I’m looking through the glass wall of the apartment on the fifteenth floor at the park with palm trees, shiny string of cars and skyscrapers lights on the horizon. This is how the capital of Chile looks like at night. We’re in Santiago again. We did not plan to return to this city so quickly, but robbery of our luggage from a motorcycle at the supermarket’s car park a few weeks ago has imposed a new, unforeseen course. I am calm and have acceptance for life, which this time decided to take something away from us. A lot of the new and valuable has come in return.
The thing happens in Puerto Montt, a city located on the Gulf of Ancud at the foot of two volcanoes: Osorno and Calbuco. In order to get there we made a long cruise with Joki by a few ferries. On the last one I watched a hawk, which was sitting right next to me on the hull. And then it pounced on a bone that someone had thrown on the board, but not for him, for a dog. This mustard-colored dog, whose eyes look strangely human and some inscrutable wisdom oozes out from them. As we approached the shore, he sat on the edge of the footbridge, like the captain of the entire boat, already seasoned in many sea cruises. It’s his paws that are the first to be put on the land. He will run out, take care of a few things on the new ground, and then he will come back and say nothing, only his eyes will reveal that he has seen a lot, heard many stories, marked numerous islands.
It is still light outside when we leave the Lider supermarket, the Chilean version of Wallmart. But our motorcycle is located in the underground car park, in the neon lights. It is surrounded by many cars and people shopping. I do not know if it is the seeming modernity and neatness of the city, or just our tiredness after day-long riding in the rain that have lulled our vigilance. We certainly did not expect that after returning from 30-min shopping, we would find our steed without half the equipment.
“Oh kurwa, our things are gone!” Joki informs starting with the most common Polish curse word, which I’m not surprised to hear in these circumstances.
“F*ck, f*ck, f*ck!” I scream more internationally, making sure that e v e r y o n e around understands that something is very wrong and I’m asking for attention. After all, even the most crude “kurwa”, which in Eastern Europe means “whore”, here in Latin America means only a curve. Because curva is a bend in Spanish. And every Pole traveling from Mexico downwards grins like a stupid at every turn, because everywhere signs warn about dangerous harlots: curvas peligrosas.
I catch the first guy that comes around and ask him for a phone call to the police. I’m carried by emotions, want to check all around because I feel the thieves are still not too far. It had to happen just a moment ago. Maybe they are some homeless people, who wrenched our bags and still can be caught around the corner. I want to run and see, but in which direction, this car park has 2 entrances and 2 exits! Cameras, they must be here! Quickly, the gurd should check the recording. But wait a moment, oh shit, there’s no camera here?! Cameras are only by the entrance? And the security guy can’t see anything without the police? Oh good, the Carabineros are already here, they got here very fast. So let them go quickly, drive around and check if someone in dark alleys digs in our bags! No, they won’t do that? Ah, of course, they have to write a report first.
What the robbers took? This big bag on the back, on which I was leaning while riding or even lounging when staring at the sky. We were calling it our entire house: nuestra casa, which included our almost brand new tent, bought in Chile, self-inflating mattresses, down sleeping bags, inflatable pillows, a fuel stove, all pots, some cloths, also my summer motorbike gloves, food supply, water bag and filters, spare motorbike parts and a few other camping gizmos. Most of the stuff was high quality equipment, collected back in Poland with help of sponsors. Its total value was about 2 500 USD. And the monkey Chiapa from Mexico, our woolen companion that was born under agile fingers of Indian woman. She now continues the journey without us. And in the front bag? Nothing that we will mourn except our unique Book of Travel. Un Libro de Viaje, I explain, muy importante (the very important Book of Travel).
“But was was the most precious thing stolen from the baggage?” Carabineros inquire.
“A book….? How much is it worth?”
“Priceless?” The Chilean officer looks at me with dubiousness.
And how can I explain to him that yes, it is a priceless book because one of a kind, created during the journey, in big extension by people we met. It’s our souvenir, project, the whole “TranscontiMental Journey” shed into sheets of paper in words, photos, paintings. The book, in which every entry evokes some memory, a meeting and is a trace left by the ordinary-extraordinary people with whom our paths have crossed.
No, the gentleman in green uniform seem not to understand it. It is an item without a label, brand and price in the decimal system. I can’t quote its monetary value. As I will find out later, the book has not been included in the report.
“Lo siento (I’m so sorry).” With these words Carlos welcomes us. He is the guy that was supposed to accommodate us that day, but instead at his house, he has met us for the first time in the place of the unfortunate event. “I will try to assist in the process of writing a report, translate from Spanish and help as much as I can.”
The same thing is offered to us by a nice young man Guillermo, who speaks fluently Spanish and English. From word to word he gets to know our story, that we’ve been traveling for almost two years, on low budget, in Puerto Montt we were supposed to stay with Carlos as Couchsurfing guests.
“So you use Couchsurfing? That’s awesome, I did it myself when was traveling. And here please meet my wife, we met through Couchsurfing, hehe!” Guillermo points at the girl sitting in the car parked next to our motorcycle.
And then he gives us his address and says the doors of his house are open for us. He’ll give us s a room until we get organized in this situation and decide what to do next. He apologizes that such unpleasantness has happened to us in his country.
Next to the anger at ruthless robbers, we feel again gratitude that there are more of those friendly, good people in the world. Angels are still watching over us.
And this anger is also kind of different, gentle, as if I already knew better that it’s pointless to lose all my energy and good attitude. I cursed a little, made some noise, left complaint note in the Leader market, demanded a look at the camera record, but… yet the same evening we were all able to joke by the glass of Chilean wine that if the thieves are to be punished, the inhibitor hidden in our flashlight will whack them.
And even when Joki said “Livia, you know it’s over”, I said “No, not necessarily, and even if so, it all will be good”. Because it is just like our dear friends from Warsaw, who gave us a lift to the airport one and half year ago wrote in the Book. They wanted to be a little sportive and left their entry at the last page:
“Remember that every end is the beginning of something new!”
Is it over?
What I value a lot in our journey is the freedom, for which we have broken out of the system to live in our own rhythm. Nowhere to rush, nothing to hasten, just having time to listen to our own thoughts, our intuition and to let that guide us. Letting life give signs too. If it goes well, fate favors, keep going with that wave. We overcome adversities, we are not easily discouraged. However, if things start to accumulate, get out of control and stress, reluctance, doubt begin to arise, we do not force anything to last. That was our deal.
On the day of the robbery, things started accumulating. Small things, yet important for the comfort of our journey and sense of security. That’s why we were tired of riding more than ever, and at the back of the head there was a need to change the front tire, chain, axle repair in the wheel. And that’s all expenses, and we’re already at the tip of the budget. There is a workaway to do in Bolivia, which is working for room and board, and in free time … we would also work, but remotely, for the money. We’ve already done it, we’ll make it again. Such a journey is a constant challenge and figuring it all out. This is all part of this adventure and we still want to continue. At least we wanted to … until we got out of the market and understood that we were deprived of our home, our independence and the ability to move around Chile with a low daily budget. Rooms in Patagonian areas are often more expensive than in the United States. That’s why we’ve spent the last few months mainly in the tent. So it sucks.
Sucks or not. Quicker return home. I started to smile at the thought of meeting family and friends. I really miss them. They are also happy to see us sooner and keep asking when they can finally open champagne. They are already trying to find us promotional flights for May. We would meet friends with whom a lot has changed in the meantime. We have already missed several weddings, communions, family holidays, celebrations, and the first of the “firsts” of children from the family. “Aunty Liwia!” – they exclaim over the phone, and it touches me because when I left they could not speak yet.
“Joki, let’s go back, we’ve enjoyed this experience to the full. Such a long time, so many countries behind us. We got to Patagonia.”
“But not to Bolivia, and this is your dream from childhood.” My beloved one remembers with sadness on his face.
Ah, because “Livia must go to Bolivia” … I even was joking like that before leaving. If I ever go to South America it must be to this country, the one which has my name and in it and in my childhood spotted on the map, it has become a mysterious remote world calling from far out to me.
“BoLivia is a must, but it’s not Joki. There is nothing I MUST anymore. We will have a reason to return. Really, I’m satisfied with this expedition.”
“We will not come back here so easily. If ever … And Bolivia is so close.” Joki says.
It was a day or two after the robbery. I have already started arranging transport for our motorcycle, I wrote a note on the blog that we were coming back. I showed it to Joki for approval, he dropped his head sadly. He was not ready to come back. I suspended the publication of the “returning home post”. We gave ourselves a pause to sleep on that matter.
My Revived Book
During the first few days after the robbery I contemplated the loss of our book. I had to find some explanation for myself, to write it down into the script, dream what will happen further. I sent the wish that it won’t vanish, that it would land it hands of someone with sensitivity who would make the final significant inscription with returning it to us. I even included it in the note translated into Spanish on our blog.
I don’t know whether I wrote it believing that the finder of the book will see it there or rather for myself, to send a clear intention to the Universe. After all, the pragmatic inhabitants of contemporary Chile gently brought me to the ground, saying that if I really still hope to recover it, I should announce it in newspaper, offering prize in money to the one who returns it, putting it all in not more than few words because in this country people in general don’t want to read.
Ah, I could of course, but then it would not be the same anymore. It would disagree with my artistic vision for which this book was created at all.
Artistic vision… What is it really in the face of the contents flowing from the book? And what is the content of this book in the circumstances of its creation? The circumstances of the meetings that filled this journey and made it so special. Meetings with people who are scattered across several continents, different cities, villages and remote areas, even thousands of miles from us, but are still alive and so much present to us.
This is them, who reached out to us immediately from all over the world when hearing about our situation, showing willingness to help and support. They spread words to friends and friends of their friends to help us in that difficult situation. And in this way we received hospitality, we met new amazing people, some gave us their camping equipment, others offered financial support. The content flowing from these pages of our travel history was clear and very encouraging: “you are not alone, keep on dreaming, you can always count on us.”
Isn’t that great and the most important? The book is just a pretty prop which was a colorful addition to the life’s spectacle and a great link during the blazing of interpersonal trails. The Almighty Director sent this album on a further journey and I accept it with understanding, enjoying the power of my “living book”, the one that is and will be and cannot be taken away from us, the one consists of its authors: people who have really made friends with us.
A new beginning
It was probably the fourth morning since the robbery and some new powers have entered me. My change of thinking also immediately lifted Joki’s spirits. Let’s try to fight – so many people cheer us, declare support – thus we decided so. And yet all these refreshed relations of friends from Bolivia travelers about the uniqueness and beauty of the Salar de Uyuni have reinvigorated the appetite.
Material things can always be bought back, in fact, after all this time of intense use, our equipment should be replaced finally.
And then every day was a stream of new opportunities, meetings and coincidences so unbelievable, even more every next time! I felt the great sync of everything. As if all the signs from the heavens were saying: yes, go ahead! :)
Of course, what we perceive and give meaning to depends often on what we are willing to see.
We wanted the world to send us a good echo for our attempt to “rising up” and that’s exactly what happened!
As I mentioned, friends, the people who were trying to help us appeared the moment after robbery. We met Guille and Antonela at the theft spot in the parking lot. They immediately offered help in mediating with the police and called for them. They knew well what it is like to be a traveler in a foreign country. They met through the couchsurfing portal (it’s a site through which you can find people willing to host you in their home for free when you come to their country), they quickly fell in love and they got married! :D
And Carlos and Soledad were our hosts in the Couchsurfing portal. They also showed great hospitality and support with many challenges and issues. Soon they will be going on their own dream trip through America.
With Julia and Alfredo we were contacted by a friend motorcyclist Ismael from Santiago, with whom we share a lot of memories from Tierra del Fuego. They prepared for us a real Chilean feast, they helped with translations and legal matters because Alfredo is a lawyer.
A few words exchanged with an accidental biker pushed the dominoes and as a result of that – Dorota – a Polish girl living in Chile for 6 years reached out. She runs a blog “Once in Chile” – a true mine of knowledge about this country.
She hosted more than one Polish team and along with her nice husband Miguel and amusing little guy Damian, they welcomed us in a truly Polish style: in a warm, homely atmosphere, with tasty food and a lot of care. Soon, after a very long time because after 6 years, Dorota and her family flew back to Poland. We are sure that a wonderful time awaits them there in the arms of their longing family.
Thanks for the participation to our cause of the Polish Embassy in Santiago, the news about us also reached Ania who lives in Concepcion. She has been living there for 16 years and was very open to spending a few days with her countrymen.
Ania and her family run a catering company so the dishes were in taste like home caressing us, we still remember those tastes! Just like Dorota, Ania also reminded us about what the famous great Polish hospitality truly is, it was difficult to leave, especially because of Ania’s amazing warmth and open personality. She asked us to pass it on that her door are always open for Poles who are in need of support in Chile (if necessary, we will provide a contact).
I can not fail to mention the meeting with Ariel and his family, also in Concepcion. We were contacted by a Polish girl who together with a group of friends, supported him in need after a great earthquake took place in Chile in 2010.
All inhabitants of central Chile are feeling the aftereffects of that experience till this day. Homes that are built in Chile have special constructions created for the quake and more residents predict the need for the food supplies in the pantries in the event of a disaster when cut off from electricity and water for many days.
As a result of the earthquake 10 years ago, Ariel lost the whole house, which he had on the unpaid (still) credit. Ania met him in France and organized a fundraiser in Poland to support him in these adversities. Ariel wanted to support Poles in need of aid this time and he gave us part of the equipment: self-inflating mattresses, his wife prepared a tasty Chilean lunch and little sweet Laura gifted us even with a delightful drawing of us being depicted already “on the road”.
And there was also support from the homeland! A few days ago we received a package of equipment collected in Poland from the train station in Santiago (thanks to material support for Motobagaz.pl, Modeka and Cumulus). Baggage has taken a flight with Krzysiek and Marzena, our super heroes who were flying out of Europe at the moment to Chile. They run the blog Wystraszeni.pl (ang. The Fearful) but we do think they are rally The Fearless ;) , the great couple running an interesting project in Bolivia. Soon along with Cholitas the Escaladoras, native inhabitants of the country, they will capture the 6-thousand-meters-above-seaside great Sajam. Increible, isn’t it?! :)
Some of you also aided us financially and thanks to that we could buy the part of the missing equipment for the collected amount. We thank for this support one more time.
And today, I am looking at Santiago from night’s view from the fifteenth level of the luxury apartment of Ismael, the motorcyclist met on the Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, who a month ago shared some kilometres of the route with us, along with a magical bonfire.
He said then: you know “If by some miraculous force you still choose to travel here to Santiago I will be pleased to host you!”
And so that is how it rolled. Today we are packing our stuff and tomorrow we are starting the next stage of this great adventure, direction: Argentina and Bolivia!
[ This is English translation of post originally written in Polish on May 13th, 2018 ]