To even say I have somewhat of a grasp of Santiago’s public transportation system would be a gross overstatement. During the day it’s fairly simple, with the Metro running efficiently through main points and plenty of buses able to take you beyond that. But after 23:00, it all seems to become a mystery to me. […]
To even say I have somewhat of a grasp of Santiago’s public transportation system would be a gross overstatement.
During the day it’s fairly simple, with the Metro running efficiently through main points and plenty of buses able to take you beyond that. But after 23:00, it all seems to become a mystery to me. One reason being that I can’t even figure out why a city that has so many people out late into the night would close down most of their public transportation while people are still out for dinner.
And I know that taxis and Uber are cheap and readily available, but as someone who likes an adventure, that feels like cheating. Call me crazy or incredibly stubborn for that; I would probably agree with you either way.
So my first week in Santiago, I felt like a child with a curfew imposed on me because figuring out public transportation after hours was just too much of a hassle.
By my second weekend I had the important parts more or less figured out. There are enough buses running down the main roads at night that I could get to the Metro stop I usually get off from on Apoquindo. During the day, I’m able to get on a bus to take me the mile and a half down the road from there to my apartment. At night, those buses don’t run.
Or, well, according to certain public transportation apps one of them does. But it must be a frigging unicorn lost in the night because I have yet to see it much past 23:00.
I’ve been a runner since high school, so a mile and a half really isn’t a big deal to me. But I’d certainly call it an annoying walk at 3:00 when I’d like to be back in my bed as immediately as possible.
One night I was sitting in a restaurant with my friend, and glancing at my watch I noticed it was just about 22:45. From there we had a choice. We could down the rest of our drinks, hastily pay our bill, and dash for the nearest Metro. We also knew that could be useless anyway, as half the time the gates to the Metro close much closer to 22:30.
So we went with the second option: order another round of drinks and put off dealing with the trip home for a little while longer.
When we finally left it took us over two hours to get home.
My friend had taken a bus the night before that had gotten him about as close as he’d be able to get to his apartment at that hour. We made the mistake of attempting to wait for that specific bus, as it would also take me as far as I’d get. We watched a couple of other buses that could’ve at least gotten us more than halfway home fly past, hoping his bus would eventually come.
Eventually we decided it was another unicorn we’d have no hopes of catching.
And it turned out that waiting for that damn unicorn caused us to miss all of our best opportunities for another bus. For about an hour, we watched other buses blow by because that wasn’t one of their set stops…or blow by even when they’re supposed to stop there and you have at least five people flailing their arms with bip! Cards in hand in an attempt to flag them down. We watched Chileans give up after one or two buses, seemingly used to this aspect of Santiago.
We were just about to give up when one last bus came rumbling up. We didn’t expect it to actually stop, and I don’t think the handful of Chileans alongside us did either. No yellow letters lit up the outside with a bus number or direction. The lights inside were off, making it impossible to read the sign sitting in the lower left of the dashboard.
But it pulled to a stop, lights flickering on and doors creaking open. The bus number didn’t indicate it to be our unicorn, but it was good enough. The group of us all looked way more excited and relieved than we probably should’ve as we hopped on and graciously greeted the bus driver.
The ride on the bus led me to fully understand that JK Rowling did indeed get her inspiration for the Knight Bus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban from night buses in big cities.
We all but raced down the main road of the city, nearly flying forward every time the driver abruptly hit the brakes for a red light. Even the slightest of curves in the road caused us to sway in our seats, and every bump in the road violently shook the whole vehicle. I was grateful I wasn’t knocked on my ass when I stood up to hit the button to signal my stop.
Getting my land legs back, I began my walk home. I jogged almost half of it despite being in jeans, skateboard shoes, and a leather jacket, simply because I ran out of patience. I finally hit my bed after 3:30, and got a message from my friend confirming he was home at nearly 4:00.
While all of this may sound like complaining, I oddly loved every minute of it all. My family raised me to make an adventure of even the worst situations, and I’d certainly had an adventure of a commute home.
And when people asked about my weekend, I had an interesting, albeit ridiculous, story to tell with a grin on my face.
Because even though you visit certain cities for their monuments or food or events, that often isn’t what you remember them for. You remember the days that don’t turn out as planned or the nights where the oddest events occur.
And I’ll remember waiting for unicorn buses in the middle of the night, laughing every moment the situation should’ve gotten infinitely more irritating.