Category Archives: career break

Last Day of Adventures in San Pedro

The rest of our last afternoon here we explored – there was rock climbing and a visit with a llama to top off our time in the region.

We returned to the hotel, exhausted again, that evening. After dinner the three of us finally polished off our bottle of wine…that only took 3 ladies, 3 nights to finish. Tiring days in high altitude did not mix with wine.

Since we were parting ways in the morning, we prepared for departure before heading to bed.

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San Pedro Adventures Continued

Visiting the lagoons was another highlight of our daytime excursions. The pictures certainly showcase the beautiful scenery but don’t capture the frigid morning temperatures.

 

While we ate breakfast at the hotel before being picked up by Freddy and Sergio, they surprised us with a picnic breakfast, which we ate by the flamingo park. It was a pretty spectacular setting.

Lunchtime was at a local place where we were offered a vegetarian or meat option. I chose vegetarian. Everyone received a bowl of soup and bread topped with pico de gallo, which I could have had a bowl of for lunch, it was so good. The main course consisted of quinoa, rice and a shredded pancake/tortilla with carrots and big green beans that looked like olives. I don’t love carrots so when I saw Sergio put the pico de gallo on his entree, I followed suit to drown the carrot taste and it worked. To drink we had some kind of orange Fanta type drink. Dessert was a fruit cup.

 


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.


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.


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.


My Lonely Planet told me that there were 4 bus terminals in Santiago. And I had no idea which one I was pulling into.

After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived in Santiago. It took some time to park in the bus terminal since it was rush hour. But the end was near. I was about to embark on my next adventure. And adventure it would be.

I was lacking crucial information and I would be getting off the bus in just a few minutes.

My Lonely Planet told me that there were 4 bus terminals in Santiago.

That said, what I don’t know:

  • Which of the 4 bus terminals we are arriving into.
  • Which station has the bus I need to take to Vina.
  • If the bus I need has available seats.

What I need to do (in no particular order):

  • Must go to the bathroom.
  • Need to find a left luggage place. I don’t want to bring my stuff into a bus station bathroom since I can only imagine the floor is probably disgusting. It’s going to be hot and crowded and I’m going to want to drop my bags and run to the bathroom as quickly as possible.
  • Need to get Chilean pesos.
  • Need to buy hand sanitizer ASAP.
  • Need to figure bus situation out of the city as soon as possible.

What I do know:


I spent the bulk of my time dreaming of how I could get off the damn bus

Based on the notes I took during this (what turned into a nearly 10 hour) ride, I am confident that I spent the bulk of my time dreaming of how I could get off the damn bus.

My notes are pretty funny to read through now, after the fact. I have 28 pages of notes/scribbles/complaints from my bus ride, just complaining to myself.

Before things went from bad to worse, I had attempted to break out the ride into activities:

Look out window / 1 hour
Write / 1 hour
Read Chile (in Lonely Planet) / 1 hour
Read book / 1 hour
Nap / 1 hour
Movies / tbd
Eat / tbd
Organize bag and dump trash / 30 minutes

It started out simple. I even noted that I “revised thoughts on long haul buses. This is not Greyhound. And better than coach on an airplane.”

After all, we had meal service. I was served food…twice.

First, a sandwich which tasted better than it looked.

sandwich

And a special guest. A guy with a butcher’s coat and sunglasses jumped aboard to sell empanadas and would ride with us for a few miles before hopping off. In case you are wondering, the bus smelled delicious but I passed on the opportunity to purchase the empanadas, wherever they may have come from.

I even noted that it felt somewhat safe because cops would randomly come aboard, walk the aisles and leave.

I admired the scenery, with switchbacks sans guardrails, homes in the middle of nowhere and the vegetation once we decreased our elevation.

I was playing around with the exchange rate so I had an idea of what $10USD and $20USD would equal in Chilean pesos. At the time I was traveling 9500CHP equaled $20.55USD. I noted that “it makes me nervous with so many zeros.”

I wrote some words I learned “palta = avocado,” aceitunas = olives” and “para llevar = to go”

I made notes about my fellow passengers. I came up with stories on why they were traveling and where they were headed.

“Flowing chocolate milk…with rocks.” Apt description of the fast-moving brown river, considering the other notes I made, that include: “rafts, going in that water???” “lots of rocks” and “where’s the nearest hospital?” (perhaps I was foreshadowing for what was to come).

Then, another meal service later, with an assortment of crackers, cake, marmalade, teas, coffees, instant milk and a variety of sugars. I don’t drink coffee but I finished everything else off….once my bus neighbors finished yet another diaper change (and their aversion to throwing the dirty diaper in the trash, instead tucking it into their diaper bag). At the same time, their second child was having a meltdown, throwing a bottle of milk. The image and stench of the bus bathroom memory was still worse than then smell of countless diaper changes and spilled sour milk just a few feet away.

food

And then my ride went from tolerable, to painful…

In reality, looking at these 28 pages of notes, forget my timeline of activities I could do to while away my travel time. Instead, I spent the bulk of the time on the bus detailing my misery in chicken scratch.

A movie with English-language voiceover couldn’t entertain me. The words didn’t match their mouths and I started to unravel. This was the beginning of the end, though this hiccup would be the least of my issues as I became increasingly more cranky on this seemingly never-ending ride to Santiago.

I have notes like “This bus ride is making me nauseous.”

“How gross?” I questioned in advance of checking out the bathroom situation after a few hours. “AWFUL,” I responded, noting my attempt, but instead choosing to hold it.

(I assume this was directed towards the baby) “This ride is awful. And guess what, I want to scream and cry too.”  “Super crankified.”

I also had jotted down “Cute kid. Not so cute anymore. Throwing food. Sister is crying. I’m cranky too.”

Using the logic from the time that had elapsed, the Lonely Planet and whatever signage appeared on the roads, I was creating crazy math equations and sketches, passing a good chunk of time. I was definitely getting frustrated because my answers were “No idea how much time is left” and also, the much more colorful, “No F idea.”

My misery crossed language barriers and was documented in my notebook in both Spanish and English.

To top off my bus misery was the added uncertainty of my arrival in Santiago.

I was going to be arriving in the middle of rush hour. I needed to secure a seat on a bus for the 90 minute ride to Vina del Mar. Friday. Summer. Rush hour. Didn’t I just do this the week before in Buenos Aires?