• Two days before the most stressful day of travelling yet:
7:00pm: We were sat on a bench in Valparaiso, Chile with plenty of time waiting for our 25 hour bus journey to San Pedro de Atacama to start. J handed me some papers and said 'we don't need these anymore do we?' I looked and saw they were our Brazilian visa papers so ripped them up and put them in the bin. You collect lots of bits of paper whilst travelling; bus tickets, receipts, visa papers so once we move on to the next country we always clear out our document folder of stuff we don't need - or so we thought.
• The most stressful day of travelling yet:
9:00am: Due to arriving at 12am that morning in San Pedro and being completely knackered from the long journey we had breakfast then had a lazy morning chilling at our hostel having a mid morning nap. (The stressful part is coming don't worry - I'm just setting the scene).
1:00pm: In the afternoon we then headed into the main square to get something to eat and book tickets for a) the sandboarding we wanted to do later that day and b) the 3 day excursion the next morning to the salt flats in Bolivia where we would continue our travel up through South America.
Booking the sandboarding was simple enough but we'd read a lot of stuff on line in reviews about unscrupulous salt flat tour operators who due to the minimalistic laws and drinking culture in Bolivia send you off with jeep drivers who are often pissed up - someone we met had actually had to exchange seats and take over driving while the guy passed out in the passenger seat he was so pissed! Obviously this was causing me some anxiety but we'd read enough to know which tour operators had good reputations and so of course booked with one of them. The lady booking it was so helpful and reminded us that as it was a 7am start we needed to buy plenty of water, snacks, sun cream and toilet paper today for the very basic accommodation we would be staying in. We needed warm clothes and our passports. She said we also must not forget the important piece of paper called a PDI that we had been given when we entered Chile. Now being the responsible and organised adults we are of course we would have these - but there was something niggling in the back of my mind...
2:00pm: We bought our supplies and headed back to hostel to drop them off, intending to be back in time to change our Chilean Pesos to Bolivianos and grab something to eat before sandboarding at 4pm. Neither of us being able to quite recall these 'important' pieces of paper we decided to check they were in our document folder. No. No they weren't. Shit. We checked everywhere; bags, pockets, shoes. Nothing. Knowing that the only place we would have realistically put them was our document folder it dawned on us that I must have unknowingly thrown them away with the Brazilian visa stuff.
3:00pm: Shit. Shit. Shit. Our sandboarding date looming and knowing we had to leave at 7am the next day, I obviously started having a small meltdown whilst practical J searched online for what to do if you lose your pieces of paper things. Simple - you just get another at the police station. Okay fine. Fine if you have more than an hour to do so and actually know where the nearest police station is! We had two options: a) forget sandboarding and just go to the police station now or b) try and push everything back a day and stay an extra night to allow us time to go to the police station and still go sandboarding. We opted for the second and rushed to the sandboarding place first (this wasn't round the corner by the way).
3:30pm: Explaining our situation they kindly changed our tickets to the next day. Phew!
3:40pm: Next to change the salt flat tour date to the day after. The clock was ticking as the excursion offices looked like they were starting to close for the day. We rushed to the place but after explaining our situation for the second time the Spanish-only speaking lady said they couldn't change the date (neither trip was cheap, especially not this one so we couldn't afford to just lose the money). After some further frantic exchanges (I'm nearly in tears by this point, chastising myself over both having a lazy morning so not booking things sooner and throwing the papers away in the first place), the lady called a translator who told us not to worry as they would just get the driver to stop at the police station in the morning. Okay, great, no problem then.
3:50pm: But wait, we had already moved our sandboarding date. Nooooo! We raced back up to the sandboarding office to relinquish our request to change the date. To our relief they still let us go that afternoon - they must have thought we were right idiots.
3:55pm: But it still wasn't over. We still had to get money changed because places would be shut once we got back at 7pm, not open before we left at 7am in the morning and there was nowhere to change money in the remote part of Bolivia we were going. Queue J sprinting down the street to find the nearest exchange place. I watched him dodging in and out of the crowd, resigning myself to the fact that we wouldn't make it. But he saved the day and we made it with seconds to spare, phew! And he'd even managed to grab a couple of bananas, biscuits and water to prevent my growing hangryness (anger caused by being hungry) getting worse. It actually took longer in the end for them to find a helmet to fit his expanding Afro!
With our adrenaline pumping most of the afternoon we were pooped when it came to climbing up the massive sand dunes in the scorching heat. Well that's what we're blaming for nearly actually breaking our necks on our descents - check out our You Tube channel for the video of our epic sandboarding fails! We both suffered from whiplash for a few days and I think a mild concussion in my case. But still it was worth it, it was so much fun. Highly recommended if you get the chance. Anyway the moral of the story - triple check you are not throwing away important documents, it will save you a lot of stress!