The Journey Home - After the Earthquake

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South America » Chile
March 9th 2010
Published: March 11th 2010
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Earthquake Route

Fitting the bus...Fitting the bus...Fitting the bus...

under a broken walkway, we barely cleared it.
I am writing this blog from the comfort of my home in Austin. I am still trying to grasp everything that has happened in the last week. I thought as part of this process, I could fill you in on my adventure, post earthquake.

I left off when I arrived in Pucon. I was very happy to see my friend Chris and quickly made a new friend, Maria, who was traveling alone and staying in my dorm room at the hostel. I spent most of Sunday walking around with Chris, trying to get information and figure out what the next step would be. There wasn't much info on the roads and the bus systems were down, so they weren't giving out any information either - not that they had any.

We dropped by the local Municipal office in town and were happy to see a whiteboard that contained pertinent information about the Earthquake. They had updated on things such as the national parks being closed and advising people not to climb the volcano, duh. We decided it would be good to go grab some lunch since I hadn't had anything real to eat in over 24 hours. Chris and
Bridge Split in HalfBridge Split in HalfBridge Split in Half

about an hour after the earthquake
i found a cheap place and ordered a huge hamburger and french fries, nothing like comfort food. I debated whether or not I should try to wait it out and then head back North to Santiago where all my things were, or to head east.

After lunch we ran back by the board and there were two updates that pretty much made my decision for me.
1) We do not advise any travel north to Santiago
2) There will be a bus at 9:30 am heading to Buenos Aires.

After a quick chat with the guy at the municipal office, he informed me that Santiago would be a mess for a while and the airport was closed until further notice. Both University Classes and Work were supposed to start March 1, so I realized, there were a lot of people trying to head back to the city.

I decided to cut my losses and start to head east. I spent one more night at the Tree House in Pucon. My new friend Maria, from Florida, decided that we could head east together which was nice. I spent the night waking up to aftershocks which would rattle the bunkbed above me and somehow managed to get eaten alive by something, maybe mosquito?, which I am still trying to get rid of today.

We woke up early and headed over to the bus station to ensure that we would have a seat on the bus. The reservations systems were back up so we reserved tickets, some of the last ones, on the bus to San Martin (stopping at Junin over the argentinian border) and then another bus to Buenos Aires. And then the adventure was off again.

We spent about 6 hours crossing the border on a gravel road. I knew I wouldn't have any problems with the bag check at the border since all I had was a couple of sets of clothing and toiletries. We got our stamps and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the national park. We made our way down to Junin over some rickety bridges and were dropped off at the local bus station. We were hungry and I was covered in swollen bites so we set out to find a pharmacy, a bank, and food. We found the pharmacy after asking many different people and getting sent in opposite directions for a while. The town was tiny, so I am not sure how people couldn't know where the pharmacy was...but none the less we found it and acquired some medicine for me to apply all over my arms. That relieved the itching which made the next 20 hour bus ride more pleasant.

We never found a bank, nor a restaurant that was open. I begged a lady at one of the kiosks to give me a water for the 2 pesos that I had left over from my prior trip. We were therefore very hungry and tired when we boarded the bus to Buenos Aires. It was a few hours later, about 9 pm when we stopped in another Argentinian town with a lightning storm, that they boarded the bus with all the food. I have never been so excited in my life. I had only eaten a bag of chips and a raisin scone all day. We were also joined by a cheery British guy who had just spent like 5 months on a ranch teaching some children English with no internet. He added some light humor to some of our ride as we enjoyed our "steak" dinner and
Lined up for GasLined up for GasLined up for Gas

Day of the earthquake, people were lined up for gas at every station we passed
wine. Later the conductor came by and said "champagne or whisky?", it took Maria and I a minute but we were like, uh yes...cham-paggnne? Really? It was a bit out of character from our weekend of fleeing the earthquake, but it was much enjoyed.

I slept very well on the bus with our big seats that leaned back into "beds". We were awoken so we could eat breakfast, but I wasn't complaining. I was getting used to just eating when it was offered. We arrived in Buenos Aires in the afternoon and proceeded to figure out how we should go to get to the Marriott that Maria's mother had graciously reserved for us for the night. None of the taxi drivers would help us, so we decided to hike it over there. It was hot and humid so by the time we arrived we were sweating profusely. I can only imagine what we looked like, trudging into the 5 star hotel in BA, with our one bag, wearing clothes we had been in for over 27 hours, sweating, and I was covered in pink dots on my arms from the medicine I had applied. The guy told us that
My BusMy BusMy Bus

my home for 24 hours
our room was not ready but let us know, somewhat discretely that we could go take a shower in the fitness room upstairs. We happily obliged.

A shower felt fantastic and we hung out and waited for our room to become available. I put on the one dress that was still clean in my bag and slowly transformed myself to a normal state again with makeup and clean hair. I ventured out to grab a big bowl of japanese noodles at the japenese place that Rita and i had found the week before. After that, we walked around trying to find some clothes to buy at the stores on Florida street. We bought a few things and then headed out to eat a fabulous dinner at La Brigada. We had a great bottle of wine from mendoza, steak that they cut with a spoon, and some deserts that were quite mysterious. All in all, we were VERY Happy again.

A good nights sleep later, we got up the next day, had lunch with my friend Megan and then packed up everything to head to the airport. My parents had booked me a flight on Continental back to the
My Cama SeatMy Cama SeatMy Cama Seat

Glad I purchased the extra upgrade
states and I was happy to head home to see their smiling faces. I think the weirdest thing ever was, after being gone for over 2 months, to just walk through without checking a bag and then in Houston to walk through customs with nothing to show. Weird.

So I am back in the states now, very happy to be home, but sad that I am not in Chile with my friends. Its a torn feeling. I am happy to hear that most of Santiago is in good shape now and that they are trying to continue on as normal. They are all standing up and helping their country to rebuild, I can not tell you how many of my friends are now participating in donations, or helping to tear down/rebuild different houses. The outpouring is wonderful. Chile is a strong nation, full of caring people. They stand on their own two feet even in the face of a national disaster.

That being said, there is still a lot of help needed. I wish I was there so that I could participate in the builds, or help with donations. The Chilean people were always kind to me, welcomed

Middle of Chile, beautiful fields
me with open arms. And in a time of need for their own country the people I was with made sure that little ole me was always ok and understood everything that was going on.

If you would like to help Chile to rebuild, there are many ways. One of the easiest from the states would be to donate to the Red Cross. If you want any other suggestions though, I have many, so please just email me. :-)

Thank you all for your support through this whole situation. I will try to go back and update the blogs that I never got to - Buenos Aires and Mendoza, they were great trips and I would like to focus on all of the wonderful adventures I had in S. America pre-earthquake.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Group LeavingGroup Leaving
Group Leaving

Trying to go to Temuco

We picked them up hours later on the side of the road
Earthquake BoardEarthquake Board
Earthquake Board

Updates at the Municipal Office in Pucon


Beautiful day in the view of the Volcano
Stray DogsStray Dogs
Stray Dogs

the street dogs took a liking to us. This was like a gang who wouldn't leave our sides
Leaving ChileLeaving Chile
Leaving Chile

The exit stamps I didn't expect to have.
Volcano on the BorderVolcano on the Border
Volcano on the Border

On the border to Argentina
Dinner on the BusDinner on the Bus
Dinner on the Bus

First meal of the day, awesome. :)
My BitesMy Bites
My Bites

don't my arms look lovely??
Arriving in Buenos AiresArriving in Buenos Aires
Arriving in Buenos Aires

I am happy to get off the bus
Good WineGood Wine
Good Wine

yummy wine
Maria - my refugee buddyMaria - my refugee buddy
Maria - my refugee buddy

We enjoyed a nice steak dinner looking somewhat normal again in Buenos Aires.

11th March 2010

What about all your stuff...
... left in Chile?? Will you get it back?!
11th March 2010

Glad you're home safe
Hi Paige, I was happy to get your update. I was just talking with my husband about you and your trip. Sorry it had to end on such a sad note. Up until the earthquake, it sounded like a great trip. Once again, you're visiting the places on my travel list. I guess I'll have to follow you along there someday. What's your next adventure? Keep in touch. Marlene

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