Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog

Life Is Good
January 3, 2011, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , ,

I returned to Chile after a marvelous month at home with my dear family and friends. I had nothing but a one-way ticket in hand, some luggage, no place to live and no job.

But I’m blessed with a wonderfully kind friend, Maria Jesu, whom I stayed with when I first arrived while I searched for a place to live permanently. A few days after I arrived a man contacted me on CouchSurfing wanting private English lessons. Another good friend of mine hooked me up with a part time job at an English institute. When I returned to my volunteer work at Anakena school,  Tía Leo and my class greeted me with a dance to Shakira’s “Waka Waka.” It was absolutely adorable.

I ended up finding a place to live throughCompartoDepto. It’s a small house in a quiet neighborhood in Nuñoa, a little further outside the center. I now live with a Chilean raw vegan chef, a musician and a French nutritionist. We have a garden, a piano and an enormous kitchen, by Chilean standards anyway. It’s wonderful.

Now that I live outside the city, I went on the hunt for a bike. A friend of mine contacted me and said his roommate had one that he never used and I could probably have it. So for the cost of a beer, I had a new bike.

I am currently finding a new role in the office at VE Global. I would like to work on training development and progress evaluation using statistical analysis, from a broad perspective. My first projects are going to  be revising our training manual, developing a VE Global cookbook for fundraising purposes, and finding statistical significance from our past volunteer satisfaction surveys. The nerd in me is completely thrilled about this.

Life is good back in Santiago. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so much love even when I am so far away from home.



Part I: Traveling Peru, Lonely Planet Style

Traveling South America can be overwhelming because you have to be ready for anything. Flexibility is key. Prepare yourself for broken down buses with no heat, no means of communication, shady bargain prices, and cross your fingers for relatively smooth, low hassle travel.

I flew one-way from Santiago to Arica, in the North of Chile, through Sky Airlines. It cost 88,759 pesos, including all taxes and fees. (The conversion rate is 516 pesos to the dollar.) It was double the price to fly round trip. I had to go directly to the office located here in Santiago because their website wouldn’t accept my foreign credit card. It was kind of an annoying hassle but nothing too dramatic. From Arica I took a colectivo to Tacna, to cross the Chile-Peru border, which I highly recommend. It took about an hour and the cost is a flat fee of 24,000 Chilean pesos shared among however many passengers were riding. Obviously, if possible, ask around on your flight or in the airport for others going to the same destination as you. The driver provides the visa paperwork, drops you directly at the door of your destination, and helps with your bags as well.

I was dropped off at the bus terminal in Tacna and there are tons of bus companies to choose from. As soon as you walk in you hear strained voices screaming the names of destinations they think you may be headed to. “Arequipa, Arequipa, Arequipa! Lima, Lima, Lima! Cuzco, Cuzco, Cuzco!” It’s best to go with a company recommended by someone because you never know what you’re going to get when you do the guesswork yourself. Our taxi driver recommended Flores bus company and so do I. They had comfortable seats, heat, and they served a snack. It was a six hour trip to Arequipa and the cost was only about 30 soles. (Exchange rate is 2.8 soles to the dollar.)

Bus travel

I stayed in two different hostels while visiting Arequipa, Bothe Hostel and the Home Pro Palestinian Backpackers Hostel. Bothe Hostel cost 23 soles a night for a room with six beds, and a portion of the money goes to children in need in Peru. The Backpackers hostel cost only 15 soles per night for a room with six beds. It’s super nice and brand spanking new so the price will likely increase as they become more established.

Taking money out in Peru can be difficult depending on what card you have. Visas are accepted virtually everywhere. Scotia Bank is an international bank and you can withdraw money from Scotia ATM’s with almost any card, no matter where you are from.

Food in Arequipa has a wide range of costs. I ate a couple really typical meals for only three soles and I ate tourist pizza for 30. I definitely recommend eating with the locals a couple times. You may stick out like a sore thumb but it’s worth the experience.

I went out to “the nightclub” in Arequipa, called Déjà vu. There is no cover if you go before midnight and it costs 10 soles for a mojito or a piña colada. Don’t expect to experience true night life anytime before about 1:30 a.m. The real partying doesn’t start until 2 a.m. and the bars close at 6 a.m.

It takes about one full day to tour Arequipa and really get a feel for the town. There are numerous museums and cathedrals to visit and a couple markets with Peruvians selling their handmade goods.  A lot of people also visit the Colca Canyon, which is about 100 miles northwest of Arequipa. Tours range from about 40 to 80 USD depending on the company, and if you go for one day or two.

From Arequipa to Cuzco, I used Flores bus company again, and the cost was 40 soles for about a 10 hour bus ride for semi-cama seats. I stayed at the Loki Hostel in Cuzco which was 28 soles for a room with five beds. It is really big and has really nice bedding but is a party hostel, so if you want to sleep, I recommend getting a room away from the bar if possible. Loki is also a very busy hostel so making a reservation is important when possible. I strongly suggest having a name and address of a hostel in hand when you arrive to your destination as well, so that you can just tell the taxi driver where you need to go. Ask someone in the bus terminal how much the taxi should cost so the taxi drivers don’t over charge you. Either way the taxis in Peru are so cheap it will always be cheaper than catching a cab in the states. It was between 3-5 soles to make it all the way across town, which is slightly over a dollar. Food in Cuzco had a wide range of prices as well so it depends on what you are looking for. I ate for about 10-15 soles per meal.

The attraction for visiting Cuzco is Machu Picchu.  Trains and treks to Machu Picchu all leave from Cuzco. I booked the two day/one night Sunrise tour with SAS travel for $270 USD. It was a great experience and the cost wasn’t much more than the total of everything that was included. The train ride alone costs 80 USD, and it’s about 50 USD to enter Machu Picchu. One night in a hostel, food for two days, a two hour tour, and a bus ride are also included. I found it to be well worth the price, especially if it’s your first time visiting.  Please come visit!

“The More You Know the Less You Understand”
August 1, 2010, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , ,

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tse once said,  “The more you know the less you understand.” It’s sort of a beautiful yet annoying paradigm.

This philosophy has never rung more true in my life than over the last week. I am on vacation from volunteering in Santiago right now, traveling through Peru and Bolivia. Lesson of the week: the more you see the more you realize you haven’t seen.

I have truly developed a new passion for traveling and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer, for better or worse. Originally the trip was going to consist of one destination, the infamous Machu Picchu. But I was going to be so close to the Uyuni Salt Flats, and to not stop would be a travesty. (Of course I wanted to get the oh so coveted pictures of the vast salt desert with the distorted depth perception.)  Then one traveler recommended a couple of beautiful cities on the way to Machu Picchu that are a “must see,” Arequipa and Cusco in Peru. Another traveler recommended a stop in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, on our way to Uyuni. Of course, there was a multitude of other suggestions but we had to be realistic with our time and money constraints.

Traveling to developing countries doesn’t come without sacrifices to your health, your pocket book and your well-being, but it is most definitely worth it. So far I have had bed bugs in Santiago, elevation sickness in Peru, and food poisoning in Bolivia. That alone sounds like enough to make someone run like Forrest Gump in the opposite direction to the conveniences and pleasantries of home in America. But it’s not. And let’s not forget the pleasure of drying your clothes after they’ve been washed, or a consistently hot shower. Or indoor heating. Or the convenience of putting your dirty toilet paper directly into the toilet. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy these things, but it is still not enough to deter me from wanting more: the joy of helping people less fortunate than yourself, the rush of skiing in the Andes, the accomplishment of climbing Machu Picchu, and a view from the top that is more than enough.

It looks like my time in Chile, Peru and Bolivia is only the beginning of new discoveries.