Adios Vina and Hola Valpo

Cara still had her Spanish classes in Santiago so her long weekend break in Vina came to an end. We had been so busy in Vina the past few days, I hadn’t had a chance to figure out what and where I was headed and I had absolutely no idea where I was going once I left the Vina hostel. Once we all said goodbye I sat down at a computer in the common area to figure out my next step.

What I knew: I had a flight from Santiago to Calama (getting me to San Pedro de Atacama where I would be meeting Alana and Courtney). The night before that flight I wanted to be in Santiago (and would meet up with Cara again) but that wasn’t for a few days so I had a big to do: figure out a plan.

As I saw it, my options were:

Valparaiso / With Cara and her friends, we had spent a few hours exploring the waterfront of Valparaiso, about a 15 minute bus ride from Vina. I could go back to Valparaiso. I had heard you either love it or hate it and I didn’t really get a chance to make my decision.

WWOOF / I had been looking at WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) volunteer exchanges but hadn’t heard back. They don’t check email often which is why you should book months in advance. Fail on my part.

Volunteering at a winery / A contact from NYC who worked in the wine industry had been asking her contacts about volunteer opportunities but it was the low season and each time she emailed she didn’t have any good updates to share.

Santiago / I could go to Santiago early but I didn’t want to spend days in the city.

Stay in Vina / I could stay another night at this hostel but staying was too easy so this option was the least appealing.

I decided I wanted to find out for myself if I would love it or hate it and Valparaiso was my choice. 

Traveling alone gives you as many options as you want. The only person that needs to make the decision is you.

I booked a single room in a hostel/B&B with excellent reviews, wrote down the name and address and logged off.

I asked the front desk how to get there (a bus to a taxi or funicular). With a very loose plan in place (transportation AND a place to sleep for two nights), I thanked the staff and said goodbye and headed out for my next adventure.


Snowboarding with sand

Sandboarding is hugely popular in Vina del Mar. The group I was with was keen to try. After my morning, I was keen to watch.

It’s just like you think – snowboarding except with sand. There are giant dunes and the only way to get to the top is by foot making the climb up in sand a little more difficult than it seems.

Here’s the climb up:

real sandboarders

Me climbing to the top sans sandboard:

sandboarding

Here’s a shot of the actual sandboarders at the top:

the climb to the top

And once you get to the top, and peek over, here’s the spectacular view – well worth the (exhausting) walk up:

the view at the top


What’s a completo you ask?

One of Chile’s not-to-be-missed culinary treats is called a completo.

Wikipedia explains a completo like this:  The completo (Spanish for “complete”, “total”) is a hot dog variation eaten in Chile, usually served with ingredients such as chopped tomatoes, avocados, mayonnaise, sauerkraut, a variation of the sauce américaine, Chilean chili, green sauce and cheese. Its size can be twice of an American hot dog.

A bite or two was really all you needed, which is why three of us shared one. However, Cara’s friend, Raphael from Germany accepted the challenge:

  • chilean hotdog

completo

There is really a hot dog buried under the cheese, tomatoes, mayonnaise, avocado mixture.

And the completo, while not my favorite, wasn’t as gross as it looks.

closeup

close up of completo


Where’s the best place to relax? Hint: the beach

Once we picked up my new medicine, where’s the best place to relax?

Yes, the beach.

as it should be

all smiles, as it should be

beach

vina beach

bus sponsorship

bus sponsorship on the beach

guardavida

guardavida (lifeguard)

view from the sand

behind us – beachfront property


Inside a Chilean Hospital

The pain came on so fast and with no warning. I sat down and tried to think clearly. As soon as Cara and her friend’s Starbucks orders were ready, we left with the plan to get a cab back to the hostel. Before making it from Starbucks to the corner, I had to sit down on a bench. The pain in my legs was excruciating.

Taxi back to hostel. The three of us took the quick ride back to the hostel. We dropped off Cara’s friend and I went to my room to bring the Argentinian prescription to the hospital. I figured this medicine was the culprit since I had been fine otherwise.

The staff at the hostel suggested we go to the private hospital. This was promising since I learned from my Uruguayan hospital experience that private hospitals are supposedly better, they speak English and it’s more efficient.

In the taxi, I profusely apologized to Cara. She had such a calming presence and we both said how thankful we were that we were together and I wasn’t alone.

Taxi to private hospital. We arrived to a nondescript building and here, I took a number, like you would at a deli counter. Then we settled in for what we thought would be a long wait.

After no more than 5 minutes of waiting, my number was called. I went to the desk to get registered, which was basically them taking my name, my emergency contact and my passport number. The pain had minimized but my concern about why had not.

I returned to the waiting area with Cara and seconds later my name was called.

If you’ve ever been to the ER in the United States, what happens next will shock you.

I was called in, and instead of sitting for an hour waiting to be seen, A NURSE WAS WAITING FOR ME. We spoke for a few minutes about what had happened in Argentina, the medicine I was prescribed and what had just happened less than an hour prior.

medicines

Then, while we were conversing, the doctor came in, examined me, told me that I had an allergic reaction, wrote a new prescription and basically said, no charge.

the doctor and i

All smiles with the nurse after the doctor told me everything would be okay.

Cara and I headed to the door but before we left, an administrator ran after me asking for payment. I was so relieved it was nothing terrible and I knew I had travel insurance.

So with a total bill at around $100USD for the visit, I happily paid and Cara and I were off to find another taxi to go fill the new prescription at the pharmacy.

This entire hospital visit was less than ONE HOUR.

Efficient, pleasant and cheap. As healthcare should be.


All is well, until it is not

Arriving into Vina, collecting my backpack and finding a taxi felt like it took just minutes. I was soon en route to my hostel, where I knew I had a bed waiting.

It seemed like no time before checking in and finding my room, which had 8 bunks. After quick introductions and a quick scan of the room, it looked like it was just 3 of us for the night. There were no other backpacks or beds awaiting their owners.

Score! A party town and it looked like I was going to get a good night’s sleep since my roommates were already in bed reading! Unless someone else was checking in even later, this room was going to be quiet tonight.

It looked like everything was finally working out after all. I just had to take my first dose of medicine. Remember that medicine from the pharmacy in Argentina? From the bloody arm fiasco at the hotel in Mendoza?

It was a powder medicine, so I mixed in some bottled water and took my first dose of medicine and went straight to bed.

Woke up after a terrific night’s sleep (and one hell of a long day before) and took my second dose of medicine. Threw on a bathing suit and cover up (after all, we’re in a Chilean beach town) and went to the common area to meet up with Cara and her friends.

Cara had heard there was a Starbucks in town. I don’t drink coffee but I was certainly up for exploring since I had only seen the streets of Vina by dark just a few hours before.

So Cara, two of her friends and I headed out to find Starbucks.

After a short walk and a longer wait we were about to place our orders. And I started feeling a horrible pain in my legs.


A perfect stranger made my day

After what seemed like forever in the Santiago, Chile bus terminal, it was time to board the bus to my next stop: Vina del Mar, Chile. It was already dark and I figured I could grab a nap in the short 90 minute ride.

Seated in the back of the bus, in the row next to the bathroom, it already didn’t bode well for my ride. A few minutes after departing the station, my seatmate, a Colombian woman, about my age, started speaking to me in rapid Spanish.

When I replied in my Spanish, accent and all, she giggled and in English told me she thought I was Latina.

She will never know how she made my day with those words. After feeling like an outsider for a good part of the day in the bus terminal, I couldn’t have been happier that she thought I was a local.

We chatted in English and Spanish for some time. I know we both fell asleep at some point because we both were jarred awake when the bus lurched to a stop in Vina.


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