Wow. Has it already been two more weeks since our last update? We’ve been in Rio de Janeiro (Copacabana area) for three days now and are staying at an AirBNB with great wifi, which means…more frequent blog posts! The first morning after we woke up in Rio, our hosts asked us if we would travel with Sofi throughout South America if we were given the chance to do things over again. We both looked at each other and answered the same way: yes! In spite of the interesting and often difficult challenges of traveling internationally with a large animal, we’ve successfully crossed three international borders and only ended up homeless on one occasion (more on that later).
The most recent adventure started in southern Chile as we prepared to fly from Puerto Montt to Rio de Janeiro, with a layover in Santiago. Given that Puerto Montt is a fairly small airport, there were no direct flights to Rio. Knowing that we had some additional paperwork to handle for Sofi, we took her to the vet the evening we arrived back in Puerto Montt after working as farmhands for three weeks. It was a Friday and we were scheduled to fly out on Monday afternoon. The following morning we went to the airport to speak with some people in the cargo terminal to find out the additional details of what we would need to get Sofi to Brazil.
On the way to the airport we were waiting at a red light and wanted to ensure we were taking the correct route (since we’ve had to navigate during the trip without GPS or cell phones…anyone grow up when those things didn’t exist?!), so Karen rolled down the window and spoke to the gentleman in the car next to us. He happened to be going to the airport, so he told us to follow him there! We were still a solid 20 minutes away, so it was definitely a Godincidence that we happened upon this man. We followed him all the way to the airport and proceeded to follow him to the cargo area, which is where we needed to go to talk with the airline company that would be handling Sofi’s transportation to Brazil. As luck would have it, this man happened to work for the very company (Lan cargo) we were looking for and after mentioning that we were there to ask questions about flying our dog across the border he responded by asking “are you Adam?” Amazingly, this guy was a world-renowned scientist of telepathy!
…just kidding. I had sent several emails to them prior to our visit and he had been filled in on the situation. So, THIS was the man Karen randomly flagged down when we were still a long way from the airport? Incredible.
At that point the fun really began. After speaking with our new buddy, we found out about additional paperwork we would need that was never mentioned before. There were two agricultural-type offices (Aduana and SAG) which needed us to complete forms, and neither of them were open on weekends. Given that we flew out on Monday, we decided to take our chances with filling out the paperwork once we arrived in Santiago. So, we booked Sofi on a flight to Santiago and then planned to locate these offices at the Santiago airport once we arrived on Monday afternoon.
Fast forward to Monday. We arrived in Santiago with four hours until our connecting flight to Rio. For once I was really glad that I had a long layover! The rest of the day can be summed up like this: we pick up Sofi from the cargo area, walk all over every office outside of the airport, Karen speaks to the Aduana and SAG folks in Spanish to get all of the paperwork done, I sit with Sofi all day until we are told the SAG office only accepts cash, they’ll be closing in 15 minutes and the nearest ATM is located at the airport (luckily I don’t mind running every once in awhile), and finally, we arrive at the Lan cargo office to book Sofi on a flight and are told that there are no other flights going to Rio until the following day. We had gone into the day with the mindset that things would be crazy, unlike our initial experience in Lima, so surprisingly we were both feeling pretty good about the progress from the day. The only upsetting thing was missing our flight to Rio and having to pay to re-book it for the following day. As the sun set and things were winding down at the airport, we knew we had to be back in less than 12 hours to get Sofi on the same flight as us the next day. Rather than book a hotel and pay for such a short stay, we decided to go the cost-efficient route and rent a car instead. Little did the car rental company know, they were renting us a car and a place to sleep! We got some late night pizza and found a well-lit gas station close to the airport where the three of us slept all night. We’ve slept better, but we’ve also slept worse!
The following day we headed to Lan cargo to finish Sofi’s flight booking and then we were off to Rio. You would think it would be simple enough to collect an animal on the same flight as you, but since Sofi is too large to be checked as baggage, we have to fly her cargo. That means they send her to a completely different part of the airport and we have to collect her there. After we made it through customs, we initially tried to rent a car big enough to hold her crate. Fortunately for us, there were no rentals available. We wouldn’t find out why that was fortunate until a few hours later. This meant our only option was to hire a taxi. Once again we became best friends with our cab driver, Edson, much like our friend Raul from Lima. He is a Portuguese man who spoke a little Spanish and was able to communicate enough with Karen to let her know what was happening. Ultimately, we spent about four hours at the cargo area trying to locate Sofi. There was some missing paperwork that Lan had taken to a different office and some miscommunication which delayed being reunited with her, but we were able to finally get her on Tuesday night just 24 hours after we were supposed to arrive! Edson even helped us avoid some “taxes” (also known as bribes) from the cargo warehouse. Having a Portuguese man on our side was exactly what we needed, and had we rented our own car, the events of Tuesday night likely would have been drastically different. Once again, it can’t be stressed enough: everything happens for a reason!
Now we’re settling into Rio and enjoying the warm weather, nice beaches and beautiful scenery. We’ve got some awesome hikes in our future, including one to the well-known “Christ the Redeemer” statue. More updates to come over the next week and a half!