On the fourth day of our Discover South America tour, my best friend and travel companion, Joyce, lost her passport.
Our Grand Circle Discover South America tour began in Santiago, Chile, traveled to Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas in Chile’s Lake District, and on to Bariloche and Buenos Aires in Argentina. The post trip, which Joyce also had scheduled, went on to Rio de Janeiro and Iguassu Falls, Brazil.
Joyce, who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and your editor, who lives in Cuenca, Ecuador had planned this trip for two years.
For four days we caught up on family gossip, laughed, wined and dined ourselves and explored Santiago’s Bohemian Bellavista neighborhood and the colorful hills of Valparaiso.
On the fourth day, our group flew further south in Chile to the fishing “capital” of Puerto Montt. By Joyce’s own admission, she did something reckless.
After she showed her passport to board the plane, she stuffed it in the outside pocket of her loose-knit cardigan. On the plane she removed the sweater, balled it up and stuffed it in the overhead. When she got off the plane, she retrieved it and put it on.
In the Puerto Montt airport, she stuck her hand into her pocket and realized her passport was gone.
Too late. The plane, with her passport loose in the overhead, had flown on to Chiloé Island.
Virginia, our Grand Circle tour guide, took Joyce to the Puerto Montt police station where she was given a special letter to allow her to fly back to Santiago—otherwise she would have had to take a bus.
Frantic phone calls on Virginia’s part to Lan Air proved futile in finding the lost passport, even though Joyce knew where it was.
I want to share my experience at the US Consulate (in Santiago). US being the operative letters.
Not a soul in the front office spoke a word of English. I got a pat down that puts the TSA folks to shame. They took my camera, iPad, phone, and cuticle clippers.
I figured out where to go from there because I can count to twelve in Spanish and luckily it was window eleven. There were two people in front of me.
The man presently being served at the window, was born in Haiti, but said he was a U S citizen. By his graying hair and general appearance I judged him to be somewhere between forty-five and fifty-five. His new wife, on the other hand, was at best eighteen. Very cute girl holding their two-week-old baby.
He had brought wedding pictures and Chilean status for his son and also a passport showing the baby’s Chilean status. He wanted to get a US passport for his bride.
The young man in front of me had had his backpack stolen with his passport in it. He had an American passport although he has been living in Australia since he was three months old. Go figure. He was also waiting to be interviewed by the police.