Saturday, November 5, 2011


What is PSA? It causes nervousness, cold sweats, paranoia, a complete feeling of helplessness and nobody is immune. I usually just close my eyes and try to make it go away.
Passport Seperation Anxiety can happen to you. Can it be deadly? Well only if you jump out of a moving bus moving at 100 km/h.
Heres the deal. I keep my passport and other documents in a good old fashion money belt when I am on the move. I have lost passports in the past and this works for me. Tucking it into a day pack or your back pocked is just asking for trouble. Loose a passport while overseas, you will see what I mean. 
Along the trail you need to hand your passport over to various officials. Border Control, the odd rogue pain in the ass street cop, Hotels and the like. Well there is also the underbelly of this secret society known as the Bus Porter. Now the Bus Porter is harmless and honest. During long stretches on the road there are various police checks and  its easier to have all our passports at the ready instead of the police actually climbing aboard the bus to check us out.  The bus porter needs to extract your passport from your Kung Fu grip and take it away into places only your imagination can travel. Gone, *poof* no more passport. It wouldn't be so bad if there was some secure way of handling them, but he just grabs them from various nervous foreign nationals and off he goes. Now you sit and wait, and wait and wait. You can actually feel the tension in the bus go out the window when the police check is spotted and quiet happy chatter starts among the passengers. Just like Christmas we know Santa is going to bring us a present for being good boys and girls. When its returned you heart rate goes back to normal and you fall asleep to rainbows and unicorns.

THEN SUDDENLY you are bolted awake. Border check! Border check, holy crap what bus am I on. I step off the bus in the 3 am freezing cold desert air with just my t-shirt. Looking around I see hats, mitts, big heavy coats, sweaters and they are all looking at me. I just man up and pretend it doesnt hurt, but it does. This is a provincial fruit spot check. Yuppers that what I said, fruit spot check. Chile is one of the worlds biggest producers for fruit but yet you can not transport any fruit across provincial boundries. Why, Fruit Flies. It makes sense because there is no where for them to go in the 1000 km that is desert and this prevents thier spreading.  They never told me that in the manual. Well the night sky was brilliant, clearest I have ever seen. 3 shooting stars later we were herded back onto the bus for the final leg to San Pedro.

For the record, after the amazing bus journeys in all of Central and South America I have to say that bus travel in Chile blows! The busses are big and comfy like everywhere but its random chaos at the terminal and on the bus itself. You pay more but you get less which I guess is what happens as a country gets prosperous. Service goes to shit. Maybe this was just the terminal in Arica which being a border town can explain it, so lets see how it goes along the way.

San Pedro De Atacama is a dusty little adobe town that has boomed into a tourist paradise. You dont lack for anything here and tomorrow being Sunday I have found a bar that will be showing the Bills vs. Jets game. Its a bit more expensive as it is one of the top 3 destinations in Chile...however I did have a brilliant steak for dinner tonight with sweet carmelized onions. So long fried chicken and papas, I am in red meat country!!
Needless to say, great wine and stupid cheap prices. Gato Negro is $1.50 a bottle. Its actually cheaper than water. This being is the driest desert in the world so no rain means no clouds and nothing but brilliant blue 360 days a year.

When booking my tour to the Valle de Luna I learned a new saying but its used by its own acronym.  Its the GTI. For example, that waiter has a high GTI. If you think for a second....Gringo Tolerance Indicator. I love it. Seriously, its like being back in Niagara Falls all over again. People walking around with a dumb dazed looked on thier face. The girls in the shop told me some funny stories but they love when a couple of tourists walked in and asked if they sold towels and sun screen. When told no there was some comment of shops not being stocked with supplies in Chile. They could not stop laughing when they told it. I shared a few Niagara Falls tourist stories some which are still so dumb they hurt to this day.

Ah, the clear blue skys of the Atacama desert. Temperature today was a balmy 25 F and with no humidity. So, patio coffees and a stroll to book my tour for the night telescope viewing. Alas, my happiness what short lived by that white bugger in the picture. "To much moon to view the stars, next tour is the 12th". Holy lunch bag let down. A quick read of the guide and there is another great place for viewing south of here about 12 hours.

The moon is out, there will be more stars than I can count in about 3 hours and there are no barking dogs.

No comments: