Thursday, February 25, 2010

Following in the footsteps of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Salvador Dali

alternate title: Chile is for Lovers.

This blog situation is out of control.

It's partly a good sign that I haven't been posting as regularly-- I've been with great people and having a great time. But I am gutted that I have lost reflections and thoughts that have certainly slipped through the cracks by now. Especially since the last couple of weeks have been completely golden. I have had thoughts and feelings I've never had before, my mind raced, almost like some natural high. I don't know if it was just the atmosphere of Valparaiso, or if I've just hit a new plane in my solo travels, but it has been exhilerating.

More on that later. I am going to gloss over the activities I didn't write about.

Uyuni, in southern Bolivia? Another shithole town. Only good for getting into a 4-wheel-drive to hit the road on a 3 day road trip through the salt flats, desert, and lagunas. Nikki and I ended up in a car full of Aussies. I love Aussies, but when you're the only one not an Aussie? There were plenty of conversations I completely missed out on. Oh well, the views were pretty stellar. When you are in the salt flats, you can't see an end to them. It's just this endless expanse of flat white. I wished I could have seen them in the sunset, because then the water and white would have been reflecting a colorful sky. I witness this once at the Spiral Jetty in Utah-- unbelievable.

I am not a desert person. I like green, growing things. Period. But this was the most expansive desert I've been through, and I certainly have a lot of respect for it, and the huge variety of landscape it presented me in its very desert-ness. The landscape in general was pretty surreal, so it makes sense that Salvador Dali was inspired by them and used them in his surrealist paintings. It also very much felt like Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid territory. So funny how you go to other lands to see foreign things, and end up thinking, "Hey, this looks like Utah." Except for the flamingoes.

The original plan was to end up back in Uyuni, as this road trip was a circuit. But we had (the responsible, foreseeing travelers we are) looked into possible tickets down to Argentina after the trip. We knew we didn't want to be staying in Uyuni for a second longer than necessary. To our great dismay, it appeared we wouldn't be able to get out of there for 3 days after we got back! Unacceptable. But there was nothing else we could do, so we started out for the Salt Flats hoping a 'maybe' bus would turn into a 'definitely' bus.

Well, it turned out the driver was going to drop the other Aussies off at the Chilean border, where they were going to San Pedro de Atacama, and then across the Argentinian border to Salta. MUCH better option. So, surprisingly, Chile it is! I had already sacrificed Chile in the name of No Money, but a quick in and out never hurt anyone right? Wrong, because once I was there I just couldn't leave! San Pedro was so charming. It is a desert town, but is a bit of an oasis, and during the sunset it is just gorgeous. Great main street, plaza, so sociable. Great empanadas.

Northern Chile is one of the best places in the world to go stargazing, because out in the desert there is less light polution, and there are clear skies 360 days of the year. So I went out to this professors house in the middle of the desert, and he taught me about constellations and how to stargaze on my own and I looked througth a bunch of telescopes at stars, planets, nebulas, etc. It was pretty damn beautiful. Saturn and some nebula were my favorite. Really gorgeous. I think Nikki and I were the only non-couple. I think you can infer what I thought about that.

At this point I was hooked on Chile and couldn't resist getting a bus to Valparaiso, and then on to the island of Chiloe. I had a feeling. I get pretty good gut feelings. I tend to follow them, and I tend to be glad I did. So I split up with Nikki and followed my own road down south.

The drive was long, but beautiful I was sad I wasn't stopping more places in Chile. Luckily, I know I have to come back anyway. It's breaking my heart not going through Patagonia, and on down to the bottom of the world. But I want to do that trip camping. And I therefore want to do it with someone else. So I know I'll be back, and hopefully I can stop by some towns I didn't get to on this round.

This 24 hour bus ride would have been just fine. You know, I should write a whole seperate post dedicated to the bus. I am a champion bus-rider at this point. I CANNOT BELIEVE I only have one more bus ride on my trip, the 20-hour one to B.A. It is inconceivable. I cannot begin to estimate how many hours, how many days, I have spent on a bus. I have it down to a well-oiled routine, down to the pre-departure grocery store visit, packing, safety precautions, etc. I have a playlist that eases me into sleep every time. There was a point when I was completely sick of buses, didn't want to see a bus for the rest of my life. But I've come back around. The wonderful thing about buses is how the landscapes slide past the windows, this lovely panoramic window into a country. I sit there with my iPod on shuffle, and let the thoughts slide through my brain as the mountains, lakes, towns slide past my window. I am also lucky enough to be able to read on a bus without getting carsick. Since I've gotten into Chile, where the roads are a dream, the bus situation hasn't been a drag at all. The bus from Oruro to Uyuni, however, rivaled that bustrip from hell back in Colombia to San Agustin.

Some words dedicated to good bus etiquette:
-Don't leave your cell phone ringer on LOUD.
-Try to talk on your cell as little as possible. I have no interest in overhearing every loudtalking word you say to your mom. Especially when I am trying to sleep.
-Don't lean your chair back unless it is necessary (when you are sleeping).
-I think a good general rule would be that you don't lean your chair back unless the person in front of you has leaned their chair back. Except, of course, when it's sleep time. Even then, I am nice, and I never lean my seat all the way back.
-When leaning your seat back, take a glance behind you and make sure that person isn't leaning forward for some reason.
-Lean your seat back slowly.
-If your baby is crying, try to stop them. A good method for stopping your baby crying is not slapping it on the forehead. That didn't work the last 15 times you did it, what makes you think it will work if you try one more time?
-No PDA on the bus. Period. You would not believe what I have unwillingly witnessed. Really, whatever you're thinking right now, advance it by a base or two. I don't care if it is a night bus. Not acceptable.
-Don't offer your bus driver a beer. It wouldn't hurt to offer him a Red Bull.
-Smell good. And not like headache-inducing bad floral perfume.
-When retrieving your luggage from under the bus, don't cut in line. Latin America does not feel the same way I do about how well-functioning a line can be.
-Don't rush the poor bus attendant when retrieving your luggage. It's not going anywhere.
-Clean up after yourself. I get really pissed off when I see someone drop their trash on the floor, or worse, OUT THE WINDOW!!! I have wanted to take more than one Latin American child by the ear and give them a lecture on being a litterbug.

Word of advice: the front row of the bus is the best row of the bus. More leg room, no one leaning back into your space, first off the bus when you arrive or at a break stop, and far from the bathroom and possible unpleasant stenches emanating therefrom.

Yes, this 24 hour bus ride would have been just fine. If the bus hadn't smelled like poo. Literally. They did, at least, give me snacks. That was an unexpected pleasure. I felt so pampered.


Lindsay Logan said...

Spiral jetty shout out !! w00t-w00t

Rebecca said...

I'm way jealous about the stargazing! I read somewhere that only about 5% of the night sky is unpolluted by light, and it's one of my life goals to stargaze somewhere in the 5%. Or at least close. I <3 space!

My other life goals are to see the Aurora Borealis and to learn the lyrics to Short Skirt, Long Jacket. And also eat lots of pie.

Email me and tell me exactly when you're coming back! Where are you flying in? What time? Is someone meeting you at the airport?