Sunday, January 20, 2013


We had become complacent.  When we first arrived in Latin America, we were constantly on the alert for anyone trying to take things from us.  We read about taxi cabs, kidnappings, con artists and corrupt officials.  We minimized risk by keeping credit cards well hidden, only a little cash in our wallets, and our passports on us at all times.  We never put a bag on the rack above us on a bus, and kept tight hold of our cameras and devices, rarely taking them out unless we felt safe.  But with time, and the almost constant kindness of strangers, we became complacent.  As we began this journey described in our first blog posting, our goals were to seek to learn with humility, grow together, and, where possible, give with grace.

No one likes to be robbed.  We were hustled by a team at a crowded bus station in Puerto Montt.  They surrounded us, pushing, smiling reassuringly, offering to help us hand our packs to the bus loader.  The bus employee stopped loading baggage with cold suspicion telling us to check our possessions and pockets as two of the men moved rapidly toward an exit and a third women faded away into the crowd.  They took with them not only Sally's wallet but some of our innocence and much of our joy that day.

Yet, as we boarded the bus with less cash and no credit cards, we processed what it meant to learn with humility.  We knew some of the lessons would be harder than others, and we pray that none come from physical harm.  We were well "schooled" yesterday, and we reviewed what happened as well as what can be done in the future.  Neither of us wants to look at strangers with fear or suspicion as we move through a world rich with the variety of humanity found everywhere.  Most have helped us and these three individuals mainly harmed our pride and increased our challenge of using the resources we need to continue the time remaining in our South America adventure. 

We learned a lot yesterday and, as we work with banks and credit card companies, we learned more today.  As anyone knows who has had credit and ATM cards stolen, the degree to which they are used in ways that are not transparent becomes painfully clear as many daily transactions, activities, and actions are blocked or refused.  In talking to others in our hostel, we have also been shocked by the frequency in which they, too, have been victimized.  Because of this, they have been sources of good advice as we seek police reports and ways to put our financial life back together.

We had become complacent.  We are wiser for the experience yesterday and thoughtful about what it really means to learn with humility and to give with grace. 

Posted in Valdivia, Chile

Images of us on a bus before we were robbed, Jess at an ATM in Valdivia, and Sally with her friend Pirate proving that not all encounters go badly! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

You know you have been traveling a long time when...

  1. You hear that the temperature in Gunnison is -33 F and you have to translate it to Celsius.
  2. The concept of "new" clothes does not mean a shopping spree, rather a trip to the laundry.
  3. You habitually hoard toilet paper.
  4. You rate restaurants by their wifi strength rather than the quality of their food.
  5. "Ready to go" means your backpack is closed.
  6. Regular body functions are a highlight of the week.
  7. You can recite your passport number but have forgotten your cell phone number.
  8. You barter with each other for used ziplocks.
  9. Your skin lotion must be at least SPF 50.
  10. The only unacceptable bed is one with bedbugs.

Posted in Puerto Varas, Chile

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What do we like?

As we approach the end of the first third of our journey, we find ourselves processing the answer to the question "What do we like?"   We have been to urban cities of millions and towns of dozens.  We have perused museums, churches, and historical sites treading in the footsteps of prehistoric and historic figures.  We have experienced Ejectivo buses with pillows, blankets and reclining seats that convert to beds and chicken buses where sheep share our seats.  We have slept on thin bedding over hard, unyielding salt blocks, in hostels without electricity or water and in resorts where our backpacks marked us as intruders.

We have hiked in "tourist" groups following guides up and down seaside trails and have explored hidden remnants of ancient forests with local biologists.  We have meandered by ourselves along old animal trails and long abandoned roads losing ourselves to the quiet voice of nature.  We have toured by canoe, jeep, ferry, bus, and on foot.  We have gazed at incredible and diverse panoramic landscapes covered by sea, ice, salt, lava, and forests of every shape and kind.  

We have been cold, hot, wet and dry... sometimes in the same hour.  

While each experience has its values, its impacts and its lessons, we find we consistently gravitate toward certain types.  We prefer the countryside to the cities.  It is not the quality of the place we love at bedtime, rather, the feeling of being welcome.  While occasional experts are valued for their knowledge, the joy of self-discovery is generally much more satisfying.  We would rather fish by ourselves along an undiscovered stream than be "directed and assisted" on a charter.  We like the lonely hikes where the wildlife are our companions.  Sally does not like it too cold nor Jess too hot.  We both prefer home cooked to restaurant meals.

With reflection, we prefer the types of experiences we have long loved in the Gunnison Valley (or at least those in spring, summer, and fall!).  While the novelties of culture, cuisine, people and place are of enormous value to us currently, we reflect on the wisdom of Dorothy Gale when she stated "There's no place like home."

Glacier in Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Chile; cooking lamb and other meat at an asado or BBQ at an Estancia in Chile; floating toward the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego NP, Argentina.

Posted from Punta Arenas, Chile