Oh…the last few days have been happily uneventful and filled with time lounging in bed, in front of junky tv, and eating actual…well sort of…home cooked food.
For months, people have told me how much I would love Chile. Josiah and I crossed the border from Peru (five buses, my friends) and stopped for a few desert days in San Pedro. The terrain was beautiful, the weather luxuriously hot, and the town provided opportunities for new adventures. The first thing I noticed about Chile is that the cost of everything doubled as soon as we stepped on Chilean soil. At the border, we noticed lines of woman who appeared to be returning from Peruvian shopping sprees. The bus storage was stuffed with their purchases…bounties of toilet paper, soaps, toys, and other household items. It seemed like a lot of effort to cross the border twice just to go shopping, but when I saw the price difference on basic goods, I understood their motivation to do so and wished I had stocked up on snacks and water myself.
San Pedro is a small place…our hotel was considered to be on the “outskirts” of town and it was about six blocks from the center square. With few housing options, the hotel cost about three times what I had grown accustomed to paying…ouch! We had one very full day in San Pedro with a 4:30 am pickup to visit the El Tatio geysers. When I boarded the bus, the driver saw my flip flops, and gave a mortified expression while trying to tell me to consider other shoes. Hmmmpffff…I am too tough for that. I can hike anywhere in flip flops. As we drove around town picking up others, he kept insisting I go back to the hotel for something better and luckily, just to stop his requests, I complied with his wishes. When we got out of the car near the geysers, the temperature had to be below zero degrees. I had in my Vibram finger shoes on, and with those, I could not wear socks, so my feet quickly turned to numb blocks of ice. I had a pair of socks in my bag, so in a MacGyver moment, I asked the driver for a knife and cut them into makeshift leg warmers. The geysers were a sight to marvel…shooting steam and hot water from every direction. As soon as the sun came out, the weather warmed and we were able to enjoy a desert hike in the searing heat. The dramatic desert weather changes are always hard to fathom in such a small space of time, but the sun never felt so good.
After geysers, we were off to Josiah’s selected adventure…sandboarding! This is not something I would have chosen for myself, but there I was… standing at the top of a sand dune, snowboard under my feet, wiggling to get a start down the hill and wondering what I was thinking. I have no balance. This looked like a sport that required balance, but once the board was in motion, the only way to stop seemed to be by taking a tumble or falling on my butt…and without trying, I did both. Going down was actually not too bad. Outside of one mouthful of sand and a few falls, I enjoyed the freedom of careening down the dune. The part I did not love was carrying the board slowly and painfully up the sandy slope…four times…in the searing sun. The only good thing about the journey was the sense of accomplishment and survival when I reached the top.
The ride from San Pedro to Santiago was a nonstop 25 hours. We couldn’t break it up because Josiah was scheduled to fly out on Thursday. When we arrived in Santiago, we were both tired and very hungry. Unlike tour buses that provide regular stops, the local buses do not stop…for food, leg stretches, or bathroom breaks. If you have to go, you jump off at a quick bus station drop off stop and run to the bathroom hoping the bus is still there when you get back because no one is paying attention to who is on as it pulls away.
As we sat on the bus, we both had the idea of hunting for the Subway sandwich shop that my cousin Tony told me we would find in Santiago. We dropped off our suitcases and after multiple inquiries found someone to write down directions for our cab driver. We enjoyed the taste of home and headed back to our hotel for what we imagined would be a great night of sleep…until Josiah jumped out of the shower and realized that he left his small backpack at Subway…filled with every valuable item he brought, which he smartly carried on his back during our bus ride, but forgot to take off for our restaurant outing. So, the next morning, we woke up early and headed back to Subway. We were happy when the owner told us that his employee found the bag and locked it up for Josiah. We were less happy when the employee showed up for work a few hours later and handed us a bag…that was missing the money, iPod, and cameras. I was so disappointed because I always want to believe in the humanity of others and love chances to see the good of people in action. Plus, I would rather it have been my stuff than Josiah’s…I hated that he had this experience while on the road for the first time. Anyway, after some discussion, the manager told us he had a video camera that he would check and we agreed to return later in the day. As we thought about it, we started to get suspicious and wonder how the employees were handed the bag and didn’t notice someone taking those items out. We were even more suspicious when we returned and were told the camera was not working during that time. It it all a big mystery, and we spent the day as Sherlock and Holmes doing our investigative best to figure it out…but with no luck or items returned. It was a stain on an otherwise good experience, but always a learning opportunity for everyone involved.
Josiah left Santiago on Thursday night and I spent the next few days…crashing in LaLa land. The “hotel” in Santiago was actually a small apartment, so I relished the feeling of having a home base and spent very little time exploring the city…outside of grocery stores, Starbucks, and an occasional and short walk. Three days of quiet time was really nice…really really nice and I was never so pleased with the chance to make my own pasta and a tuna salad in my cozy kitchen. It is odd how cravings pop up for the most unexpected things…right now, I am on a wild hunt for a box of Kraft Macaroni and cheese and a steamy baked potato.
I did get my new iPhone in the mail…with a whole lot of effort and expense. My aunt Bones did the heavy lifting of picking up the phone and researching shipping options. She mailed it to my hotel with the assurance that it would be delivered to Chile in three to five days. As I watched the delivery tracking, I was thrilled to see the package had cleared customs, but after two days, I did not receive any word about how it would be delivered. I trudged to the customs office at the airport and was directed to multiple offices to check on the status of the package. As I walked around the airport grounds, I found myself in an alley outside of the post office dock where a security guard kindly brought me a chair and found a worker who hunted for the package and informed me that it had been found at the post office warehouse…just thirty minutes (and $20) away by taxi. I had the choice of going there or waiting 3-5 days for hotel delivery. So, I got in a taxi and headed to the warehouse where a security guard again gave me a chair while I waited next to the employee time clock for someone to bring the package. After an hour he did, and I had my new phone in hand…and he hitched a ride for me on the employee bus back to the center of town. So…it only took me six hours, but I count it as a successful post office experience…at least I can say that now that it is finished. I believe there were a few moments during those six hours where I was near tears…but I can’t be sure.
After a few months on the road, I vacillate between a deep desire for the comforts of home and the intention of never coming back. I am sure that, as the trip proceeds, I will find myself somewhere between those extremes….at least I hope so!
I am heading south to the Lake region of Chile for a few days before ending my weeks in South America with visits to Argentina and Brazil. On December 12, I head to Johannasburg, Africa and begin the next part of this journey. The unknown is always a bit daunting…I have developed a comfort in South America that I will miss, but I am also ready to start over with those butterfly feelings of immersing myself in something totally new and seemingly exotic. I appreciate all my friends from home who feel like they are on the journey with me and look forward to sharing my next adventures with you.