for Preparing Your Kit
March 2004 - draft
Santiago, Chile, Entry Notes.
Suggested Packing Materials. Miscellany
This is a preliminary
and still evolving list concerning planning for the 2004 Ruta 40N expedition.
Since this is preliminary, I invite your comments and questions for the
mind when reading the packing list below that some of the things I pack
you might not need, and vice-versa. Your mileage may differ.
You may, for example, prefer a .357 Colt revolver over a Smith & Wesson
10mm semi-auto. Your own good sense and the benefits of experience
will prevail when it comes to packing your own kit. Remember that such
things as toothpaste, shampoo, most common batteries, centerfire cartridges,
common pharmaceuticals, and whatnot can be obtained in many of the places
we will visit (albeit sometimes at greater expense), so it is not necessary
to carry everything necessary to remain for years and colonize the place,
notes. The Chilean government “reciprocates” the $100 visa
fee that is charged to Chileans entering the U.S., so you can thank the
U.S. State Department for this situation, just as you can thank them for
most of the significant screwups in the modern era.
When you first fly into Chile, you
will need a crisp $100 bill (cash and only cash) to get that stamp
before even going to Immigration. You do not get this visa before
leaving the U.S., and you do not need it when crossing into Chile overland.
changing money and keeping a copy
1. Certain elements of this subject
will be covered in a separate message restricted to participants.
2. If you plan to use credit cards
Contact your issuing agency and let them know that you will be on travel
so that their "fraud protection" schemes do not lock out the use of your
cards. Make sure you have proper PINs. Funds advances with
cards typically have 1-3% surcharges - sometimes more. Some ATMs
are in Spanish only. Some don't work on the day you try to use them,
but you will be assured that they worked yesterday and will no doubt be
back in operation as soon as you leave town.
Unsurprisingly, many smaller towns will
not have ATMs. Make sure your ATM bank card has international ATM affiliation
such as Cirrus. Copy the card numbers and emergency security phone numbers
(not the 800 numbers - most card companies have international toll-free
call-in numbers). Keep copies of that information and other vital
data on a web-based email message to yourself, so that if you lose everything
but the memory of your password, as least you can get to an internet café
or other internet source and have a copy. Same goes for a scanned image
of the first (photo) page of your passport. Keep a high-res digital photo
of yourself on your email account so that in the unthinkable eventuality
that the guerrillas kill everyone in your party and you are the lone and
starving survivor, you may be able to reduce somewhat the final indignity
of dealing with the U.S. State Department over the issue of your being
who you claim to be. On this issue of U.S. consulates and embassies
I wish to remind the relatively naive and trusting among you that those
institutions, contrary to widely held belief, do not exist to assist the
average U.S. citizen.
3. Suggestion: Make one
or two 3x5 cards or equivalent for a quick reference card for shirt pocket.
These are OLD exchange rates for (20 October 2003) so you will need to
update this sort of thing before arrival.
appx $1 / 644 pesos
100 CL peso US $.16
500 CL peso US $.77
appx $1/ 2.85 pesos
1 AR peso =
The Santiago Airport (Pudahuel)
Note: Chile can be rather rigid
about prohibiting food imports. Sealed backpacker food is fine but
even unopened packages of jerky or other meat or fruit products are officially
forbidden. By the way, “jerky” comes from an Andean Indian word,
“charqui” but the charqui you get in Chile is likely to be made from, well,
you just don't want to know.
a. Fill out
the form provided on the plane. Once it is stamped by Chilean Immigration,
NOT LOSE THIS DOCUMENT, EVER. It is your key to getting out of the
country if you ever wish to leave through the Santiago airport. If
you lose it, you will be forced to explain why to the Chilean International
Police and this may delay your leaving the country. Don't ask me
how I know this.
Climate I will plan to
fill this in later. If you have read the Lonely Planet or other guidebooks
and calibrated for your travel months, you may have a clue about the regions
and their conditions. Herewith are my observations on typical conditions,
and suggestions for clothing. I am probably not calibrated in the same
way you are, since I live at 7,600 feet in Colorado, and our comfort perceptions
are going to be different.
b. You may also have
to fill out and sign a “SAG” declaration that you are not bringing food
materials into the country. We will fill out a new SAG declaration
every time we re-enter Chile. (SAG = Servicio Agricultura y
Ganadería, the “agriculture and livestock service.” )
c. Even before the Immigration
booth you will stop at a little booth on your left which sells the visa
d. Next: the long
lines for Immigration, and the stamp. The officials here are polite but
generally rigid, and usually speak decent English. They have been
genetically modified to keep them smiling.
Santiago – Airport and metro
area. October is still spring. Expect temps in the 60s to 80s
- maybe. Moderate humidity. Rather llike Los Angeles in March, including
the smog. I wear thin cotton long sleeves, which then have
greater versatility through the rest of the trip. Subdued colors
are traditional and help keep the gringo tourist from being targeted as
quickly. We do not wear shorts, or red suspenders. Evenings
in Santiago tend to be cool in October. The rest of the trip will require
a Goretex (or similar) jacket and perhaps in Santiago as well. Rain
My packing list -
just a draft - your needs may differ
Aboard (check with your airline
beforehand to see how many articles you can carry aboard. Some schizophrenic
airlines change their minds as you go from domestic to international travel)
- Locking Pelican case for cameras,
- Large daypack that includes water
Hold baggage: Locking
military duffel, the kind with the shoulder straps so you can carry like
a backpack. Use the side pocket for a copy of your travel itinerary
and contact points. Padlock this duffel while in-country...so have at least
one padlock. Some airlines are limiting the weight of each piece
to not more than 50 lbs.
Arrival wear: FWIW.....as
if I came from my Colorado office - buttondown shirt, Coolmax t-shirt,
dress-office Lee jeans, lightweight Goretex boots. Definitely
not a slovenly backpacker appearance, because we have to deal with the
jackboot TSA puppets and their fascist brethren everywhere.
Plus packed clothing:
Second pair gray Lee jeans: reasonably
durable yet presentable, gray to not show too much grime, not as
dense and slow-to-dry as blue denim jeans. A bit of Scotchguard anti-stain
water-resistant spray treatment sometimes helps.
Second presentable no-iron buttondown
cotton shirt or equivalent
Light cotton flannel shirt
Gore-tex parka with hood
Wide-brim "Seattle Sombrero" style Goretex
hat (incl neck strap for extreme wind).
Light goatskin driving gloves
Polypro zip Turtleneck, Patagonia
Second Coolmax t-shirt
Cotton t-shirt, University of Wyoming
Army PT /running shorts, nylon.
Doubles as swim suit for hot springs visits.
Flipflops/shower-shoes. For that
occasional dubious shower or floor, and for hot springs.
3 pairs thin Coolmax sock liners. Wash
and dry quickly, keep socks reasonable.
3 pairs Smartwool light hiker socks
3 pr Military boxers
2 cotton bandanas
2 mil handkerchiefs
Small synthetic "camp towel" - for
initial wringing/drying with overnight clothes washing
2 pr reading glasses
1 pr clear lens glasses
1 pr sunglasses
Document wallet with loop to wear inside
front of trousers
Dogtag, chain with spare vehicle and padlock
Leatherman combo tool with lanyard and
LED 4xAA flashlight. I prefer Pelican
Check here http://www.campmor.com
and see items 55871 and 29655 as
examples of minimum LED flashlight.
Get one that runs on AA rechargeable
First aid kit - I plan to bring the squad-size
first aid kit in my truck
Vehicle tool kit
Garmin 176 GPS set
- data cable, power cable
12 VDC, spare AA NiMH rechargeables
Pelican case with combo padlock:
" Office" supplies -stickies,
3x5 cards, pens, envelopes, maps, guidebooks, etc
Nikon 4500 4 megapixel digital camera with
1.5 GB in Compact Flash card assortment
Lens paper and solvent cleaner
Nikon battery charger, 100-250 VAC autosensing
AA NiMH battery charger with 12 VDC attachment;
2 sets x 4 NiMH AA batteries, 1800 and
Smith & Wesson 6904 10mm with 4 spare
3 GB Digital Wallet with CF card adapter
and universal power supply
Compact flash USB reader and cable
Extension cord and AC multiplug adapter
set for Chile and Argentina (Euro standard type)
......more to come
asked about cash: The short answer version
1. I almost never use travelers
checks anymore. Too hard to change and the rate is worse than cash.
I might consider $500 or so as an emergency stash but not for any that
I intend to use.
2. In Spanish cash
is called "efectivo." I have some Chilean
money on hand. Still, everyone would also be wise to get a little
before you go, but not via the airport money changers. One of the
Day 1 activities is to take our dollars and go down to the money changing
street in [to be revealed in due time]. It is fairly safe, so not
to worry. In my experience, this has been the best places to change
money in all of Chile, with the rates sometimes better than the official
Of course, at the cambios, you have do
your own counting, but I have never been shorted. If anyone is uncomfortable
with that, then going to a regular bank is OK but lots of paper and standing
in line. Alternatively I could go alone or with one other person and we
can do all the changing for everyone.
3. Credit cards are not terribly
popular with many merchants in Chile because the banks charge merchants
10 percent for use of a card, which is terrible. However, big
grocery stores (called "hipers" -- pronounced eee-pair), major chain
stores, and most gas stations accept cards so that is where I use
them. The first place we will stay in Santiago will accept them but
I think we get a tax break (pay no tax) if we pay in dollar cash there.
The rental car company payment will be covered in another message.
Driving in Chile and Argentina -
If you already know some of this, or have differing observations,
or just don't like the pontificating wise-guy’s opinions, please
bear with me anyway. I guess I should preface this with “in my admittedly
limited experience” and “your mileage may differ.”
Chilean rules and background:
Seat belt use is obligatory for front seat folks – not that you would do
It is illegal for the driver to smoke, use a cell phone, or use a GMRS
radio for that matter. The shotgun/front-seat passenger has an important
role to play in this trip, and will be responsible for much of the intervehicle
communications. That rider should get good with the GMRS radio, good at
reading Spanish-language signs, good at looking out for the carabineros,
good at looking both ways at train crossings.
Speaking of level grade train crossings: most are not guarded
and you are usually obliged (legally, anyway) to stop, even in the middle
of the desert where no train has run for 20 years.
International Driver License is obligatory. I have mentioned before
that you should bring two, and if you have an old, expired one, fine.
In theory you have to also have a US state driver license but I recommend
making it hard to get to, so that you don't lose it. The international
license is “sacrificial” and by that I mean if you happen to get a ticket,
you will have to surrender your license for a chit that when paid
in court, gets your license back. The implication is that if you have a
second or third international license, well, you get the idea. And since,
ah, wink-wink, not one of us speaks Spanish, and can't communicate with
the carabineros, perhaps we will never have to test this approach.
As you figured, the carabineros are the police, without question the most
honest and decent (generally) in all of Latin America, and I have been
pulled over everywhere from Mexico to Argentina. You DO NOT EVER
even think about bribing a carabinero the way we do in Mexico and most
other LAmerican places. My biggest complaint is that sometimes
they will just pull you over because they are bored and want to talk to
somebody, or because you happen to be the 25th vehicle, or something like
When we take on fuel, you are legally obligated to get everybody out of
the vehicle. This is not rigorously enforced, but it is (or was) the law
and is still posted on many gas stations. You may be asked by an attendant
to get out of the vehicle, so please understand what they might be trying
Speed limits! This is on the final exam: 120 km/hr (74
mph) on the highways, 50 km/hr (figure 30 mph) in towns. You have
to keep in mind what the legal limit is. The carabineros use
instant-on radars and photo-radars. The photo radar system sends
the vehicle registered owner the bill but you hope you might be out
of the country by then. The instant-on radars usually have a pursuit
vehicle working. It has been known to happen that you may be pulled over
and then the pursuit vehicle just takes off, in effect slowing you down
if only for a minute. The radar bands appear to be X, K, and
Ka, same freqs as used in the US, and our radar detectors (though theoretically
illegal) seem to work just fine.
The Panamericana is a toll highway now. Make sure each driver/shotgun
has smallish bills (2000 peso notes or so). This can be one of the jobs
of the "shotgun" (front seat passenger). As you approach
the toll booths there should be little silhouettes of vehicle types indicating
the fee for each. We may be charged as a “truck” or as a “car” depending
on, jeeze, who knows? The lead vehicle will pull over and wait or just
slow down for vehicle 2 to clear the toll plaza, and so on with all
the convoy. You might think that a toll plaza might have public
rest rooms. Forget it.
Banish your notions that there will be fast food and nice free rest rooms
every 20 miles. Many (not all) of the service station rest rooms
will have attendants or turnstiles and will cost 100 pesos or so. Cheap,
but annoying, so be prepared with 100-peso coins. The further we
go on the Panamericana, the fewer the big service stations.
Know thy bladder, and plan accordingly.
approaching a stopped vehicle on a roadway, or an open drawbridge or similar
road condition, it is very common for Chileans to put on 4-way flashers
to warn drivers behind them. Part of the reason for this is that
it is very common for Chileans, like Argentines, to run into things on
so we get started:
I think we all recognize the challenges of starting off in large diesel
vehicles we have never seen or driven before, trying to stay
together in the busiest city in Chile. While Santiago drivers are
decent by Latin American standards, they still drive like Latin city folk
and that means you won't get a break. Buses and taxis are there make
money by driving as aggressively as possible. There are very few
useful signs that you will see in time to act.
in Santiago or in any other busy town or city, if I am Vehicle
1 then Vehicle 2 needs to crowd my rear bumper. That keeps other vehicles
from getting between us and lets Vehicle 2 run a red light that isn’t
too red quite yet. Having more than two vehicles on this expedition
is going to complicate things, so we must have a contingency plan for getting
reunited when we are separated.
with parking lights on is not common practice in Chile and daylight running
lights are considered an abomination. But I think we might
consider the parking lights option to keep us conspicuous to one another.
If I see Vehicle 2 with full headlights on, I will assume that the
GMRS radio doesn’t work and you’ve got issues back there.
in the civil parts of the world, you are usually expected to allow faster
drivers the use of the left lane for passing. Hog the left lane and
the driver behind you may flash his brights, use his horn, and possibly
even prepare a little gesture that you may not yet be familiar with.
to be continued....