Southern hemisphere migratory birds may fly south for the summer; we aren’t afforded the freedom and grace of flight, overnight busses are the less romantic version of our seasonal migration. Before that can happen though we need to fatten up our stores for the journey into the cold, namely gathering our appropriate clothing and gear for the environments that await. Part of the reason for our stop in Santiago apart from delicious food is to purchase gear and pick up credit cards and clothing sent from home. The last few weeks have been a travellers version of the nesting instinct as we regather the range of supporting guff that allows us to continue our adventure.
We’ve booked into an expensive hotel, at least by our current budget and we’re shown around by a Chilean guy with the highest most sculpted hair we’ve ever seen. He didn’t introduce himself but with his carefully studied British accented English lets just call him Geeves. So as Geeves flourishes around the hotel room in a carefully blended mix of edgey fashion, gay camp and royal stiff upper lip we somehow manage to hold our faces straight. Comical as he is it’s extremely commendable for him to go to the effort of studying not only a language but an accent which stands him apart from the standard American Latino accent that seems more the norm, good show Geeves old chap.
The hotel presents a little scare though, we had confirmed that replacement credit cards had arrived but it seems now that the staff can’t find them which isn’t exactly panic stations; yet. It is shopping time again though, it seems we can’t quite get off this treadmill, trapped within a never ending activity which typifies everything this holiday provides escape from. At least this time we’re acquiring, not only replacing, a tent seems necessary now for the type of hikes we are salivating over. In addition to the shopping spree, hopefully the last of its kind, we are hanging on for a package of clothing sent over from Australia. Safe to say we’ll never be using DHL again. It’s nearly a week late and we take the option to pick it up from the airport rather than sit and wait, at least gaining some sense of control into our own hands.
Cards finally located after a small but polite huff the journey to the airport seems simple. We awake to an email advising us that we need to go via the DPI (Department of Police Investigations) to get something called a Certificado de Viaje (Certificate of travel), at least thats how we understand it. OK, a tad annoying but we can jump through the hoop it seems. It feels not worth pondering at this stage how we could be anything but tourists and what this certificate could possibly prove beyond the visa and stamped passports we already have; alas. Thankfully we are up and about early, as we confirm all we need, pack up and check out before 9am, plenty of time to meet our 12:30pm deadline to be at the airport.
That is until we enter the DPI and gaze across the sea of people painfully waiting in a queue that would make any RTA or Centrelink feel like an exclusive day-spa. Oh dear. And here emerges the whole moral to the story, Chileans are strong contenders for the nicest people in the world prize. We remember this phenomenon from our last travel here, Chileans seem to effortlessly discard the ‘looking after number one’ self determination that often permeates cultures where existence is a little tougher. In truth, opposed to some of Latin America, existence is a lot smoother in Chile as a credit to this nations relative rejection of corruption, good governance and great work ethic. Yes we’ve resisted gushing for over a week now but Chileans are just a cut above, full stop.
The Chilean spirit is in full flight for us today, we are essentially walked through the whole DPI fiasco by an Argentinian Chilean girl named Laura and her partner Mariano. Interpreting, cutting through tape, demanding to see supervisors on our behalf these guardian angels have us out of the administrative jungle in about an hour. We send our farewells across the sea of despondent people as we rush off to the metro, one step down. And it doesn’t stop there, two guys help us out with directions on the bus, one walking us through the maze of the airport and adjoining freight depots to deliver us personally to the queue we need to wait in. Throw in another guy who again makes demands on our behalf and we scrape it in, arriving at DHL with less than half an hour to spare.
We end up waiting at the airport depot for an hour and a half for a small forest of paper to be produced along with our clothes. Never entirely sure that the seemingly impossible completion of this freight will ever happen, the building tension is beyond draining. Losing all our possessions seems to be the pain that keeps on delivering, this close to resolution the resilience to accept difficulty wears frustratingly thin. Accompanied by a dismissive explanation from a DHL staffer to customs over the stupidity of the hold ups we are on our way, not without one slightly embarrassing public cheer a little louder than planned.
Finally we have done it, we feel a little like we have just completed a gruelling mountain ascent such is our exhaustion. This holiday now occupies our minds more with future and present rather than past, a blessed tilt in balance. Looking back on this day in particular it’s undeniable that we could not possibly have gotten to this point without the vivacious kindness of Geeves and accompanying Chileans. A nation of kindness to correct the hurt of a self-interested few. Some kindness needs to be sought, bargained for or coerced; Chilean kindness is as unavoidable as breathing, infectious and relentless. Gleefully this broken record spins, bravo Chile; may it continue its welcome soundtrack on this long migration south for the summer.