Friday, February 22, 2008

Destined for the Desert!

Tomorrow ends my week of suffering in the stifling heat of Santiago. Ok, so it hasn't been all bad. I got to spend time with friends, see a bit more of the city and relax. Unfortunately I also had a lot of down time to freak out about my passport getting robbed.

But I got my new passport today. No, it was not an easy process at all. After my 3 day wait, I got my passport and then had to go to the International Police on the ghetto side of Santiago in order to get a new tourist stamp, thereby allowing me to leave the country. The 50 yr old police chief attending, was eager to set things right. I was pleased with the attentive service until he started asking me where I went out at night and finally asked me on a date. Good thing I had the excuse that I was leaving Santiago tomorrow...

Tomorrow morning I'm heading north to the San Pedro de Atacama desert (apparently the driest desert in the world--too bad my chapstick and moisturizer were stolen...) on a tour that stops in a few interesting Chilean cities along the way. Ok, so normally I don't dig the tour thing... but for safety's sake I think its time I ditch the anti- "stereotypical tourist" sentiments and see how this goes.

I'm excited, now that everything's in place. Northern Chile, here I come!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The W Part Deux: Las Condes

Dear Passport: how I miss you!

You had me running around like a maniac yesterday, and I think I walked, at least 5 hours in the hot sun--at least.

I woke up around 9:30 a.m. and called the U.S. embassy, who said that they were only open until 11:30 a.m. and that I needed to bring 2 passport sized photos with me to get a new one.

Crap! I raced out of my friend´s house without even brushing my teeth. Time was ticking. It takes about an hour to get anywhere from Nunoa, the neighborhood where my friend lives in Santiago... jumping from bus to metro to metro. I HAD to get this passport application in today. I would eventually need to get out of this country.

10:00 a.m. Ran to a local photo shop.

10:20 a.m. Passport photos: Check!

10:20-10:55 a.m. Waited for a bus FOREVER,

11:10 a.m. Finally got to the metro and made it to my stop

I had 15 minutes to find the U.S. Embassy in Las Condes. But of course the U.S. isn´t going to make it easy for anyone to do anything, right?

11:10-11:15 a.m. desperately ask street vendors and passersby if they know where the Embassy is. NO DICE.

11:15-11:25 a.m. Walk 10 minutes in the wrong direction.

11:25-11:40 a.m. Practically run to the embassy and almost cry to the security guards because I´m 10 minutes late. They take pity on me and let me go in. SWEET!

11:40-12:40 p.m. Wait for my number to be called

12:40 p.m. They lady at the desk tells me my photos are too small and I'll have to come back tomorrow with new, larger photos, which are only used by the U.S. and Canada.

This cannot really be happening right? I almost cry again and the lady takes pity on me. She tells me to go get new photos now and come back at 3 p.m.

1:00 p.m. I walk to the photo place the embassy recommends and IT´S CLOSED. You´ve got to be kidding me.

1:05-2:00 p.m. Walk and walk and walk and walk and walk looking for a place that takes passport photos.

2:00 p.m. FINALLY find one. Get pics taken. Am starving and eat street food.

3:00 p.m. Get back to embassy and get papers and photos in.


On the way home, the metro brakes suddenly and the lights go out. The speaker says in Spanish: "For security reasons, we have had to shut down the metro"

"Security reasons??" Is there a bomb threat? Mini-panic ensues. It´s all over. Would the powers that be really allow this day to have been my final day? Are they sitting up there laughing? My heart is racing.

2 minutes go by. What kind of sick joke.... and then the lights go back on. I am fine.

I am fine. And I am going to keep traveling because things can only get better from here....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Civilization Sucks

I know Chile. I know its people. I know it´s language and it´s customs. I know what the evening breeze off the Andes mountains feels like. I know what a pisco sour tastes like. In the last week, I´ve eaten more empanadas than I can count. I´ve lived here, dividing my time between Chile´s most educated and Chile´s most in-need.

But I don´t fit in. I´ve gotten used to being stared at on the Metro. I hardly feel it anymore. I surprise cashiers when I speak to them clearly in Spanish. I guess I fail to realize that all they see is a Gringa. They don´t suspect I´ve lived here or know much of anything at all about what´s going on around me. I proved them right last night at the bus station.

After boarding my 11:30 overnight bus last night to La Serena, a beach town 7 hours north of Santiago, I finally relaxed. Bus terminals are like mine-fields for tourists getting robbed. But I was careful. I kept my bags well guarded.

Did I expect that the bus company would allow people on the bus without a ticket? No.... And I certainly didn´t expect someone to follow me onto the bus without a ticket, wait until my guard was down, and run off with my carry-on.

But that´s what happened... and I´ve lost my passport--my passport with 10 years worth of stamps in it. 2 visas. A special stamp from Ushuaia that says Fin del Mundo. All gone, along with all of my jewelry, toiletries, medicine, and 2 pairs of shoes.

Is that what I get for being crazy enough to travel alone? Let´s hope not.

I got off the bus before it left last night, one bag less, and proceeded to fight with the bus company who refused to take responsiblity for the stolen backpack and who also refused to pay me back for the price of the ticket.

I´m now in Santiago, waiting.... I need a new passport before I can get out of here but the embassy was closed today. I hope I can lift my spirits again in order to enjoy the rest of this trip.

Oh, and since my camera cord has been stolen (thank god not the camera itself), I won´t be able to post any pics til I get home :(

But keep reading. Things can only get better from here, right?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Back to Civilization

Just a quick update since I have been completely cut off from civilization for the last few days. I was headed towards a beach town called Pichilemu with a Chilean friend of mine, and we stopped for a night in a one-horse, no internet, no cell-phone-service town called Estrella to visit a friend, and ended up spending much longer than anticipated there.

In that time, I have eaten every single meal completely fresh... watermelon straight from the gardern, freshly picked organic tomatoes, onions, chili peppers... right down to the freshly killed animals I would have been rude to turn down while staying in the home of some very friendly Chileans... a lamb, a chicken, and my first time eating rabbit that had, yikes!, been hunted the night before by my friends. Well, an experience nonetheless... living the rustic life and learning to value exactly where our food comes from.

Anyways, I am at the beach now... Pichilemu is a ramshackle beach town on the pacific, famous for its excellent surfing, with dark sand and craggy cliffs. I may just give surfing a go while I´m here. Also, on the topic of food, I just ate $1 ceviche from a beach-front stand (for those of you who dont know, ceviche is raw seafood)...and only time will tell if I react to it with violent illness... but it was oh so good and so fresh with its lemon and cilantro.

haha ok won´t waste any more time in front of the computer. Off to the beach I go!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Good things come in threes...

So some exciting things have happened in the past day. First, I arrived safely in Santiago, where its summertime and I can put on skirts and sandals and go in the swimming pool :)

Second, my Torres del Paine hiking story got published on a Web based travel site. You can see it here.

Third... well, I'm still waiting on the third... which is that I hope a bed will open up at the hostel I'm hanging out at in the lobby. It's been at least 24 hours since I last slept, after a sleepless redeye flight back down to the southern hemisphere! Looks like a looong siesta is in store.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

News Flash!

Well, I'm back at it again. I'm not sure if anyone still reads this anymore, but after hibernating for a month at home in Baltimore, I decided to spend the rest of the winter on the beach in South America. Also in the works are jeep tours in the the desert, first time surfing attempts, white water rafting, and most importantly, climbing Machu Picchu!

I hop on the plane at 5:45 this evening-- so keep reading because things are about to get a lot more exciting!