Monday, October 25, 2010

Strange happenings and great hilarity in the south of Chile and Argentina

MamaJ is a good sport. In addition to volcano sightings and foofy teahouses and tasty food (but way too much fish) and general pleasantness, we experienced a few things on our trip to the south of Chile that might make you either scratch your head or think twice about traveling with me (if you were considering it to begin with).

Protest: In Bariloche there was a big protest on the street with shouting and banners and signs (for which I love the word in Spanish, it is pancarta this seems to be the word only for protest signs, not posters, which in Chile is afiche). They were talking about taking away impunity from someone who should have been brought to justice but wasn't.

Shouting: Some of the spinoff protesters parked in front of the La Turista chocolate shop and screamed "asesinos, asesinos" (killers, killers) for some time in front of the store while I guided my mother away.

Theft: Several set-jawed over-windblown young teens came pouring out of a chocolate shop with dozens of boxes of chocolates under their arms, while the guard stood by almost nonplussed, and my mother and I flattened ourselves against a building so as not to attract attention or get in the way.

Bad bus drivers: We took a four hour bus trip on a bus company called Queilén from Puerto Montt to Castro and I don't know what was up with Mutt and Jeff or the driver and his ayudante (helper, the guy who puts the luggage on the bus, takes tickets, moves the curtains, etc), but they were acting like fourth graders. The ayudante would stick his finger in the driver's ear, they were slapping at each other, and they finally starting spraying each other with the deodorizing spray that they have on board. All this while driving a Greyhound-type bus full of actual living humans that hoped to arrive to their destination in that same state. Beware seats 3 and 4, which give you a very clear view of bus shenanigans.

More bad bus drivers, or the same bad bus drivers strike again: I forgot to mention when I originally wrote this that in pulling into the ferry to Chiloé, the bus driver actually hit another vehicle and popped his side/rear view mirror out of its fiberglass frame, and broke the frame. That's right. We hit another vehicle. And this was before the spraying and ear noodling.

Trafficking: We were on the bus from Bariloche to Osorno, which is a stunning trip with lakes and changing foliage, and in our case, lots of snow, and when we got to the border crossing, they made us line up alphabetically. Which we did, except for Mamaj, who was mysteriously not on the list, so she had to go last. As such, we had a chance to see everyone who got on and off the bus, including a very shifty character with his extremely small-eyed daughter. They looked a little out of place, neither lugareños (people from there), nor tourists, but whatever, it's a free border, anyone who wants to can cross it. But they cannot bring duffel bags full of pirated DVDs across the border. This led to a 30 or 40-minute delay, including a very unwashed grandmother ranting and raving, and in addition to being a bit odiferous, she had quite the potty mouth. My mother reports that when we got to Osorno, the dejected man and his small-eyed daughter recovered their bags from under the bus, light-as-a-feather luggage that fell in on itself with the bulk of nothing to keep it open.

Clown: Sometimes riding a bus in rural Chile, a person will get on the bus to tell jokes and do a little pattery thing they do. In this case, it was a man with a yellow wig, clown pants, suspenders and oversized glasses. His jokes were not funny, and his screeching voice most unpleasant to anyone's ears, including my mother's. She suggested paying him to get off the bus, which we did not, but I'm glad to know I come by it honestly, since that often occurs to me to do when the on-board entertainment is less than entertaining.

Water outage: When we first got to Castro after the Mutt and Jeff show, there was no water in the city. It was solved quickly, but looked like a doozy at the time.

But in spite of myriad combinations of things that could have truly gone wrong, Mamaj and I had a great time, with great hilarity walking down ginormous hills with someone's cranky knee and just about as many photos as you'd expect, none of which appear here. But you'll see them soon. Now I just have to go back and clone myself so I can do about 18 days worth of work in about six. If you see me faffing around on the internet, you have my permission to tell me to get back to it. And if I don't like it, I'll send Mutt and Jeff, the protesters, the unwashed grandmother, the clown, the chocolate-stealing children and the traffickers to keep you company.

6 comments:

Emily said...

Well, that certainly sounds eventful! I'm glad for blogging purposes that you observed all these things but glad for life purposes that you were merely observers and didn't get caught up in any of them. Now go work!

planetnomad said...

None of these things would make me think twice about traveling with you, although I don't expect it will ever happen. Aren't these fun, odd events a big part of why we travel? Am tripping out on the 4th-grade bus drivers. Perhaps they were switched bodies with real adults, a la myriad films like Big and Freaky Friday. No?

sarabeck said...

Once in BsAs my friend and I were walking around the corner and a girl came running carrying a new, still wrapped package of perfume. She was running so fast that we all nearly collided. My friend and I quickly realized she had just lifted the perfume. But, the store seemed to have no problem and in fact they weren't even pursueing her.

Audrey said...

Sounds like a fun trip - not sure my mother would have been as laid back as yours. I've come close to offering to pay bus performers to just stop, but have never had the gumption to actually do it (also feel like I'd hurt their feelings).

When we crossed the border from Chile at Bariloche, they tore apart all the grandmothers' bags. The driver told us this was a common drug trafficking border. But, are grandmothers the next smugglers??

Eileen said...

Thanks for the comments, all.

Really, if I hadn't been with my mother, I'm not even sure I'd have noticed the confluence of all these items (within a couple of days of each other). But the look on her face every time was priceless. She also had a pants-taker-offer on the plane, so it really was quite a trip.

Audrey, I wonder if it's that the smugglers pay the grandmothers or if they're really in it to win it? Anyway, the retirement pensions in Chile are punishingly low, so I'm not surprised they'd pick up a side gig.

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