A slight hiccup on the road to Valparaiso
Literally boarding the bus to Valparaiso, Chile at 08:30 Friday morning, only to be told by the bus co-ordinator that we have no entry stamp to Argentina and thus they can’t let us out until we’ve gone to the immigration office in Mendoza to sort out. Unpack luggage off bus – all 55 kg of it (by myself as Peter in the bus office trying to sort things out)….. had to make the 4km walk to the immigration office on foot only to be told that there was no internet (it had been down for two days already) and to thus come back Monday morning. It was Friday morning – aaaahhhh! (we would have to then waste money on checking into a hotel and never mind the Air b’nb that was waiting and paid for in Valparaiso). Luckily the staff at immigration were more than amazing (literal angels) and after telling them we desperately needed to leave that day to Valparaiso, they managed to pull a rabbit out of their hat and got all 3 passports sorted by lunchtime. Made the 4km walk back to bus station on foot to then be told by the bus line that unfortunately the next bus to Valparaiso was only at 21:30 that night. So we had a whole day with major backpacks (7kg each) to get through with a 3 year old toddler to entertain. Poor Aiden was a real champ about it all, it was only Peter and I that were on the brink of nervous breakdowns. Passport issues are no joke and you literally feel like a criminal until you’re told that everything is sorted out and they are actually not going to deport you! Lesson learnt – always make sure you have an entry and exit stamp in your passport. I’m sure Peter will note down all the gory details about the whole situation in his weekly blog but I am not going into those.
So a few good things did come out of that wait for the bus to Valparaiso. The first is that we got to see parts of Mendoza that we hadn’t in the week we had spent there albeit on foot to the immigration office where we were a sweaty mess (in 34 degree weather). Other good things were that we had a lovely lunch, Aiden got to play in his favourite park one last time and of course I managed to sneak in another market where I bought the earrings and ring I had been eyeing all week (it must have been fate that I had to buy them obviously). They were the first pieces of jewellery I’ve bought for myself on the trip. I told myself no more costume jewellery but only the real shebang from now on as costume jewellery tarnishes so easily these days and you can see the real from the fake as you get older. The earrings and ring I purchased are made from precious stones, metal and turned wood. The artisan herself sells the beautiful jewellery and explained to me how she makes it. The jewellery almost looks like it has been lovingly made. The artisan’s name is Mayra Perez. If you’re ever in Mendoza and manage to get to the Plaza Indepencia market, you should check her stuff out.
So on arriving in Valparaiso we were totally bushed so decided to take our arrival day to just relax and settle in. Our apartment is literally on the beach so that made the journey here with all its dramas even more worth it. After the semi nightmare we experienced with the passports, Peter and I weren’t sure if we should just book a ticket straight back to South Africa. I’m sure most families who travel like this must have days of wanting to just pack it all in and go home to family and friends and not to mention the nanny/ babysitter (we could desperately do with a night out on the town). This is the longest stretch we’ve had with Aiden 24/7 and some days have not been easy. When we have travel drama, Peter and I get stressed out but of course you’re having to put on a brave front for Aiden which makes it that much more exhausting at the end of the day. Aiden had about 3 meltdowns in the immigration office alone, not to mention we lost a toy in the whole process. But then once it all settles down and I personally have practiced my breathing techniques (counting to ten slowly in my head), I look back and think that these are the things that we are going to remember most and we managed to get through them as a family where no one was murdered in the process.
After our day of rest at our apartment, we were recuperated and ready to see the city. We hit the big Sunday market here in Argentina Street in Valparaiso, which is on the list of top 10 things to do. It was huge, not as big as the Feria in Buenos Aires but at least 1km long. It felt a lot busier as the aisles were a lot narrower. The market was selling everything from grubby second hand clothes, to new clothes, to cosmetics, knitted goods, food, dvd’s, cigarettes, old car parts and strangely enough rabbits and hamsters (which I did not like at all). The animals/rodents looked well cared for but who sells rabbits in a cage at a market??
Aiden enjoyed the first part of the market as he manged to score a toy out of it (Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc) but as the day wore on he got a bit niggly as it started to get hot. I really enjoyed looking at all the things and getting a feel of the locals here in the city. Everyone seemed friendly and willing to hear listen and try to understand my Splangish (mixture of English and really bad Spanish). I also bought these amazing tights which look like jeans for a wopping R57. Peter hates them which means I love them even more. I know I have a fashion hit when Peter doesn’t like something…ha ha!
After the market (only three hours of marketing which I didn’t think was too bad going), two meltdowns from Aiden and one disagreement between Peter and I, we decided to get an Uber home and then we stumbled across an amazing little pastry shop. The assortment of pastries and biscuits inside a glass cabinet was extensive – Yum!. As we had already ordered our Uber we had to be quick as I was definitely in the mood for a sweet treat. Aiden chose some vermicelli decorated biscuits and I chose an amazing looking chocolate/ coconut puff pastry which was huge. The intent was for Peter and I to share the pastry when we got back home but once I got stuck into it there was no sharing. Sorry for Peter. Peter took it well though…he’s not really into sweet things…but we’ll definitely have to make a trip back there. The owners were so lovely too and very forgiving of my shocking use of Spanish when trying to find out how much the pastries were. It looked like a family run shop with the mom, daughter and son all behind the glass cabinet serving customers. A lot of the businesses in South America seem family run with father, mother, son and daughter often all working together in the family business. The sense of family and closeness seems strong here in Chile too as in other parts of South America.
Valparaiso has been good to us so far with friendly Uber rides and locals forgiving of our bad Spanish. Aiden has of course won over the locals already even at the Sunday market in Argentia Street, total strangers were offering him chocolates which he willingly accepted. His smile wins the heart of most not to mention ours. He’s been a real hero this week settling in well to yet another new home. We’ve got a lot to look forward too this year but we’ve definitely taken a step back this week to appreciate the enormity of what we are doing. Also we have tried not to let the drama of the passport situation in Argentina to get us down because we had amazing support of a number of strangers on that day. They didn’t have to help us but they chose to and this just proved to us that this massive family adventure is teaching us valuable lessons. Lessons like complete strangers out there in the world (Mendoza, Argentina for us) are willing to help those in need. We want to thank everyone in Mendoza from the bus station staff to the man in the station that helped us find a bank (he even walked the 1km with us to find it) and help with directions to the immigration office, to the staff in the immigration office itself for being champions on the day and sorting out our passports so efficiently, thus guaranteeing us that we could leave your beautiful country legally. My making friends in Mendoza last week really came to life again after this situation. Mendoza is truly a special place and we’ll remember it as one of the highlights of our massive family adventure.
Until next week….