The problem of selling the motorcycle did not lessen with the earthquakes. Downtown is closed. There’s armed military on every corner and the power has been slow to come back on.
I am in a panic to sell the bike. I don’t have the money to ship it home… It needs to get either sold or stolen… Either of which will get it off my passport.
As I am lamenting to my new pilot friend Jussi, he asks me how much it costs. I lowball myself and tell him I want 2k, but will take $500.
His eyes pop out. $500???
“I’LL buy it!! “
We have a few hoops to jump through. The most important one is the notary. We need to do a bill of sale. But nothing is open. Nor do they plan to be open anytime soon… No customs, no notary, nothing.. Even the groceries and gas stations still have wicked long lines and armed military manning the gates.
So we wait. And fly in the afternoons.. Until the day before I have to go to Santiago… Or miss my flight home. I’d take a bus back to Lima, but I’m sure I’ll get delayed on my way back… For who knows how long. We go downtown and check the notaries again… We think perhaps pointlessly, but there is a sign on one of them… They will open for just a couple hours in the afternoon. Whoooo hoooo!
We return in a few hours and are able to do the paperwork… The office has a fair line outside, but we’re the first…. When the doors swing open, three Chileans push past me and grab numbers… We end up #4. I’m surprised at the pushiness. It seems very un-South American. We sign the title and hope that’ll be good enough to get out of (and back into ) the country…I’m supposed to see a customs agent also, but the port is closed until next week sometime.
The 24 hours on the top deck of a double decker bus ride to Santiago is comfortable, but somewhat insular. I have the front seat… A giant window to see the country through… Which is nice, but my only meaningful connection are the occasional vendors that come aboard at random stops to offer sweet, powdery baked goods stuffed with the caramelly arequipe. (dulce de leche) .. Everyone else is trying to sleep through the trip.
I stay at a backpacker-filled party hostel in the Bellavista district of Santiago (which reminds me of an artsier-gayer version of Denver) for $35/night.. I explore around a little bit, but am feeling pretty reserved.. I want to do this with more time on a return trip. There are a few small earthquakes… They keep me on edge.. The cracks you can see daylight through in the washroom aren’t helping.
My flight home is tomorrow.
I’ve been trying to write this last post for weeks now. What’s been gnawing me is the emotional turmoil that came after my re- immersion back into “real life”.
The exploration is over… The struggle with planning, danger, sickness, the heightened awareness, the newness of each different country… tropical heat, high Andean hail and sleet, the profound beauty of huge, heart-twistingly beautiful empty spaces, thick stifling cities crammed with brilliant life-force… Seemingly much more vibrant than my own culture… Of course, this isn’t inherently true, but the different-ness of it is. And the lessons I’ve learned are real.
My return to apparent order and rules, hot showers, corporate food, tidy suburbs, the struggle for success… The dislocation of families and community. The difference is stark….and to me, for now, painful.
My first week back, I walked around with a permanent lump in my throat… I couldn’t shake it. The damn thing started on the plane. Not when I boarded in Santiago, but on my connecting flight in Iquique. When we took off, I began sobbing uncontrollably… Tears rolling down my cheeks, we flew directly over Palo Buque… The site where I flew, met people, adventurers.. explorers…the whole length of my journey stretched out below me on the golden desert floor… winking a goodbye from the sparkling Pacific shore. It will be emblazoned in my mind forever.