Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Extended Downtime

So we found ourselves stranded in Calama, a town we never planned to visit. All because of the female-dogginess of two people.

But what to do? We are Singaporeans. We persevere and press on, and make the best out of our current situation while planning for the future. PM Lee should be proud of us.

Calama turned out to be a pretty nice town, way more pleasant than we expected, and leaps and bounds better than what Lonely Planet (pfft!) makes it out to be.

Or maybe because we were just so glad to be out of dusty San Pedro, and back in some semblance of civilisation.

That being said, we were on *extreme budget mode* while we were here, because we had budgeted only enough cash to get us to Salta, where we will make our next withdrawals at Citibank. With something like 3 layers of bank fees, we were very, very reluctant to draw money from any other ATM. Money was tight even with our emergency hoard of US Dollars which is stuffed daily down my underwear (no, it's not always a llama down there), because the money changers in Calama will not accept any US Dollars that is not in pristine condition!

So, we managed to get by with smaller, cheaper meals, until we boarded the bus to Salta on Friday.

Are you sure that's guacamole and not some random green mouldy stuff?

Surprise, surprise. The bus from Calama to Salta goes via San Pedro de Atacama. Not only that, it goes through the same Chilean customs checkpoint as the one we went through to get to Bolivia in our 4-Day Salar de Uyuni tour! One tiny detail mentioned in the first of the wife's Salar de Uyuni post was that the checkpoint was a mere 3 minutes away. We could have hurried there if the Mad Monkey Bitch de Gemini de San Pedro de Atacama was in her office at 10.30am when we arrived, instead of traipsing around town and coming into the office only at 11.30am!


Ah well. No point crying over spilt milk.

We would have caught up with our bus at the border too! After all, the big vehicles all spend some time mating here

We arrived into Salta, and treated ourselves to a nice thick slab of Argentinean steak for dinner instead. One serving, at approximately USD 10, was sufficient for both of us. And it was the juiciest, tastiest, steak I have ever, ever had in my life. Beats what we had at Lawry's a couple of years back (Lawry's is just too pretentious, really). Beats Astons. Beats the wagyu beef I had at some Jap restaurant in Chijmes. It was that mind-boggingly good!

Check out this delicious-looking steak! Order the Bife de Chorizo if you are ever in Argentina!

It's apparently pretty common to see people sharing one serving, like we did

At our friend Elaine's urging through Facebook, we decided to check out the paradilla too. But it's basically full of innards. Not our favorite. Colombia's ants were more enjoyable!

Outward smile, inward cringe

After all, we were going to Citibank to top up our cash reserves, right?


Turns out we had forgotten to arrange for a cash transfer from our other bank account to Citibank (we don't put too much cash into Citibank in case we get forced by muggers at knifepoint to withdraw all our money). So, it was back to *extreme budget mode* again.

*Extreme budget mode* and money changers, because internet transfers take 3 days. By then, we would be leaving Salta! Ouch. No excursions for us here, then.

But arranging for the internet transfer had raised our awareness on the miserable state our bank balance was in. We decided to use the time to figure out what are the major costs ahead of us in our travels, and one item just jumped out at us. It costs USD 700+ per person to fly from Rio de Janerio to Guatemala!

Cute doodle we saw on the way to a travel agency. Chotron... transform and transfer money to us!

Okay... that is way expensive. And taking the bus all the way back north didn't sound too enticing or cheap either. Painful decisions were made to cut out several destinations in our itinerary, because with the Christmas season coming up, things are only apt to get even more expensive!

Oh, s**t! :(

So we hauled our broke asses over to our next destination in Argentina, a rather spiffy city called Cordoba, where we were supposed to go horse-riding. But horse-riding here was just too expensive at USD 50+ per person for just a half day thing. Our time was better spent designing and promoting our 2010 Limited Edition GO calendars. Have you placed your order yet??? :)

Fund-raising is so important I learnt how to GIMP an animated gif as a banner ad. Cool, eh?

And so ends our extended downtime, lasting all the way from Calama in Chile, through Salta and ending with Cordoba in Argentina. We resolved that we are here to experience things, and not just to survive. It just would not make sense to hunker down and do nothing else and just starve till our one year if up. We will try out whatever new experiences are meant to be had, but be really a lot more selective in our spending, and try not to duplicate anything.

If, after all that, we still have to go home early, then so be it. It has already been an adventure of a lifetime.


Tracy Su said...

I'd always be tempted to try stuff if it's highly recommended, but would you say that paradilla is purely for kuay chap lovers?

Dannie said...

Trace: Yeah... I'm pretty sure kuay chap lovers would love paradilla. I used to love kuay chap though, but I gave it up after I was diagnosed with gout. Been avoiding it ever since!

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