South America - Hostels, Car, and the "End of the World"

Eli and I landed in Buenos Aires (or B.A. as we call it) Argentina after an overnight flight from Madrid. We were rested and ready to get started on our next adventure. Upon arriving, our spirits were temporarily shot down as we were ushered to a special line for "US citizens" in order to pay an arrival fee. Turns out, as of Dec 28, 2009, US citizens were reqquired to pay an entry fee of $130 each person! Ouch! We couldn't believe it. $260 gone just like that, just for arriving. Next step, finding a taxi to our hostel. We thought we would only have to pay about $30 but it was more like $40...eww another extra cost. Not fun. We arrived at our little hostel around 8am, tired from our flight, hoping to get a quick shower and a morning nap before exploring the city. To our dismay our hostel told us that there were still people sleeping in our beds from the night before and that we couldn't check in until 2pm. Aghhh! No showers, no nap...but at least they let us eat the free breakfast of bread and cereal. After helping ourselves to extra bread, we managed to muster up some energy to walk the city for the next 6 hrs. B.A. was another typical bustling city. The weather was very nice, especially coming from chilly London. The people were friendly, not many spoke English as Eli warned me about. Most of the people out and about were very good looking, I could tell that appearance was a big deal there. I instantly felt different from much of the women walking around in there fancy clothes and high heels, as I was dressed like a backpacker who just slept on a plane. I realized that this was the first time in a long time where I felt out of place in term of fashion. In SE Asia and Nepal I felt out of place because my skin color stood out, whereas in B.A. many people are light skinned, so it was like I fit in somewhat but was out of touch with style. Who really cares though, my priorities on this trip have not been about my appearance!
Our time in BA consisted alot of walking for many miles a day around the city. Since we had been in cities for the past few weeks, we were a bit worn out from musuems and monuments so we went to 2 movies. It was fun trying our hand at Castillano (Spanish) ordering movie tickets, popcorn, etc. Instead of telling a lady "I don't understand" I accidently told her "she doesn't understand" but didn't realize it until later. In the city, we did the usual search for used books stores. This time we were on the hunt for a South American travel guide. We must have walked to and gone into 30 books stores in the 3 days we were in BA (yes the city has that many). We were not successful at finding a good used book store but instead opted to buy a new guide book that cost more than it would in the States. For us, every city is a challenge for us to find the best book store. By far, Kathmandu, Nepal has been the best place to buy books. Who would have ever thought that?! We kicked ourselves for not buying the South American guidebook there that was only $4!

Our next destination after B.A. was Ushuaia, (in Tierra del Fuego) the southernmost city in the World! It reminded Eli of a little coastal town that he visited in Alaska. It reminded me of Astoria, in Oregon with the cloud coverage and chilly air. In Ushuaia, we went for a short hike up towards Glacier Martial which didn't last long as the wind picked up and the fresh snow made for a not so fun time. We didn't even make it up to the glacier. You'd think we were expert hikers by now after our 12 days trek in Nepal but we knew that we would be seeing more glaciers throughout our time in South America. After a couple of days in Ushuaia, we decided to move onward to Punta Arenas, Chile. We took a bus, 14 hours, crossing over the Straight of Magellan into Chile and arrived at night and made our way to another hostel. We didn't have any plans for treking or for siteseeing in Punta Arenas as our only goal of this destination was to buy a car. The bus scene was getting a bit tiresome and we were itching to have the freedom of a car so we were determined to make it happen. Eli had been doing some research for the past few months about the car buying process and figured out that this town was "tax free" and was supposed to have cheaper cars than other parts of Chile. The only thing standing in our way was finding a car, communicating with someone who doesn't speak English, test driving, getting a mechanic to look at the car, getting a tax ID number, negotiating a price, and of course, doing the massive amounts of paperwork. This was looking impossible.

But miracles do happen. We met an amazing local fellow named Anibal, through couchsurfing, that was a Godsend for us.

So within 2 days of arriving, we met up with Anibal to talk about cars and suddenly we found ourselves driving and negotiating a price for the one and only car we checked out. Anibal found this car for us while translating the classfieds in the paper. He also went with us to testdrive, he translated for us with the owner, he negotiated a price, and he even made us an appointment with a mechanic. In addition to all of that we had to go with the car's owner to the notary 3 times, the bank twice, and the registration office to get the paperwork taken care of (the paperwork is complicated for foreigners). Even with that stress, the whole transaction was unbelievably smooth. We couldn't believe that a guy we met 2 days ago was offering so much help for us. I know he sounds too good to be true but he is for real. He is the most generous stranger we have ever met. And he was not asking for anything but for us to pay it forward someday. Yes! We will remind each other of this kindness and do our best to pass it along.

So, we are now holding the keys to our '98 Nissan Pathfinder. The first thing we did with the car was drive 30 minutes north to a penguin colony. There we saw about 20 penguins that remained, most have already migrated for the winter. So cute!

The car drove wonderfully! It is newer and probably nicer than any car Eli and I ever owned :). And we can sleep in it! Eli, being the craftsman that he is, is building a platform for us to sleep on that will allow for storage underneath. How cool is that. No more hostels! Oh and we won't miss the buses either. Good thing we got this car, our last few experiences in hostels have not been so pleasant. Lack of sleep from roudy shared rooms and inconsiderate roomates have gotten under or skin. I guess we don't really fit in with many of the travelers that are only staying for a few weeks and are looking to party. I will add a postive note about the hostel we are currently staying in. There aren't many guest and the ones that arrive have been very pleasant. It's the fellow who manages the place that makes it special.
He took an interest in Eli's carpentry and even helped out with the sawing and nailing of the platform. He doesn't speak any English but he has managed to use lots of charaddes to communicate with us. He is totally hilarious. Last night we were invited to have dinner (in the hostel dining room) with him and 3 other local friends of his.
We were blessed with an amazing meal of chicken, sausage, king crab soup, mussels, and wine. After dinner we polished off the wine and were offered a taste of "Pico Sour". Pico Sour is a Chilean mixed drink consisting of lemons, powdered sugar, Pico (grape liquor), and a raw eggs. I was hesitant about it, thinking to myself about all the seafood I ate for dinner and about that raw egg I saw mixed in, but then the wine told me...When in Rome. Turns out it was sooo delicious! A few hours later and 3 batches of this yummy drink, Eli and I were laughing in hysterics along with our new friends. The charades got more intense and the jokes got better...who needs to speak the same language when there are drinks involved.

Tomorrow we are packing up the car and heading to Torres Del Paine to start some camping and trekking!

1 comment:

  1. wow wow wow! And YAAAY! So fun!! I hope I get to do all this someday. You guys can share all your tips and secrets! :)