It turned out to not be necessary. I could get on the next bus to Santiago in 45 minutes. The army had come to fight and was furious at the peaceful solution. But I paid them off by buying them all empanadas with two eggs instead of one. It was not long before I was asleep and heading north toward Santiago.
It was 8am and the sun was warm already. I was hungry, but unlike the other passengers on the Bariloche-to-Osorno bus, I didn't change my Argentine pesos to Chilean pesos at the border. In fact, I had no Chilean pesos on me, but that didn't bother me. All I needed to do was find a currency exchange booth (there are plenty of these in Chile because banks don't do currency exchange) and voila! I'd have cash.
But I was struck by one thing when I stepped out of the bus station and onto the street: it was slow, very slow. Cars were hardly on the road and I could count on one hand the number of people walking on the sidewalk. Stores all around me were shuttered with metal gates, and it was quiet. The bustling sounds that I had dodged only a week before had disappeared. Maybe it wasn't 8am. Maybe it was earlier. That didn't seem right, but it didn't matter to me either. All that mattered was that I got two things: cash (for food) and a bus ticket to La Serena.
Part of the problem, however, was that "no cash" doesn't just mean "no food." It also meant no subway ride, and the heavy pack I was lugging around was a friend's that didn't fit me well. The long walk to Estacion Central was made easier by the empty streets, but by a half-hour passed I wished I had made change at the border because I was struggling to move forward with all that weight sitting uncomfortably on my back. Finally, my shoulders ached and begged me to not go any further. My whole body wanted to sit down, so imagine my happiness when I stumbled across a Scotiabanc ATM machine. I'm not much of a fan of Bank of America, but before I left I opened an account with them because I knew I could take cash out of a Scotiabanc ATM without incurring penalties. Cash! Finally!
I reached for my money clip and flipped through the useless foreign cash and other cards from top to bottom before having to start over again at the top. I went to the bottom again and thought to myself, "what the fuck? Where's my ATM card?"
I didn't know where it was. I suspected that while in Bariloche I had left it in one of those ATM machines that asks if you want another transaction after you're done. Well, at least I hoped that was the case. It was the last time I had used it. It didn't seem likely that it was stolen because I had all my other cards and cash on me. Oddly I felt OK about that, but the stress of having lost my card (and, if it was in fact left in the machine with the option to conduct more business, the stress of wondering how much money had been taken out by the first person to come along and recognize that I was open for business) was lost in my desperation of knowing that I couldn't eat until the currency exchange places opened, and that I couldn't take the Metro to Estacion Central, which is where the buses to La Serena were located, and even though I could see the open air where the station was, it seemed still so far away.
All hope was lost until I found a currency exchange that opened at 10am. It was 930am, so I walked to the ticket booths, which are a 15-minute walk from the bus terminal, and bought a ticket to La Serena that left at - GULP! - 10:15am.
I rushed back. If I got to the booth at 10am then I'd have time to exchange my cash and still make the bus. And how I hoped I would make it back to the exchange place in time! The ride to La Serena was going to be seven hours and I doubted they would have free food on board. In fact, I was sure that they'd have these vendors with local foods and drinks (fairly common actually) get on the bus and sell us food during the journey. That was all fine and dandy, but not if I didn't have any cash.
The currency exchange booth came into view at 9:58am. No one was in line. Good. If I was lucky then they'd be open a couple of minutes early. But then I noticed that the light inside the booth was dark. Shit. No one was inside. OK, that's fine. Maybe they were setting up in back. Maybe there were rules about opening early. Maybe I had a chance. I waited and watched my watch tick past 10. Then it was 10:02, and I didn't know how far of a walk it was from the booth to the bus terminal. Then it was 10:05 and then it was 10:10. Whoever it was who was supposed work on Sunday had failed me. I rushed to the terminal and found it was farther away than I assumed. I was out of breath, but I checked my bags and got on the bus just before it pulled out.
I asked the bus driver how long we'd be at the stop. He gave me an answer and I pretended to understand. Then I bolted around the corner toward the gas station. They had the Visa/MasterCard sign on the door. I was in luck. I went inside and picked up a bag of Doritos and a bag of M&Ms (thank God they had M&Ms because those dumb Rocklets aren't a very good substitution). I turned around to see if they had fruit, and when I did I noticed that they had a grill. HOT FOOD! YES!!!!!
The steak, tomato, and avocado sandwich shot to the top of my list. There was a bit of confusion on what I was ordered, but I was happy when the woman behind the counter finally understood me. But I still had no clue how long the bus would be at the stop. At the worst I had a good view of the exit, so I would see the bus pulling out of the pit stop. But I didn't want to have to run and hope they'd see me running. I wanted to get back in time.
Five minutes passed by. The steak was done but the fries weren't. Then they had to heat the bread. That took longer than I hoped, and despite the fact that I swore I said I wanted everything on it, she asked me for each individual item. Then the fries were done, and she asked me something I didn't understand. "What? I don't understand." I looked at my watch, she asked again, I shook my head, she asked again, I pointed to my watch and then toward the bus station, and then she moved everything from an eat-in plate to a take-out package. I went to take the food when she pointed to the register. "Oh yeah," I muttered, "I gotta pay first."
Thankfully the cashier knew what I had ordered. I paid and ran out nodding my head and smiling as the cook said something that I didn't understand. The only buses that had left the station at this point weren't mine. So long as I ran up the exit road then I stood a chance of not getting left behind. I hit the exit road, ran up it, turned the corner of the pit stop building and saw my bus pulling back. "WHOA!" I yelled waving my arms. The bus stopped, the door opened, I got on, I sat in my seat, and I ate for the first time since the day before.