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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

28 June 2011

Defying expectations

26th June 2011

Please be careful when you set expectations for people, in whatever you do. I’ve probably rattled on about this a few times, but one of the surest ways to cause disappointment is by setting the wrong expectation.

If we had known that the alternative route back to Arica took seven hours, we might have planned it as a whole day’s excursion. We would have bought lunch before leaving Putre early and spent the time winding through astonishing mountain and desert landscapes, stopping at little Andean villages to poke around and take a break from the dusty drive.

Unfortunately Flavio pondered the route and then said he thought it should take around four hours. Great, we thought, that means even though it’s already 10am we’ll be back to Arica in time for a late lunch, and we’ll be able to go to the coast and search for otters and sealions for a couple of hours before settle early into our lodgings for a well-earned rest.

After two hours on the road we could see that we hadn’t even covered a quarter of the distance, and our outing turned a little grim. Under the fierce high-altitude sun the inside of the car became a furnace, but the car was too old for aircon and the blower could only manage tepid. Opening the window was not an option until choking on dust became preferable to roasting alive. But we daren’t break up the unbearable heat with stops to poke around villages or admire views, as it already looked like we were barely going to make Arica by nightfall.

So I just drove. Pretty damn fast on winding dirt roads clinging to mountainsides or barrelling down gorges. Occasionally cresting a rise at 60kph to find that the nice gravel road suddenly has a rain-washed gully running down it. Driving on dirt roads for five solid hours watching out for that sort of thing does wonders for the nerves. Sorry, I mean it shatters them. All the astonishing landscapes and sleepy villages just blurred into a neverending internal monologue of “are we nearly there yet?”

And all we had to eat was two bars of chocolate. Just to emphasise how hot it was in the car, by the half-way point they were bags of liquid chocolate with hazelnuts floating in them. So we didn’t even have that.

The last section of the journey was actually on the Pan-American highway, which meant I could shoot up to 100kph (or so) and devour some ground. Mind you, there were still pot-holes. Pot-holes! This is the only main road up the whole length of Chile, couldn’t they keep it pot-hole free? Whatever. Our brave car got us back to Arica by 5pm and we tumbled pretty much shattered into the same hostel we used on our first night here. Game over.

I can’t possibly think ill of Flavio. He was a fantastic host, Terrace Lodge is almost certainly the best place to stay in Putre by a country mile, and those bars of chocolate (which, now cooled, are still perfectly good even if they are no longer divided into discernable segments) were gifts from him to us. And of course he didn’t intend to misinform.

But I do promise myself, if someone ever asks me for advice or information, that I will think once and then think twice to make sure I’m not setting a misleading expectation.

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