Sunday, March 13, 2011

December Chilian trip

Saturday 25th of december.
The alarm woke me up, I packed and had everything ready at 9.15. Francisco was already awake and we drove to Ranu Kau, the volcano where Orongo village is.

The lake inside is mesmerizing, little islands surrounded by dark water reflecting the mood of the sky… a gap in the volcano to see the horizon, deep blue Pacific ocean. Golden grass dancing with the wind, green vine layers here and there, stone blocks looking like rocks, black volcanic blocks hanging in the air…
Francisco drove me around town to say goodbye to all of my friends. We picked up my luggages and went to see Betty so I could thanks her and say goodbye. We would meet again in Santiago sometime next year when I’ll be there to take my flight to Rio.
Lucia came at the airport with her older daughter, Patricia, to say goodbye.

 Francisco offered me a beautiful necklace made with local seeds, Isabelle and Sebastian were there,  Alejandra and Roberto arrived before I got into the boarding room. I cried but I know I would come back… I met beautiful people here who open their heart to me. I might not have seen every site of Rapa Nui, but discovering her soul and inside beauty thru her people was essential to my journey.
I was the last person to board and I had the seats choice. Again I could lay down and sleep comfortably… Everybody where taking pictures as we flew over the island.
I woke up when dinner was served. I watched a french movie, « L’arnacoeur ». It was relaxing and I had a good time watching it. We landed in Santiago around 20.30pm local time, 5 hours trip from Rapa Nui.
I got out of the airport and I couldn’t see my friend Paz… where could she be ?? Did she forget me ??? First steps in South America, the people looked different, dark hair, brown eyes, different faces… Taxi drivers looking for costumers… the airport was modern like any international airport I’ve seen. I tried to call Paz but the number didn’t work… I had to get an internet connection. I went back to my gate to wait for her. I could sleep at the airport and would find a way to get around the next day…
I sat between a young man and a young girl. She left and I was hoping Paz will show up… no one… I could call Francisco sister if anything… The young guy was on internet and I thought I could ask him for some internet tips. He gave me his internet pasword but it wouldn’t work… I was focused on trying to get online when Paz ran in and yelled my name as she saw me, she was so worried that she missed me and I was really happy to finaly see her.  Her friend, Claudio was holding a sign with my name on… It ended up as a funny situation, I thanked the young man for helping me. We drove to Valparaiso where we would spend the night and Sunday. One hour from Santiago, I was back on the road, highway, tunnels, fast car, I had flashbacks, it felt weird, I felt a little out of space but it was a good feeling. I was tired and rest for a little while. « Poema look, it’s Valparaiso »… lights everywhere, like yellow stars in the sky, I couldn’t see if we were going down a hill or if the city was on a hill… « The city is famous because it’s buid on hills »… 

I had my answer. Valparaiso is one of the biggest port in Chile… Chile is the second biggest salmon producer in the world, Claudio told me. He is a aquaculture researcher, specialized in salmon diseases at Valparaiso University.

We drove thru the main street to get to Claudio appartment, old buildings, old buses … young  people walking in the street… Claudio friend joined us at the gas station and we went to his flat.
Claudio lives in a hill, at the 14th floor of a new building. He has a spectacular view on the port and city. Lights covering the hills, cargo ships floating here and there surrounded by darkness…
It was colder than Rapa Nui, way colder… I dressed up with what I had to keep me warm, five layers of clothes, my marine coat is one of the best investment I made during my first world trip, 4 euros. We drunk some wine then took a taxi to go out. We fit 4 of us in the back of the small taxi. It was funny and typicaly South american style I find out. Songs from the 90s on the radio and there we were singing all together in a full car.

We walked around to find a place to eat and drink, empty abandonned buildings, tagged walls, drunk people, I wouldn’t call it a safe place to spend the night but I wouldn’t call it a dangerous place… 

The city looked like a mix beetween maroccan streets and Los Angeles…  People selling home made sandwich were sitting on the stairs by a bar. I was hungry and I was dreaming of a bread. I wanted to run into a store to grab something.… we sat in a pub call La vida verde. A local singer was playing some Chilian and brazilian famous songs… The pub was decorated with soccer teams old photos. We ordered a mixed plate.  I wanted to order a plate of pasta too but I probably had eyes bigger than my stomach.

The plate was composed of delicious salmon, finely cut and cooked in butter, red meat, some cheese and sea food. I had a glass of water, I started to fall asleep when we finish eating. We left to take me home. They bought a bottle of pisco and a Coke on the way and we jumped in a taxi.
I took a shower, had a sip of the Pisco coke and went straitgh to bed. The view from my room was spectacular.

Sunday 26th of december

Paz and I shared the bed and we woke up around 11. The sky was cloudy, huge ships in the bay, colorful houses all over the hills. It was beautiful. I never saw a city like this. I took a shower and we went for a road trip with Claudio.
We drove on the hills like a snake in between houses. Paz decided we were going to visit Pablo Neruda’s Valparaiso house. He is a noble prized Chilian poet and Isabelle told me about him too. Claudio and I were not very enthousiast about the idea but I figured I would follow the group. I never paid to visit a house but I told myself it would be my cultural stop, the museum, it cost 3000 pesos (5 euros)
Prohibition list welcomed us at the entrance of the house, I love them ! (it’s ironic of course) and that’s why I don’t like tourist attractions…. Anyway… Paz grabbed our guide telephone and I melted in the sheep group listening to the history of the place… Interesting but after 5 minutes I decided to visit without the blah blah.I tried to enjoyed it and get some inspiration for my house… the floor, windows and bathroom were interesting…

We drove up and down the hills, took some photographs and went down to the coast, thru Vina del Mar, saw its famous flower clock. Vina del Mar is like the Chilian « Nice ». 

It is a big contrast with Valparaiso,  I like this last one better. We went to a restaurant in a middle of a neighbour hood out of Vina del Mar, it was full and 20 people were waiting outside. I couldn’t believe it. A simple restaurant, nothing outside telling you how it’s special. We didn’t want to wait and went down the street in another neighbourhood restaurant . A soft drink ade sign is the only thing that would let us guess we could find a place to eat here. Again, the waiting line was all the way to the street. Paz went inside to check if we could have a table soon… yes !

We walked in, the house had two levels, two big rooms full of people. We went on the first floor, an inviting table, a nice view, full plates, good ocean food and reasonnable prices… that was the secret. It reminds me of the special restaurants we would go to in Tahiti, simple but very good and not overpriced… Not a tourist around… I loved it. 

We had pisco sour, as a apperitif, a garden of seafood as an appetizer, some fish with seafood creamed sauce with a bottle of white wine and some 3 different liquors each as digestive… everything for 20 euros each, more than my budget but it was worth every pesos… you have to enjoy special moments like these… they are unique. We drove back toward Valparaiso, visited Paz high school best friend, had some coffee and chilian mille-feuille.

Photos of the coast, « I tried the sea water with my feet » as they like to say (I find it cute)… cold water, that also remind me of my first trip… 

It’s so funny how I’m travelling back in time but at the same time discovering places I never saw before. I felt fantastic and I decided to come back to Valparaiso to spend a week with Claudio. I want to visit this hill city and see more of it, the coast is beautiful. Port city are usually very inetresting points to visit.

We went  back to the appartment, grabbed our bags and drove to Santiago.

Mountains, land full of  vine, wine advertisement, road cops… On the way to Paz appartment, the streets were lighten with millions of christmas lights following the shape of the branches. Welcome to Santiago !

Monday 27th of december
I woke up with Paz so she could show me the metro and her dad office in case I’ll get lost. It is right in the center, on one of the main street.  I went down to the metro station, it’s really organised and clean, I felt secured. Paz was worried for me because I wanted to go to Banderas street were you could find second hand stores. It’s a very  popular streets and she was scared that I would get robbed. I was a little worried before I got there and then I realized that it was just fine, like any kind of city I visited in USA or Europe. I walked around, big buildings going over my head, fancy stores, it’s been a while since I haven’t walked in a city street…

I found the second hand stores, the street were full of them. I was so happy I could find clothes for cooler weather at little price. Long sleeve tshirts for 1,5 USD, pants for 4 dollars. I found pants for my work too. I was quite happy even though it took me the whole day to go thru the piles of clothes.

I had a meeting with Paz at the metro station by her house. We went back home together, took her car and drove to her parents house, down south. I felt asleep on the way and I woke up when she stopped the car. A pretty house situated in the country side, fruits trees in the back yard, swimming pool. I was happy as a child. I picked my first cherries in the tree, had some peaches, delicious abricot, nectarine…
Her mom prpeared a bean soup for us for dinner. She is really nice. She was a little worry about me traveling alone. I went for a swim after dinner and a bronzage… last sunny and hot weather before Antarctica…  Paz’s dad arrived and we had some wine together.

We left around 8.30 and we went straight to bed… What a great day…

Tuesday 28 th of december

I woke up later than Paz and took a shared taxi to go to the metro. A dollars for a ride. Pretty good system. Same price for the metro. I had to find a pair of comfortable shoes for my job and it will be a mission with my big feet, not only long but also wide since I wear flip flop all the time.

The biggest size most of the store have is 40 and I’m 41. At the end of the day I found a store with my size. It fits me at first and I bought two differents pairs, it would be the investment of the trip…  I got out of the store and started to have my feet hurting. I had blister after 20 meters… GREAT ! I had no choice, buy some band aid and pray to get thru this shoe nightmare.
Paz was waiting for me outside the metro station and we took the bus home. There her friend Domingo came to meet us and we drove to the bar & restaurant side of the city. It’s amusing and very practical the way they organise the street here in Chile. You have streets for shoes store, for bars, jewerly stores, so if you are not happy with one store you go next door.

We ate at a peruvian restaurant, pisco sour for apperitif, seviche, deep fried delicious sea food and good white wine. We walked around the block to have a drink. We ended up in a Latino restaurant, it was very fun and popular. 

We dance with some ladies and went back home around 1.30… I had to be ready 3 hours later to take my plane. I fell asleep putting my alarm on.

Wednesday 29th of december

3am, my alarm is ringing… I turn it off and felt back into a deep sleep. I woke up at 4.40 Paz calling for me from the other side of the house « Poema the driver is here you have to wake up ! go go !!!! » I woke up brutaly from my sleep, dressed up with the first thing I found, and finish packing in 2 minutes. The airport transfert driver was at the door, I handed him my luggages, I was half asleep, laughing about the crazy situation. I was about to miss the only plane I could get to go to Ushuaia and about to loose the coolest job ever visiting Antarctica… I  left Paz, jumped in the car barrely dressed and felt a little cold. We picked up 2 other persons on the way, one was from Urugay, a very nice lady. She was going north to visit her daughter and grandchild for christmas.
We arrived at the airport and I run to the bathroom to change and wash wathever I could wash. I was still drunk from my night. I got out thinking everything was set now that I was at the airport . I spotted the Lan hostess and line to go to Punta Arenas. Your ticket please with flight number. All I had from the agent that booked my flight was some letters and numbers. I show it to her and she looked at me with a sorry face and started to talk in spanish…  « the flight is closed »… what the heck !!! I thought local flight check in were an hour before ! She looked again at my paper and said « you are not going to Punta Arenas, you are going to Buenos Aires, your check in is over there » Whatttttttttttttt !!!!! Imagine my face, my heart beatting so hard. I ran to the desk, hoping I could find a solution… « your flight is closed and we will put you on the next one » the hostess said and I replied « please I have to be in Ushuaia tomorrow, I can’t miss my connection flight. » « your flight will leave at 7.30 and you will be in Buenos Aires on times, we will offer you a transfert to the airport were you will take your Ushuaia connecting flight". I was relief, I had it all set I thought. I ran to the gate to make sure I won’t miss any other plane.
« Flight cancelled » was flashing on my gate screen…. No way ! Please ! no !  Is the flight cancelled, is it mine ? « No it’s the one before » the one I was supposed to take.   Good news, it will save me from my late wake up… I didn’t miss any plane as it got cancelled :-).
I got in the plane, sat between two men, fell asleep when the plane started to move. I woke up and we were still on the air strip… « Are we in Buenos Aires ? » I asked to one of my neightbour. « No, still in Santiago ». An hour and a half later, we took off from Santiago and I was late for my connection flight but I still had hope. I slept for a little bit. We landed on Buenos Aires, I ran out of the plane. No Lan agent waiting for me, no transfert signs… nobody, may be they will be someone from Lan or our crew agency waiting for me outside… the immigration line was devided in two groups, south american/ Europeen and USA/Australia. My agency used my american passport so I went on that line… 150 USD to enter, valid for 10 years but not as a visa. The line was taking so long, I tried to enter with my french passport. I went on the other line, it was faster and FREE, I was hoping I wouldn’t get in trouble with the crewing agency… but if I could avoid paying I will… I filled out a new immigration form and I got out easy and fast.
I picked up my luggage, ran thru the costums and got outside. Signs here and there, I had to be quick, the airport to go to Ushuaia was an hour away and I was already late, very late. Anybody for me here ???? nobody, no signs with my name on… I looked for a Lan agent to find out where I could catch my tranfer to the other airport… « you have to go to the desk on the other side of the airport », I ran there got my taxi voucher and realized my back pack was missing… somebody took it ??? no it’s not possible, I’m sure I forgot it at the costum… I ran back there, look for an agent went thru a maze of agent and security to end up at the Lan luggage service. The airport service was pretty bad, just careless and clueless, I was going crazy. I told the man who seemed careless about my problems « I forgot my back pack at the costum, the security don’t want to let me in without a Lan agent, can you please help me, I have a connection flight I’m about  to miss and I need my bag » I was about to cry, he saw my desperation and changed his attitude. He took me thru the gates, I picked up my bag and ran to the taxi agency. I shared my ride with a Colombian family, they were beautiful and so nice. The taxi driver was a jerk and she put him back on the track. We drove to the airport, the scenery wasn’t very nice. An hour later we arrived at the airport, I missed my plane, the next ones were full but they would put me on a waiting list. I had to pay excess weight luggage and I went up. « Everything is going to be alright, don’t worry Poema » I was telling myself. I ate a sandwich and walk to the security gate. I do film photo and I always take my films out of my bag to have them hand scan instead of risking burning them. « Your film have to be machine scanned» « No I can’t ! they are too expensive and rare for me to risk it, I never scan them, and anywhere in the world they let me go thru the gate with it and hand scan them » «  I’m sorry but you have to put them thru on the luggage scan otherwise you will not go thru » I couldn’t get them to think about this, the security chief was a stupid stuborn young man who wouldn’t want to think. » I was really pissed and I went out to relax.. I had to find a solution… An idea came to me while walking, I had to hide the films on me. My pockets were too small, how could I do it… I have to tape them on me… I bought a big tape roll, went in a toilet room and taped the films around my waist, ankle, and filled my bras. I had enough space to hide them there. I went back to the gate and prayed for them to not hand search me. I left the less sensitive films in my bag to not be too suspicious. I had to wait for the line to be full so they will go fast. I went thru, and ran to the gate. I got out, happy and relieved… and I realised I forgot my passport and ticket at the security gate. I had no time to go to the bathroom to untape my films, I had to go back and be the first at the gate desk to have more chance to get on the plane. I walked back to the security, it was another agent and he was laughing, it made me smiled too and relaxed. I went back to the gate. AlI I could do was to wait for the last passenger to embark and hope for someone to miss the plane… Someone else arrived at the desk, he was also on the waiting list. We waited and after an hour I finally got my seat… I wished him luck. He finaly got a seat too.  I was relieved, I would be in Ushuaia tonight and hopefully someone will be there for me. We stopped in Calafate, it was one of the most beautiful plane ride I had. The glaciers, lakes, mountains, amazing !!! I had to come here and visit the region. I was super excited thinking about Ushuaia and Antarctica.
We arrived in Ushuaia, I felt good but something was telling me that I was going to have some problems with my luggage… they were not here. I went out the small gate and found an agent waiting for me. I told him about my luggage and we went to the desk to find out about it. In south America people mainly speaks spanish and not much english. My luggages have been sent to Calafate. I learned to check my luggage voucher that day.
I waited for the next plane to arrive to see if my luggage were in by chance and went out to see the scenery . The plane strip is build on a flat island in a bay. In front of the airport, separated by water is Ushuaia. Multicolored houses, a casino flashing fancy colors, and high snowy mountains on the back ground.
My luggage were not on the last plane and the agent drove me to the pier. I was so happy and relaxed after such a long day. Gloria the chief stewardess, Yuri the chief engineer and Luis the cook assistant were the first ones I saw. I was happy to see them. I went on the boat and met my room mate and collegue, Lynnie, 28 from South Africa and Andry from Ukraine whom I met in Moorea.
Lynnie took me to our cabin. I took a shower, borrow a pantie from her. It was such a day ! the most catastrophic travel day I ever had in my life.
Martin (captain) and Jens (chief mate) who hired me, were outside waiting for me. We went for a drink and met two of our passengers on the way. We all went to a very nice cafe, had something to eat and slowly went back to the ship. I was so happy to be there. The two passengers were the diving trip organisator hired by a rich Deutch guy who rent the boat to dive with Leopard seals in Antartika. They brief us about him and the super yatch charter they were expecting. From Martin, it was going to be the most demanding client and it had to be my first charter !  Of course !
Well I thought to myself I will worry when time will come but for now I had to relax and rest. I fell asleep on my new bed and felt like home already.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, the adventure is grand, I'm loven all these stories Keep em coming. Your images are wonderful, as always. Thank you. I'm in New Zealand right now and it's so hot right now, crazy, it should be cooler. Good luck! D