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

29 June 2011

Calama-ty

29th June 2011

Would somebody like to leave some comments here in defense of South America? I explain…

Our journey to San Pedro de Atacama was in two parts; an overnight bus to the nowhere town of Calama, then a one hour bus to San Pedro. Calama is actually quite unique – I’ve never seen the ever-optimistic Lonely Planet describe somewhere as “a shithole” before.

So when we stumbled sleepily off the overnight at 7:15am into a bitterly cold morning and couldn’t see where the next bus might depart from, it was with immense joy that we heard from a local traveller that there was some kind of strike or protest and so no buses or taxis were leaving Calama today.

Arriving in Calama to dump hapless tourists, yes, but not leaving.

The bus station was as usual in the outskirts, so a forty-five minute walk with our luggage eventuated in sub-zero temperatures to the town centre where absolutely bugger all was open. We found a beige hotel and paid the price of a good dinner for a crap breakfast so we’d have somewhere warm to sit and evaluate.

Conclusion 1: South America has no redeeming features, except for four species of otter

Conclusion 2: there’s no earthly way we’re staying in this shithole for the entire day and then staying overnight in this dire hotel

Conclusion 3: we must explore every option to get ourselves to San Pedro today, even if it involves spending a bucket of money or hitch-hiking

Further enquiries revealed that all the roads from Calama are actually blocked today, so nobody is getting in or out for any amount of money. So we’re staying after all. Our hotel room is icy cold and there is exactly one restaurant open in town: the unappetising Cafe Bavaria.

One travel disruption, just like one tummy bug, is the kind of random glitch that could happen anywhere and makes for a good holiday story once you’re back home. But this is three disruptions now, not to mention three tummy bugs. South America is officially my least favourite continent.

With swearing…
And what is it with these stupid South Americans and their stupid bloody road blocks? You want to protest, fine. Down your tools and have a march, picket the mine/factory/offices if you have to. Screw the corporation, screw the government. But who are you trying to hurt by blocking the bloody roads? Tourists on their holidays, hard-working entrepreneurs trying to run small businesses, or families meeting up for whatever occasion. Yes, people completely un-f*cking-related to whatever you’re bitching about. The ever-wise Lonely Planet says they block roads to disrupt tourism, which gets the government’s attention on account of the lost revenue. Like hell. Back in Bolivia the blockage at Copacobana/Puno caused us to spend an extra £400 on flights, an extra £40 on a hotel room, and an extra £30 on bus tickets. And the pre-booked hotels and buses that we never reached still got their money (or at least someone did, because we certainly didn’t see it back). Sounds like road-blocks are a f*cking boon to the tourist economy. Just not to the poor bastards who have to fork out extra just to get on with their holiday.

As an aside, the people in Chile remain incredibly friendly and helpful everywhere we go, even here in Calama where the staff in both the overpriced breakfast hotel and the icy cold room hotel have been very sympathetic.

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2 Responses to “Calama-ty”

  1. Tim says:

    Oh dear.

  2. Dave says:

    So when are you selling up and moving to Calama? Here isn’t the place to mount a defence for an entire continent. Anyone can get stranded in a podunk down, have a shitty breakfast and bemoan the lack of retail opportunity, you were just venting, you know South America is wonderful really.

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