Category Archives: career break

A good night of sleep, and some perspective

In the morning, after a good night’s sleep, I stopped for breakfast in the hostel. There, I met two Austrian women who were on my bus. They had a better perspective than I did. Especially when they said getting off the bus was “great for being able to stretch legs.” Perspective never hurt anyone.

Above all, I learned (too late) that, in Argentina, the seats on the upper deck are NOT the luxury seats. I had purchased upper deck seats. My new friends had been on the lower deck. This had been my final long distance bus journey in either Argentina or Chile. Over the course of my trip, I had been warned that buses would be very different in Bolivia and Peru.

After enjoying breakfast, reviewing the previous day’s events and scoping out the malaria situation (I still did not take the pills), they invited me to spend the day with them.

We visited the main plaza, and wandered a bit. Salta’s architecture was stunning.

We browsed the shopping district

where anything from spices

to pig heads

were for sale.

Unsure if the chickens were for sale, but sadly, cages like this lined some streets.

For lunch, we had Salta’s famous hot dogs, called super panchos!

While some sights were similar to the US

,

others were not.

Donkeys at work were an interesting sight and similar to what I had seen in Uruguay.

Salta was full of parks where we could take leisurely rests. This was South America, after all. 

But there was more to explore above the city. The tram – teleferico – was not to be missed.

We were eager to ascend to the top of Cerro San Bernardo. Cerro translates to hill in English. Not the kind of “hill” I would think of.

And away we go!

  

Fitness classes at the top. How they got exercise machines up, amazes me.  Even if in pieces to assemble, the trams were not that big!

 

Also, we found beautiful waterfalls.

Behind us is incredible scenery from the tram. My photos don’t do the view any justice.

 

 

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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.


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: