A Gran Torre Day Out

Santiago is a monstrous metropolis, but like most South American cities it’s not exactly overflowing with skyscrapers. Most of the buildings are about as high as Danny De Vito’s dick, with low-rise walk-ups spreading for kilometres in every direction. There is one high spot in the Chilean capital, however – the Gran Torre Santiago, which at 300m is the tallest building in Latin America. Sure, it’s no Burj Khalifa, Ostankino Radio Tower or Riga Love Construction, but it’s a record holder, so I had to check it out.

The tower is only a few kilometres from the centre of town, and within walking distance of Bellavista, so I decided to hike over there. One thing unique about Santiago is that at most sets of lights there are little blokes who wander into the street to entertain stopped drivers. Many of them are quite talented, and put on extravagant displays involving fire twirling, gymanstics or wandering around on stilts. But then I found a bloke who didn’t quite have his routine down pat. I saw him have five or six cracks at juggling his bowling pins, and he fucked up every time. As he was crawling around on the ground I gave him a comforting pat on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, padre, if this doesn’t work out I’m sure you can go back to your regular job as a brain surgeon.”

Alright, let’s get back on topic – that massive fucking building. It’s a bit pricey to get up to the viewing platform 15,000 Chile-pesos, or $25 Aussie – but I paid it because I doubt I’ll be back this way anytime soon. Unlike some other towers around the world, there’s no line up, so I was able to climb straight into the lift, nod dumbly at the pretty guide as she told me all sorts of fascinating things in a language I don’t understand, and seconds later I was at the top of the world.

The view is bloody good up there, and much better than from San Cristobel, due to being situated within the actual city. Santiago seems to ramble on forever in every direction, with every patch of land built on. Smog clings to the place, making everything look heavy and dirty. Neat streets with leafy suburbs nestle up against slums and ghettos. The putrid Mapocho River splits the city in half, with its brown waters winding through the suburbs before disappearing from sight. From up there, the contrasts of Santiago are obvious.

In saying that, ‘up there’ isn’t really that high. In fact, I was around nine times higher whilst paragliding in Manilla last weekend. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m a hero. I made sure to let a group of attractive young Chilean ladies know all about my exploits, but they pretended not to understand me and then sent their soccer shirt-wearing boyfriends over to have a quiet word with me. I couldn’t understand them and their breath smelt like they’d been eating turd-filled empenadas, so I raced for the lift to get some fresh air.

I’d heard about a bi-curious park that was nearby and being bi-curious myself (in that I’m curious to watch bisexual women having sex with each other) I trotted over. Imagine my disappointment when I realised it was actually the Bicentennial Park, built to celebrate Chile’s independence or something like that. It’s still a nice place, with some decent water features, unusual statues and pleasant plants. It’s also the only park I’ve found that isn’t overrun with grubby homeless blokes. Which is probably why, when I collapsed under a tree to sleep off my lingering hangover, I was soon whacked in the nuts with a billy club and dragged out the front gates by a couple of overweight guards with half their completo lunches spilt down their shirts.

Shaken by my brutal confrontation, I grabbed a six-pack of Becker and drank away my sorrows in a dark alleyway whilst listening to the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans on my phone. When I finally emerged, I was confronted by a pervert in a kangaroo costume who was stopping traffic so that he could dance lewdly in the street. I was surprised to see a kangaroo drunker and more inappropriate than me, so I dropped my shorts and wiggled around whilst asking the ladies seated nearby if they wanted a bite of my completo. I didn’t have any takers, but I did end up with 2000 pesos in my pocket and a few sympathetic smiles, so maybe those street performers have the right idea.

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