Travel Lessons from Chile

So– we’ve been MIA for a month without a blog post- Don’t worry- we are very alive and well.

Since there were lots of things happening that needs updating, I’ll do this in the best format that I know: point format. The engineer in me rejoices.

Warning: It’s long and drawn out, so feel free to skip down to pictures.

  • Brady’s birthday was spent in Antofagasta, a wonderful coastal town. Earlier that day, we made the decision to fly back to the US of A. What prompted the decision was:
    • Lack of Bolivian visa (4 months in process and was still processing), resulting in us arriving in Chile 1.5 months earlier than anticipated= still the dead of winter in Chile. The days were really short and continued to get shorter as we travel further South.
    • We figured, rather than biking in the freezing cold, we had the resources to go to warmer places, like California, Mexico, etc etc
    • We could make it back to California just in time to celebrate our friends’ (Mike and Kelley)’s wedding at the end of July, which we really  wanted to do at the beginning of the trip and it didn’t make sense at the time. Now it does!
  • We celebrated Brady’s birthday at a nice restaurant, with wine and delicious dinner. We went back to the apartment to quickly pack and biked to the bus station 40 minutes away. We had a night bus to catch to Copiapo, leaving at 11:45PM
    • We were taking the bus to skip the second half of the Atacama desert. We figured since we will be leaving Chile in 2 weeks, we might as well skip the boring part
  • We were running a wee bit late, arriving to the bus station just in the nick of time before the bus leaves. We had to load our bikes, along with 10 panniers/bags into the bus, while I was trying to convince the driver in broken Spanish that he should take the bikes and they do have enough space in their luggage compartment. It was hectic to say the least
  • Unfortunately, during this all this self inflicted commotion, somebody managed to swipe Brady’s front handlebar bag which contained his passport, quite a bit of $$, go pro, headlamp, etc etc. We realised this as soon as we were done loading the rest of the bikes and bags.
  • Noting that there were no other option than to board the bus, we did, still secretly hoping that the bag was not stolen, but rather stashed in one of the other panniers.
  • Overnight bus and 6 hours later, we arrived at Copiapo at 6AM. Brady’s handlebar bag confirmed missing.
  • Decision to make: Continue to ride South, or take care of this missing passport situation, which means board the bus to Santiago.
  • Brady’s phone died= we could not call the embassy to ask how long it would take to process, but we did find out that in order to apply for a new passport, we needed to do a police report, detailing the theft.
  • We finally boarded the bus to Santiago after 4 failed attempts, since majority of the buses did not have enough space for the bikes and bags.
  • 13 hours later, we arrived in Santiago at 1AM.
  • The day after, we went to the Police station in Santiago to do a police report. It was 1.5 hour process as I tried to describe what happened in my (very informal and broken) Spanish.
  • Finally obtained the police report and went to the embassy.
  • At the embassy, the lady who worked there told us that she received a phone call the previous day from a person in Antofagasta (where we lost the passport and 22 hour bus ride away), saying that he had found Brady’s passport. No news about the bag and all its contents. This nice guy who found Brady’s passport handed the passport to the Police Station at Antofagasta and called the embassy.
  • I called the Police Station that afternoon to confirm that they DO have the passport. The guy who picked up the phone could not find the passport. WHERE IS THE PASSPORT? We decided to go back to the embassy the next day.
  • All the meanwhile, Santiago was supposed to be having the storm of the season and they expected to receive 25% of the yearly rain that weekend.
  • Following day, I called the Police Station in Antofagasta again, just to make sure. This guy found the passport! THEY HAVE THE PASSPORT! How do we get the passport back to us?
  • After refusing to take another 22 hour bus ride to Antofagasta, I called the Antofagasta AirBNB hosts and asked if they would pick the passport up and mail it to us– They very generously agreed!! They mailed it overnight on a Friday, to reach us by Monday.
  • We spent the weekend in Santiago, in the rain. We had amazing korean food, walked a lot, drank wine, went to wine bar, watched lots of Netflix to pass the time.
  • intermission: Pictures!

2view from our AirBNB Santiago apartment, right smack in the Center of town. Notice the smog and the threat of impending rain.

3After the rain! It’s so clear, you can see the mountains in the background.

1Stroll in the rain. Santiago is actually pleasant with beautiful European Architecture, but with a young hipster-y flair. They have lots of different neighborhoods: Italian barrio, Brazilian barrio, Yuppy town, Koreatown, etc etc. We went to ALL of them!

4I thought this is a cool house.

5Wine with breakfast? Why not??

7Walking ’round town in the rain. It was a Sunday so lots of the stores were closed.

6creepy mural next to Santa Lucia park.

  • Monday, we started the bike ride again. Our route was: West to Valparaiso on the Coast, then follow South towards the wine countries. We knew we only had 9 days before we had to get back to Santiago to fly out.

8bike paths to get out of Santiago.

  • 30 miles in, Brady started to feel crappy. After much deliberation and squabbles, we agreed to take the bus to Valparaiso
  • Waited for bus for 4 hours in a small town. All the buses were full and could not take us and all the bikes/bags until the later bus (8PM)
  • 2 buses later (My broken Spanish negotiating skills came handy), we arrived in Valparaiso at midnight!
  • Valparaiso: Stayed at a hostel. Brady was curled in a ball, but we didn’t think anything of it– just another overnight fever/stomachache (he’s had a few of these).

9Breakfast the following morning- Brady’s awkward smile, depicting how awkwardly uncomfortable he was….

  • Brady demanded that we moved from the hostel (with shared bathroom), to a nicer hotel with a bathroom inside.
  • Off to Ibis Hotel we went! Brady locked himself in the bathroom, all the while cold-sweating incessantly with a bit of fever. It was not a pleasant night for the both of us, and needless to say, the in-suite bathroom came in handy.
  • We went to urgent care the next day at a nice private clinic, I rehearsed how to describe the symptoms of a really bad diarrhea/ stomachache in Spanish ahead of time.
  • Brady got liquid in a bag IV, diagnosed with a “common Chilean parasitic infection”, prescribed with antibiotics
  • A few hours later (and only $80), we left the hospital.

21At the hospital. “I HAVE A STOMACH ACHE!”

  • We spent a couple more nights in Valparaiso, it’s an amazing city with graffitis everywhere. The town is perched on steep cliffs and hills, encircling a bay.

10There were tons of graffitis of this par, EVERYWHERE!

11The streets were like a maze. I attempted to use the map, only to end up being unnecessarily frustrated. Maps were not needed in this beautiful, enchanting and poetic town.

14Feeling a wee better after the antibiotics

13Valparaiso is gorgeous!

20Pretty hills, with many amazing grafittis and artisan stores.

19Nice sunshiny day.

17One of the funiculars- these things were built in 1930s and are still operational. A little sketch, but really fun!

16These kids were sliding down the steep concrete slide next to the stairs.

18

12More beautiful grafittis

22Valparaiso at night–

  • Still weak from the parasite and only having a few days to spare, we decided to rent a car and do a quick road trip of Chile. We rented a 4×4 truck and threw our (sad) bikes in the back

24to the South we went. The car was manual (I don’t know how to drive manual!). So Brady was stuck driving the entire time. Teehee. Nice sunset pic.

  • We passed wine country, heading South South South where it as rainy and cold.
  • Since it just poured the previous weekend, the Chilean ski resorts got dumped majorly- So we decided to try Chilean skiing! We went to Chillan.

25It was crowded. It just snowed the previous night- check out this line- super slow chairlifts!

27We didn’t even need to rent any clothing! We wore everything we brought for biking-mittens, rain pants, rain jackets and sunglasses! I snowboarded while Brady ski-ed (could not find a board for his height).

26gnar pow!

File28

File29More gnar pow!

  • Ski resort in Chile was ridiculously expensive (same price as US, I guess, but still– Chile’s GDP is ~20% of US’)
  • We went to the North of Lake district, close to Argentinian border, pass the road that we would have biked.

File31good thing we are not trying to bike this now! Wrong season~~

File32built me a baby snowman. It was freezing.

File33Went to this (very expensive) epic place for Termas Geometricas hot springs. They have 17 slate pools, nestled in a valley, with overhanging cliffs on either side with snow covered ferns. It was magical.

Drove back to Santiago, and off we went to California summer and sun!

So– the lessons learned here are:

  • We had been traveling for almost 3 months when Brady’s bag got stolen. We got wayy too comfortable, especially after hearing that Chile is a safer country than Peru and we made it out of Peru alright. We were complacent and hurried while loading the bus
  • Flexibility is very important- it was difficult not to be swallowed by pride, especially because we “didn’t quite make it” all the way South as we had thought we would. I’m glad that we were both ready to make the decision. We were both relieved after the decision was made, even though it took a while to arrive to the decision

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