Once again it’s time to move on to a new country, new adventure. With the help of my host Roberto, I managed to buy overnight bus ticket to Avaroa, Bolivian boarder. (At least that is what I thought!)
Since my host had work commitment, his father personally dropped me to the bus station making sure I was safe and got on the right bus.
After being spoiled by the good buses in the South I was awfully unprepared for Bolivian bus ride. No recline seats, cold and not so clean. The harsh reality of traveling! I took out my sleeping bag and tried to sleep hopping when I wake up it’ll be all over.
Sleep was hard on a bumpy road, so when suddenly the driver stopped and few passengers left the bus, I thought it was a break. The assistance appeared with blankets and when I hesitated he threw one on me. He knew I’ll need it.
Apparently the travel agent forgot or chose not to tell me I’ll be sleeping in bus for 6h waiting for the boarder to open for more than 6h. Well that was just the beginning.
After the COLD, cold night I was happy to see the beautiful sunrise that brought color and warmth. Crossing the boarder was one of the easiest so far, didn’t even have to bring my backpack to customs.
The only stop we had so far was the boarder and I saw most people getting good to eat, but thinking I should be in town soon where I’ll be changing bus I decided to wait.
Once back on the road, I hardly saw anything that looked like village or a bus station. I asked the assistance how long would be, he just said to wait, I was sure he didn’t understand what I was saying.
When the road finally got better the driver decides to drive fast and hit old man on his bike. I almost fought with the driver and assistance to get my backpack out so I can give the old man dressing to clean his wound and stop the bleeding. After a long discussion and argument the driver agreed to take the man to hospital in the next village.
When we arrived in the village, the small clinic was closed and we had to patiently wait for over un hour for the nurse to come. Talking to the villagers I found I was suppose to get off at the boarder and wait for another bus to go Uyuin, now that I was in the middle of no where I had to go all the way to Ouroro to take yet another over night bus to south.
Some how my over night trip turned in to close to 30h bus ride. When I finally reached to Uyuni it was 4am. That it self it another adventure, another story!
It’s true, I am a coffee addict! There is nothing that can make me unhappy as a bad coffee in the morning. I grew up in Ethiopia where coffee is drunk as a ritual, mostly black some times with salt, sugar, butter or milk.
So when I arrived in Santiago, I consulted my travel guide (traveling bible) where to find a decent coffee in town. To my disappointment I found out the Chileans like instant coffee, so the guide book suggested I ask what kind of coffee they serve before ordering. Didn’t stop there, it suggested to make sure to visit the famous Café con Piernas.
Driven by my curiosity and love for coffee I felt obligated to visit. Usually I don’t have problem in going to a Café or restaurant to eat or drink alone but this time I was little intimidated.
Still high on the free hugs spirit, I suggested to my fellow CSr’s (locals and travelers) to venture to the one of the near by Café con Piernas.
No alcohol what so ever, no cover charge or bouncer at the door. It’s a business place like any other 9am to 9pm with good coffee served by beautiful girls wearing just Bikini.
Later when we left the café some one told me the waiters were perplexed by there female customers, us!
I boarded early morning bus from Mendoza to Santiago not knowing for how long and where exactly I want to go. My plan has been changing lately and with the earthquake even got harder to decide. I had contacted a CS host before and he was graciously waiting for me.
I tried to get the front sit on the bus so I can see the amazing Andes Mountains on the way but since there was no flight landing in Santiago bus was full with families returning back to Chile after the summer holiday. I settled for window sit, which was as good as the front.
I was hopping to catch up with my Chilean friends Octavio and Consuelo in Santiago. Few years a go we met in South Africa when they where doing there RTW. Though I wanted to stay positive and stay calm I was worried since I haven’t heard from them.
At the boarder it took more than 1h 30m to clear customs and get through the immigrations. I noticed I was the only one who needed a passport, they were all Chileans or Argentina’s just with ID cards. Luckily I didn’t have to pay the $130USD (cash) for visa waiver, they only charge that at the airport for now.
I had a long chat about the earthquake with my host. He and his family are fine and no major damage in his Apt. but he did describe the experience as one of the worst in his life. He told me not to panic as the after shook can be felt few times a day. Just wonder how anyone can get use to something like this.
I spent my first day in Santiago I walked around the city, everything seems normal, the metro has started working, the market was busy, and people were walking around the market. Some of the old building had danger signs, with visible cracks. I felt great sense of guilt feeling walking around as a tourist. There was no other conversation other than the earthquake. So I was happy when I found out some of the couch surfers were organizing a meetup to go and volunteer the next day.
I found out my friends were in the South for wedding when the earthquake happened. It was great to see them after two years. We had so much to catch up.
Countless times I have heard we need to live each day as if it’s our last. In reality we like tomorrow. Personally, I like to think not only tomorrow but day after tomorrow, a year from now ……
It was around 3:35am when I was suddenly awakened with a strong vibration that seemed to last eternity. I was in deep sleep it felt like I was in a dream. Suddenly I hear the bedroom door being opened violently and hear my name. Still unaware of what is going on and terribly shaken I jump out of bed to follow my host down the stares. Trying to process the word earthquake, earthquake??!!
Have you ever wonder what would be your last thought if you knew you where going to die? My heart beating fast and my mind racing, I could hardly hear what my host was telling me. I kept asking my self if that was going to be the end of me?
The truth is I had spend two weeks in Buenos Aires feeling sorry for my self and being angry for not able to go to Southern Argentina (possibly to Antarctica) because of my knee. Instead of giving gratitude for what I’m able to do, I was busy sorry and being feeling miserable. So when I found my self in Mendoza waiting for the roof to collapse or the earth to open up, I had a chance to have honest conversation with myself and realized how lucky I am.
Right there I gave my gratitude for my family, friends around the world who cares and love me, for every opportunity that life has given me and most of all for being still alive. I knew some where else there were people trying to survive. I prayed to God to give them strength.
The earthquake in Mendoza was mild and short compare to Southern Chile, but it was my first and horrifying experience, something I don’t wish for anyone.