Last month, when I arrived in Santiago, I went from California's approaching winter to Chile's arriving summer, with temperatures in the high eighties to low nineties (around 35° C). Even as I headed south into higher latitudes, the heat wave didn’t dissipate much until, just a couple days ago, it rained on the outskirts of Puerto Octay, where I’m staying at the Swiss-Chilean guesthouse Zapato Amarillo (pictured above).
Today, at Octay, the forecast high is a comfortable 72° F (22° C), the symmetrical snow-covered cone of Volcán Osorno is already visible, and it promises to be an agreeable day. That’s not necessarily the case across the Andes, or at least in Buenos Aires, where temperatures are rising: yesterday’s high reached 44.4° C (112° F) in the Argentine capital’s warmest December in 43 years.
Temperatures are also rising, politically, because of rolling blackouts that have left people without power for days at a time, and the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner suggests they should be happy because state-set electricity rates are low. For someone who often flies the presidential jet to Patagonia when things get tough, this might qualify as a “Let them eat cake” moment.
While I prefer the weather in Puerto Octay, I’ve managed to tolerate the summer heat in Buenos Aires even though our apartment doesn’t have air-conditioning – to this point, our large ceiling fans have provided sufficient cooling even if I’ve sometimes slept atop the sheets instead of under them. If I were in BA at present, I might feel differently but, even if I managed to get the a/c installed, we might not have the power to operate it.
AN ATM ALERT
ATMs are widespread in Argentina and Chile but, unlike the newer US machines where your card never leaves your hand, both countries still have the kind that swallows your card and then, presumably, spits it out after finishing your transaction (the one pictured below is from Hanga Roa, on Easter Island). A few weeks ago in Santiago, though, I neglected to retrieve my card and only, after dinner, did I realize it was missing. I returned to the ATM in the slim hope someone had left it there but I was wrong, so I had to cancel it and request a replacement.
That’s one lesson to be learned while traveling here – I had never done such a thing before – but there’s another that’s perhaps even more important. In Chile, I was able to have my bank FedEx a replacement to my friends at Pucón’s TravelAid, where I picked it up a week ago. That’s not necessarily an option in Argentina, where opaque import and customs requirements now require most if not all courier packages to be picked up at Aduana (customs) at the international airport at Ezeiza. That’s a nuisance, at best, if you’re in Buenos Aires; if you’re elsewhere in the country, best of luck, though registered mail (rather than a courier service) may result in direct delivery.
Of course, if you’re using ATMs in Argentina instead of the “blue dollar,” you’re already low on luck. When my Zapato Amarillo friends went to Bariloche last month, they were getting upwards of nine pesos per dollar instead of the ATM’s official rate (6.47 as of today).