Our farewell to Argentina was appropriate, a spontaneous party with Argentineans at our hostel. We sampled the food and wine people had bought touring the bodegas that day and everybody shared whatever they had. We were particular proud to be able to follow the conversation in Spanish about any random topic.
After more than 6 months in Latino America, it was time to leave and we felt a bit nostalgic but also curious to learn about new countries. The next morning, while we were waiting at Mendoza’s bus station for the bus to Santiago de Chile, our sentimental feelings were abruptly interrupted by an ugly incident.
Heidi was sitting next to her day-bag, patiently waiting for the delayed bus, when suddenly a bundle of keys was dropped right in front of her. As any person would do, she jumped up, picked up the key and told the guy he had lost them. His sly look and weird reaction, he did not say thank you, immediately rang the alarm bells. She turned around and her bag was gone. A “classico”!
We were sent to the police office right at the bus station, where two officers were interviewing a crying Chilean lady. A bag with all her clothes was stolen while she was buying her ticket. Luckily, Gilles had both passports with him, so we could keep on travelling. Otherwise it would have turned into a nightmare, since almost all our trans-Pacific flights are already booked!
There was no cash in the bag, and since Gilles had planed the travel well, we could cancel the stolen credit cards within less than ten minutes. But Heidi had her glasses in her bag, spare contact lenses, sunglasses and lots of medication. So the thief gained nothing, but we lost a lot!
We decided to leave on the next bus because the police only took our name and eMail address. We not even got a piece of paper that we reported the incident, so we decided not to waste any more time and leave as we had planned.
On the bus we wondered if we could have avoided it, but the answer seemed clearly no to us: you cannot permanently be on alert especially when travelling for one year. Maybe we had turned a little too confident, after six months travel through Latin America without any such incidents. We knew that major bus stations are one of the classical places where this can happen.
The bus ride itself to Santiago was pleasant, since it was a “Cama Suite”. But crossing the border to Chile was really tedious: we had to wait about 1.5 hour since it is standard procedure that all bags are taken of all the buses crossing and x-rayed. Another one is that after going through immigration the whole busload of passengers is assembled in the room with the big x-ray machine. When a bag is considered suspicious by the officials, the owner must identify himself and open the bag, with everybody watching. It is a pretty humiliating affair. We guess they want to communicate that Chile is very serious about bringing any kind of fruits, vegetables or meat into the country to protect its agriculture.
So we hardly had any time to discover Santiago de Chile, especially because we had to buy some of the things Heidi had lost before going to the pricy Pacific Islands. In Santiago, we stayed at the huge, resort-like “La Casa Roja”, an old mansion turned into a traveller hostel. It offers everything you ask for: pool, gigantic kitchen, garden, lots of common areas, some of them with crystal chandeliers.
On the next day, we caught a plane to Easter Islands, a 5.5 hours flight above the Pacific, which was easy and comfortable.