Category Archives: reality check

When the government says no, it’s a no.

Before arriving in San Pedro and well before leaving the US, Alana, Courtney and I had our hearts set on visiting El Tatio, the geysers. Your tour (you cannot do this trip without a licensed guide) picks you up well before dawn to get there for sunrise. Due to the massive rainfall and flooding the region had recently experienced, the government had suspended these tours indefinitely.

Disappointed, we really tried to figure out a way to go. The Chilean government would provide email updates on the status of the geysers. Our hotel would receive email updates at 6p and 11p; neither would give us favorable news.

Understanding that we could be arrested if we went on our own (therefore, eliminating that option), we told the front desk we’d set an alarm and check in for an update in the middle of the night … just in case the government’s restrictions were lifted. We were well aware at how far-fetched this was since our pick up was scheduled for 4.30am.

Let me clarify how insane we were. If the 11pm email said ‘closed,’ we REALLY didn’t need to wake up super early for a tour that was never leaving, or even bother with getting a status update in the middle of the night, since the chance of the geysers opening were nil.

We were persistent but when the government says no, they mean no.

The restrictions were not lifted that night. SPOILER ALERT: the geysers wouldn’t reopen during our time in the region.

 

Knowing now that ‘town’ didn’t offer much during the day but a convenient jumping off point to further explore the region, we spent some of the morning relaxing poolside, which, as you can see from our view, wasn’t a really terrible way to spend the morning.

pool

We had the pool to ourselves.

After lunch, one of the girls at the front desk connected us with Freddie, who, with his pal Sergio, would take us to several attractions in the region. And this is when we finally got to start exploring. It certainly took our mind off the geysers, but we still were keen on seeing if the government would lift their restrictions before we headed out of the region.

Our first excursion was a tour of the Valle de Luna, which translates to Valley of the Moon, appropriately so, don’t you think? What you might think in these photos is snow, is actually salt. Take a look at the scenery and the sky. The weather was fickle, changing from one minute to the next. Shorts and tees or sweaters and shivering? All of it.

This is what I would call ‘the middle of nowhere.’ Except we were somewhere in the north of Chile and it was pretty freaking spectacular.

 


You Have Got to Be Kidding

My new lady friend and I were seated next to each other in the front row (fear not, there was no first class on this flight). We were seated across from the flight attendant in her jump seat so my new friend and her had a lively conversation and I could pick up a little bit so I could nod where appropriate.

The welcome message was in Spanish followed by an English version that was more Spanglish — and more on the Span. I understood her but in the chaos of an emergency, probably not.

The flight attendant did drink service and the flight was bumpy but pretty uneventful. It was definitely dark when we left and I was relieved I had a place to tell a taxi upon arriving in Mendoza.

About halfway into the flight, the flight attendant got a call from the pilots. She made an announcement in Spanish and I paid no attention thinking it would come in English any second.

She never said it in English. But my new friend turned to me and did the translation.

She told me we are turning around.

I thought she was joking. Her face told me she was not.

I said es verdad, es verdad? Is that true?

Apparently the weather was not cooperating — there was too much lightning — and landing would be very dangerous. Cordoba was still the closest airport so we had to turn back. I thought it would have been cool if there was another airport, to see another city, as my itinerary was quite flexible.

I know it was good they were playing it safe but all I could think about was the guy at the hotel telling me about the crash a few months prior.

At this point, everything else was secondary. I just only wanted to get back on the ground. Even if it was back where we had started.


Tick Tock

My flight still said on time for a 5.40pm departure but I went to the gate agent and he confirmed it was delayed. No surprise there.

The gate agent told me the flight was now delayed until 7.30pm. I was getting concerned with no accommodation reservation since it would be dark when I arrived.

Since there were limited flights, your odds of meeting someone on your flight were pretty good. I met an Argentine woman and we got to chatting. I told her my situation (no place to stay and now we were sure to arrive after dark) and she offered to help me pick a place. I pulled out my Lonely Planet. Now I am just going off the Lonely Planet — no cross checking on TripAdvisor — so I narrowed down the descriptions I liked and then she picked one with a good location.

Now I needed a phone to make a call. Skype had been my lifeline in this situations prior but without WiFi, I was without a phone. I figured I could wait a bit in case the plane would take off soon and then make the call in the Mendoza airport. She was adamant that I had a place booked before I landed.

She also told me the rules in Argentina and that if a plane is delayed more than four hours they would have to provide dinner and a hotel. Because of this, airlines are incentivized to take off on time. I looked at her quizzically, this was Argentina, and she was confident we would board before the four hours were up.

Tick tock.

Finally, she told me to come with her. We went to the gate agent and she told him my situation (solo female traveler, she can’t speak quickly, no reservation in Mendoza — I’m certain I looked like a winner). I basically stood there like her sidekick picking up words here and there. I still had no idea what she said in Spanish but after a lot of arguing and him head nodding (as in ‘no’) he finally handed over his cell phone to me. She told me to call and make a reservation with his phone.

And then we waited some more.

We met the others on our flight. Two men who were returning from a vacation in Brazil were trying to return home to Mendoza were also on our flight. I was practicing my Spanish since one spoke very good English and the other only Spanish. It was frustrating to everyone because they wanted to get home. I hardly had a plan but I knew I wanted out of the Cordoba airport.

This is what the airport looked like when we boarded at 9pm — just shy of four hours delayed.

cordoba airport

But little did we know that our adventure, and our friendship, was just beginning.


Security or Not?

After my Cordoba adventures, I went back to the hotel, grabbed my stuff and took a taxi to the airport.

I went through what could have been a doorway, but I went through security with my shoes on, a bottle of water in my hand. I stopped to ask about the water and my shoes and instead before I got the words out, was just waved through. There was no line when I got to ‘security’ and there was no line after. It was as if I went through a doorway. There was no concern. I was through in a matter of seconds.

I got to the terminal — which was the terminal for the whole airport and realized I would have an hour to kill before boarding.

I took out my laptop to see if I could figure out where I could stay and no WiFi. I took a seat and nearby I hear English. Lots of it.

About eight burly men were returning to Buenos Aires. They were on a hunting trip and returning home to various places in the Midwest, Idaho and Montana. We chatted for nearly an hour, and then they left to board.

I realized I should have been boarding for my flight to Mendoza around the same time too.

 


Happy New Year

Once I returned from South America I spent a fair amount of time writing blogs to get (and stay) ahead of real-time. I had months of scheduled posts with the hope to keep writing to stay ahead and with job searching, working and planning a wedding, I just never got ahead of myself. I came to the end of those scheduled posts just before the end of 2012. I have a fair number of draft posts that I am ready to finalize and can start to schedule now. My hope is that once I have them scheduled from now until the end of January, I can spend some time writing to get (and stay) ahead.

I love writing and keeping a journal of my travels on my blog. With that said, I want to make some changes and improvements to my blog for the coming year.

Instead of saying I want to write a better blog (which I do), I have provided specifics on things that I’d like to change and/or learn in order to write that better blog. If I make my goals public, at least I’ll be held accountable if by no one but myself.

I’d like to spice things up. I think there have been posts that are a little bit dry (and I’m the one telling the story!). I want to tell my stories (albeit I am little behind*) from my time in South America and travels since then — without boring anyone or feeling like a braggart. I want to improve my writing and story-telling with each post. I want to make my blog more visually appealing — using at least one photo in each post (starting in this one). I know not every post is going to be spectacular, but I’d like to cut back on the number that are less than stellar. As I prepared this post, I figured out the new tools to fix photo size and placement — which I should have learned before I published the previous post.

I want to learn more about WordPress and its latest tools so that posting pictures is easier. I want to make the process of using WordPress easier on my end. I want to decide what to do with my Simply Three Cents Facebook page since I don’t utilize it other than a place to push out my posts. Should I post in real-time on Facebook with other travel content like I do on Twitter? Should I create a Simply Three Cents logo (since the current logo utilizing three pennies are lame)? Why do the posts that push to Facebook showcase the WordPress logo (maybe because those posts are missing photos?) I’d like to decide what’s the best use of each of the tools I use with my blog.

I have done a fair amount of writing this year for online publications — both paid and pro-bono. I’d love to continue writing for various publications so long as they will have me.

I follow a lot of travel blogs, and while I don’t ever anticipate this to be on the caliber of those (since I am not looking to make my blog a business), I am inspired by a lot of what I see there so I know what greatness looks like IF you dedicate a lot of time to your site with the intention of making a living on it. I’m just not looking to do that right now for a variety of reasons. If I can keep a chronicle of my travels to entertain, inspire and motivate others, in a relatively clean format with consistent and engaging blog posts, I’d be happy with that.

If you’ve been reading, I thank you. If you’re new, welcome. Feel free to use the tools to the right to see older posts based on geography or category. If you like my blog, or a post, feel free to share it. If you hate something, let me know. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.

*I’m way off in terms of timing from my adventures in South America but the stories are still there to tell. Please bear with me.

Me in the Tram Car Above Salta, Argentina


FAQs: Concerns

FAQ: Is South America safe?

Unless you live in a bubble, no where is truly ‘safe.’

FAQ: Do you speak Spanish?

Si. Mientras mi gramatica es asi asi tengo volcabulario grande. The language barrier is actually the least of my worries.

FAQ: What will the weather be like?

Summertime! But it will be colder in some places because of the altitude and it will be the rainy season in Bolivia.

FAQ: What if you get homesick?

I can call home. I can Skype. I can email. I can do a video hang 0ut on Google +. I can look forward to meeting up with those who are meeting me on the road. And if all else fails, I can tell myself that a bad day of travel is still probably better than a good day behind a desk…wishing I was traveling.

FAQ: What if you don’t like it?

If I don’t like a place, I can move on. If I really don’t like the idea of being on the road, I can always come home.

FAQ: What about your real life?

I don’t really understand this question and I have been asked it a few times.

It is my real life and I am living it. Maybe it seems like the road less traveled but we each have our own road.

FAQ: What about babies? You are getting up there in age.

Gee, thanks.

FAQ: Do you even want kids?

Yes. And in fact, one of the shots, TDAP, is actually recommended before you get pregnant. So there, I’m already preparing my body so enough with those questions.


Nomadic Matt: Why It’s Never the Perfect Time to Travel

This article couldn’t have come from Nomadic Matt at a better time.

Take a read.