From Valpo to Santiago where we had minimal time, so just planned on catching up with some friends we have met along the way. As well as seeing the sights. It was a 24 hour fleeting trip of no great significance really...
We did some shopping as Kim and I needed hiking boots before we headed north. We've gone butch and got men's ones as they were the most comfortable. How sexist!
We then met up with Ami who Justine and I met on the farm in Uruguay and Francina who we met in Montevideo. We went out for dinner and drinks and had an enjoyable evening sharing stories of our adventures.
The following day we did a city tour of Santiago. Just smashing in all the sights as quick as you can when you're on a limited time. We planned to go to the soccer, but we were advised against it due to the hatred the two teams have for each other. So we played it safe and just wandered the streets, learnt the history and prepared for our 24 hour bus ride to San Pedro de Atacama.
It's probably been one of the most exciting bus rides of the trip... Firstly, the bus was late. We met a Dutch girl who was panicking slightly thinking she'd missed it. We assured her we were all good. The bus eventually turned up at around 10pm. We had booked Cama seats. You pay about an extra $15 and you get to have a bigger seat that goes back further. Much more comfortable for sleeping on the long bus rides... Tessa, our new Dutch acquaintance was upstairs on the regular seats. We had been on the road for around two hours when we noticed the bus coming to a stop. Kim was asleep, Justine and I saw that the driver was having a cigarette. So we just thought he was having a ciggy break, and we too went to sleep. An hour later one of the conductors came in and said a few fast sentences in Spanish that none of us could understand, but everyone else packed up their stuff and got off the bus. So, we did the same. We saw the mechanic working on the engine, and obviously we aren't mechanics, so can't be sure what was wrong. We managed to find a girl we had about as much English as we have Spanish, and she told us a new bus would be coming soon (she turned out to be our guardian angel for the following 24 hours). The mechanic was working to the sounds of ACDC which we found hilarious and cheered us up as we stood on the side of the highway in the cold. Buses were pulling over and the conductors were telling people to jump on them randomly if that's where they were headed. It was at this point, we realised we hadn't seen our new Dutch friend Tessa. We thought that maybe she'd already been put on another bus... Or maybe she'd been abducted by aliens... So I went back on to the creepy pitch black bus to investigate with my torch. I found her fast asleep upstairs. It was lucky we went looking for her, because clearly no one else gave a s*** and she would have been left there on the side of the road in a broken bus for who knows how long. Not long after the rescue, our new bus arrived and much to Kim and Justine's dismay, the only seats available were upstairs with the commoners and less comfort. I told them we would see the funny side tomorrow. To which they replied "we will still be on the bus tomorrow"... Fair statement as we were only two hours in (effectively) to a 24 hour (give or take) bus ride.
Then to dampen spirits further, someone went to the toilet which was positioned only a few rows behind us, and the bus trip worsened exponentially. That stench... Delightful... Then following on from that, the chainsaw behind Kim started up, and continued all night. Obviously when I say chainsaw, I mean "overweight Chilean man who snores and could wake someone who is sleeping in hell"!
I tried to giggle it off and went to sleep. After all, I grew up in the same house as Frank and Thomas Youl. I am well accustomed to the sounds of snoring. Kim on the other hand, who is normally quite placid was starting to feel the rage... And you can't really blame her, she's had a s***ter of a week. The toe incident in Mendoza. The eye in Valparaiso and in Santiago one of her ear piercings got infected causing her even more pain. So the chainsaw is lucky he didn't receive her wrath!
We continued in and out of consciousness for the next 12 hours. Because the best way to combat a boring bus ride is to sleep. Kim enjoyed watching 'Unbroken' in Spanish, while Justine listened to music and I read my book. It didn't seem like anymore could go wrong and we were just counting down the hours... That was, until the chainsaw woke up and clearly needed to use the bathroom and somehow broke the door. Meaning it would swing open every time we hit a bump and one of us would get up to slam it shut before the smell of stale urine infected us too much... Yep. It was as gross as it sounds. We finally got to Calama where we were told we couldn't continue (our first bus was a direct, we had to swap buses again at Calama) but luckily our guardian angel was looking after us and making sure we got on board.
Now, we are all safely in San Pedro de Atacama at our hostel. Thankful to be off a bus, but mentally preparing for the three days in a jeep from Chile to Bolivia on Wednesday.