You will probably be arrested.
09.03.2009 - 09.03.2009 25 °C
Having had a crazy couple of weeks in Rio, it was time to move on (and dry out) in Peru... This was the 48 hours of travel that we had been dreading.. a flight to Santiago, Chile for a 9 hour stopover, before a connecting flight to Lima.. We were then in for a 21 hour bus trip over the Andes to Cusco, a regional capital and centre of the old Inca empire. Filled with dread but also a strange masochistic desire to get moving, we headed to Rio Airport at the civilised time of 430am.
Being in Rios tourist centre you dont get an idea of the true scope of Brazils poverty, but as the sun pushed through the smog on the way to the airport, squalid slums stetched forever.. The way people live here makes you guilty for spending anything, or for having the opportunity to travel like this...
Anyway we checked in and headed into the bowels of the airport, all of which looked like it had been stuck in a 1968 timewarp. We almost expected to be fed fondue and given a complimentary pair of travel flares before boarding... Nothing was open except duty free so Sam was happy! I dragged her out of there to board the plane, chuffed that ´my wallet was still intact and we had an exit row seat (thanks Qantas club). Noone told us that these exit row chairs didnt recline at all. 5 hours and 15 minutes of sitting in a church pew later, we decided that we really didnt need the extra 1.6 inches of legroom after all, and if the plane did go down i would deliberately block the exit.
After a quick stopover in Sao Paulo, the descent into Santiago was beautiful.. The city is built right next to the snowcapped mountains of the Andes, so the views are fantastic. After Rios 60´s splendour we expected Santiago airport to perhaps refer to the Wright Brothers feats as breaking news.. but we were blown away, the place looks space age and has more shops and restaurants than Mascot! (which isnt heaps but after 6 weeks in South America it feels like NASA HQ).
We managed to talk our way into American Airlines 1st class lounge.. free food, drinks and cable TV. Sweet. We then decided that Chile is the best place ever. How wrong we were.
Our boarding time approached, and we headed to the gate.. As we approached, over the loudspeaker came a bunch of mumbled Spanish, followed by ´Mr William McCloy´. This was repeated a few times with increased urgency, as we broke into a run.. At first we wondered whether we had spent too much time enjoying free food, and were late to board, but they werent calling Sams name. Strange...
We got to the check in desk, where the flight attendant was flanked by two Chilean Military police. I walked up and identified myself, at which point i was told that they has found a restricted substance in my bag, and could i please follow them. As the blood drained from my face, i followed them down the gangway. Nobody spoke a word of English and my spanish is limited to ún cervesa, por favor´ (Beer, now) so it was quite a scary sensation to be heading off with these moustachioed gun toting nutcases. Anyway, they put me in a van and we drove off into the night, away from the plane which was now being boarded by all those who hadnt yet been arrested. We drove to the other side of the airport, where we came upon more official looking hairy chilean people all standing in a circle around a bag. Sams bag.
From what i could make out from our ensuing game of charades, the dogs had sniffed something suspect in Sams bag.. They wouldnt let me open it, and they wouldnt open it, so much walkie talkie action happened, with lots of arm waving and arguing, none of which i could understand, while my heart rate topped 200 bpm for the first time since the City to Surf.
Heartened by the fact that that i could be out in 3 to 5 years with good behaviour, I was taken away again (without the bag) to the Police station in the airport (apparently they need one) where there were yet more cops with guns. Not normal guns either, big shiny M16 style machine guns. With all the moustaches and weaponry it felt like an episode of Spanish Magnum PI.
More arguing and arm waving later i was sweating like Schappelle Corby, and we went back to the location of the bag, which by then i was sure was filled with either Cocaine, Marijuana, explosives, Osama Bin Laden, or 400 illegal immigrants. They finally let me open it, and lo and behold what did we find... Not old Osama and his illegal imigrant family strapping dynamite to themselves while operating a Heroin Lab... but a half full can of Mortein.
My relief was short lived, however, as they all saw the can and stood back a few paces. While they yelled at me, i picked up the can, and pointed to the dead cockroach on the front. Bug spray i said, several times. Apparently that doesnt translate, as they backed away from me even further. Miming the killing of a fly, i tried to explain the purpose of the can, but they werent having a bar of it. I decided against spraying it to demonstrate, lest i be cut down in a hail of bullets and misunderstanding. Eventually one brave officer of the law took it upon himself to investigate the can, and i was released from the clutches of Chilean law to live another day. Medal of honour for that man, for bravery under fire (of bug spray).
I was released from custody after a severe dressing down from the head idiot, none of which i understood (but as a wiped the spit from my face, i got the jist of it). I got back to the plane, walked down the gangway to find Sam blocking the flight attendant from closing the plane door, and yelling that if i didnt get on the plane, nobody was bloody well leaving. She saw me and immediately burst into tears. Fair enough though as id been gone for 45 minutes or more, and since i was freaking out, i can only imagine what was going through her mind. We boarded, and worst of all, were subjected to Keanu Reeves movies for the next 4 hours.
When your in South America, dont look at anyone, dont speak, dont even breathe. Just get out as fast as you can!