under deep snow. It was a brutal transition.

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