Crossing the border from Argentina to Chile is not something for impatient people that are used to the open EU borders. When I went from Chile to Argentina 7 weeks ago the whole operation was a piece of cake, with our whole bus going through all the checks in what can´t have been more than 30 minutes.
Yesterday, coming back took me about 4 hours. Three of these hours were spent doing, well, nothing really. Just sitting and waiting (but isn´t that the favoured pastime all around South America anyway?). And I was lucky to be on a bus, because the line for regular passenger cars was so long that I think some of those people might actually still be there today.
The final hour consisted of collecting various exit and entry stamps at different windows, and looking at the guards checking our bags for things Chile wants to keep out.
During this border crossing adventure I noticed once again how concerned the people here are when they hear you are travelling alone. And I also noticed again how much crap (very flattering crap, but still) you have to put up with being a girl by yourself. The bus driver flirts with you. The entry stamp guy tries everything to talk to you, starting with ´which country is your passport from´ (uhm, isn´t it your job to establish that?), and ending with ´you´re beautiful´. Another border guard, after I asked him a question: ´your eyes are so beautiful´. Etc etc. But the one thing they all ask, usually at least twice: ´are you travelling alone?? I mean like, all alone??´ I´m still not sure whether it´s genuine concern or if they just want to make sure there isn´t a strong, tall boyfriend hiding behind the bus somewhere! I am guessing a combination of both.
Sometimes the attention annoys me, but yesterday it was a nice change from the monotony of sitting on the bus. That was probably why I got talking to a guy from my bus, while we were waiting for our luggage to be checked. After I had assured him that yes, I was travelling alone, and no, that wasn´t dangerous or lonely, we moved on to more interesting things. It turned out that he is studying in the US on a tennis scholarship. Pretty cool I think. Once we´d cleared customs he asked me if I wanted to come sit with him in the downstairs area on the bus, meaning in the more expensive section with much nicer seats than the one I´d paid for. Well, if that´s what I have to do to be able to practice my Spanish, alright then! To cut a long story short, we ended up having dinner in Santiago, before he had to go to the airport for his flight to the US. The reason I am writing about this is because it shows exactly why it´s so great sometimes to travel alone: it makes it much easier to meet all these different, interesting, nice people. Also, all the warnings and stereotypes try to make you believe it´s better not to trust anyone. But that means you also miss out on experiences like these, with people that are nice to you without an ulterior motive. So once again I was reminded that I should just trust my own judgment. All in all, the few times when I was wrong are by far outweighed by the great people and places I got to know when I was right.
So now it´s Sunday, and Santiago is very very quiet. My hostel is new and nice, but I was in a dorm with three very annoying guys. Picture the type that falls out of his bed and then continues sleeping on the floor. Luckily I moved to a girls dorm this morning, so I won´t have to deal with that again.
It´s 30 degrees here but I think I am going to try to find some gloves. After all, only two more days and I will be back in the cold!! Wish me luck.