Onward to Santiago
Santiago Travel Blog› entry 8 of 71 › view all entries
Today I left Panama and made what turned out to be a long journey to Santiago.
The checkin line at the Panama airport was nuts. Took me nearly an hour and a half to check in. In hindsight I should have taken some photos of the items people were trying to check - TVs, skateboards, a playstation 3, etc. It seemed like all the international flights on Copa Airlines were leaving within like an hour of each other, so ALL these people were trying to check in simultaneously. A mess. And while I waited - not that I had anything to worry about - but those damn drug sniffing dogs made me really nervous. I mean, they are really cute dogs, but hell, who knows what scent they might pick up while sniffing my bag! Anyway, I finally got checked in.
Although I breezed through security, I then encountered another unique process. In stead of boarding by row, they seemed to call everyone at once to board, but didn´t open the airplane up. So we just stood crammed on the steaming hot jetway for 15 minutes. That was fun.
En route, the view from the airplane was pretty amazing. Flying down the coast of South America, I could see natural bays, the dry desert, the snow.capped Andes, lush river valleys. Wow. What a land. The amazing view was supplemented by two pretty bad movies - Henry Poole (bad) and Mama Mia (good in theory - i love the musical - but damn the movie was disappointing).
Upon arriving in Santiago, I was fooled by heading to immigration where i thought I could pay the impuesto (entry tax) and enter the country. I was psyched as I was at the front of the line and thought I´d just cruise through. Oooops. Apparently I was supposed to go to a separate window only for Americans and Canadians - who have to pay the reciprocity impuesto. (My understanding of this is that since the US makes it so hard for Chileans, or anyone, to enter the US, this is Chile´s way of getting even with us.)
So I went to the special impuesto window, only to be stuck behind a LARGE tour group of seniors. This was sloooow. Each one of them got to the window, argued for a bit about how stupid the reciprocity impuesto was, fumbled for their credit card, and then begrudgingly signed for the $130 fee. That happened about 30 times over. So this took like an hour.
When I finally got my receipt, I headed back to immigration, only to find myself behind the tour group again. Arrrgh!
Eventually, I was able to enter the country, find, my bag, and then was relieved to see that my hotel had arranged for a van to pick me up. That was a welcome relief. Sort of. The van was packed, and the guy next to me was a huge Chilean, wearing a tanktop. Call me sensitive but after a long day, I was just sort of grossed out as he rustled around next to me, occasionally raising his arms, fiddling with his laptop and headphones, etc. Well, talk about reciprocity...when he got out of the van later, he dropped his laptop on to the street below. And now call me a jackass, but I couldn´t help but feel a little vindicated. (The laptop was fine. If it smashed into a million pieces I might have felt a little bad.)
The van dropped me off at Hotel Plaza Londres. I checked in and paid up front for the two nights (something I regretted later . note to self to pay as I go next time). The room and facilities are ok. I have this depressing feeling that it really only gets worse from here in terms of accommodations, as I get into the backpacking and hosteling part of my trip. At least here I do have my own room and bathroom.
By now it was 1030pm or so - still muy temprano by Chilean standards - so I headed out to explore the streets and find some food. I walked a bit and landed at an outdoor patio restaurant for a beer and pizza. (it was all I could find without straying too far in the dark, unknown streets). Unfortunately when the bill came, I discovered that they wouldn´t take US dollars or my visa card. So i walked down a block to get Chilean pesos out of the ATM and come back to pay my bill. Well, the ATM wasn´t working. One of the other restaurant customers was nice enough to do a money exchange for me on the spot - 6 bucks for 3,100 pesos (the amount of my bill). Good enough.
On my way back to the hotel, I hit about 3 other ATMs....apparently it´s not the machine....it´s my card. No funciona. Shit. How am I going to get through 2 months with no ATM. That will be a major inconvenience, as I only have limited cash on my, and not everywhere will take visa or amex. The good news is, this has happened before - twice - but only for 2 weeks, not 2 months.
While I´m talking about inconveniences, another one is that I do not have a plug adaptor. So my camera and blackberry are quickly running low on juice. Panama was fine - it´s US plugs. Not so in Chile. And I´m trying to remember about Uruguay. While this DID cross my mind before I left (and I even pulled out my various plug adaptor sets at home), for some reason I didn´t pack them. Was I concerned about weight, or did I think South America was all US plug style - i don´t remember what I was thinking.
So tomorrow will be big day of errands. Citibank to say WTF. Electronics store to buy a plug adaptor at some absurd price given my inelastic demand. Train tickets for my trip south. Call Aerolineas Argentinas to adjust my Rio-BA flights (thanks for the update Adam). Go to the grocery store to get some fruit and water - just have that ¨gross¨ feeling today...
Plus then do my walking tour of Santiago - which, btw, does look like it could be a pretty cool place. The area where my hotel is - Plaza Londres - is a cobblestone section of town near the Universidad de Chile.