My Micro Stories
- Santiago now has a modern public transportation system called Transantiago which has replaced most of what I experienced and describe below. That's too bad because I sure had fun! Keeping reading to see why...
My first day in Chile
When I arrived in Santiago, we first went to the mission president's house. There we paired up with our trainers and were sent off to go to our assigned areas. [To find out more about why I was in Chile, visit the "Why Chile?" page] There were four of us in our little group that was to travel from central Santiago to the community of Puente Alto. It was rush hour, so traffic was intense. We walked from the mission home to the major road to catch a micro. The road had six lanes of traffic. At least it seemed like a long way to the other side. We grabbed all of our luggage and ran to the other side of the road. There we waited for the right bus to take us. We flagged one down and jumped on the back with all of our stuff. One of the other missionaries with us went up to pay the driver. The driver wasn't too happy about having four gringos with a ton of luggage in the back of his bus. He stopped and told us to get off. We caught the next micro that was headed our way. This one was full of people. Standing room only. That means the micro is turned into a sardine packed box. I managed to get a seat with a suitcase jammed between my legs. The other three stood in the back with the rest of the luggage. The ride took almost two hours. We arrived somewhere and got off the bus. The Andes mountains towered above me to the east as the orange and red rays of the setting sun illuminated us on the side of the road. We needed to get another bus. We waited and caught another one. This one took us roughly to our assigned area. From where it let us off, we walked and finally arrived.
Picking up my Greenie
The time came that I became a trainer, and I had the privilege as described above repeated all over again. My greenie [that's what we called the new missionaries] was from Arica, Chile and had never been to the big city. So the micro experience blew him away just as it had done to me. We pretty much did the same thing as I did when I arrived to Santiago. We crossed the major street and caught the micro of choice. I threw his luggage up on the bus and jumped on. Unfortunately, my greenie was a bit slow and had to run to catch up with the accelerating micro to jump on it. Again we had the joy of being packed in the micro with too many other people. You can imagine how hot and stuffy it can get when you are surrounded on all sides by people.
Any given day at rush hour
As described above, rush hour was crazy on the micros. Some times we would have to fight the crowds to go up to the center of Santiago. Since we were never the only people going downtown, the micros were always packed. I recall one time when we had to take one micro a short way then catch another. I was the last of our group to get on the bus and managed to hold on to my companion who was holding onto the door. My backpack and half of my body were hanging out the front door as I held on for dear life. But, hey, I survived!
During rush hour or when the bus is full, the driver will open both the front and back doors so people can get on or off. The people who get on the back would pass their money to the front of the bus. The driver would make change, and pass it with a "boleto" (ticket) back to the person. Amazing that on a bus packed with people and worried about pick-pockets, whenever I did pass my money, I always got a boleto and my change back!
Are you going to Chile?
You can have fun with the nuances of public transportation in Chile too but you need to be ready. Avoid culture shock by reading the Gringo's Culture Guide to Chile.