14 June 2013
Smuggling horses through customs
In South America, long-distance buses often stop to pick up food vendors and salesmen. They get on board, offering their food or merchandise to passengers as the bus continues on its journey. And after they finish their sales, the bus stops to let them out. I always
wondered how many kilometres these vendors travelled, to and fro, in one day.
Nevertheless, access to food on long bus trips was never a worry - even when the journey lasted 36 hours. On one occasion, a guy was selling this brown, dried-up meat. It was charqui, a type of jerky.
"What is that?" I asked him.
"Caballo," he said. "Horse meat."
Well, I simply had to give it a try.
[Below] "Equine jerky. Contains dehydrated meat and salt. 3 months duration: stored in a cool and dry place."
It was good. And it tasty like it was good for me. I ate a bit and stored the rest in a side-pocket of my smaller backpack. Then I forgot about it - which is no bother, really, as it was very well preserved - and I continued travelling around Chile for the next few weeks with this forgotten charqui in my backpack. I even went to Easter Island. It's an island, you see, so one has to fly there.
Anyway, I had a swell ol' time. After about 8 nights on the island, I returned to the mainland of Chile. At the airport, as I walked into the baggage collection area, I heard an announcement over the load speakers. It was saying something like, "It is illegal to bring fruit, vegetables or meat into this country." Then I saw the signs plastered everywhere on the walls.
I thought, "Who would be so silly to bring fruit, vegetables or meat through customs?" That was when I remembered the charqui in my backpack.
I quickly knelt down in a corner of the terminal and started shovelling all the dehydrated meat into my mouth. I'm sooo clever, I thought.
As I consumed the last morsel, a BIG dog (a golden retriever) pounced on me. How cute, I thought, as it licked my face. I started petting him as I continued chewing and then I realised why a dog might be in the airport, and why it might jump on me and try to make-out with me. I stopped patting him and started pushing him away, literally. But his handler was quickly upon me.
"I'm sorry," I said, panicking, thinking about the state of Chilean prisons. "I didn't know. I forgot I had it in my bag.
The handler took a look at the empty packet and said, "Ah, charqui. Don't worry, dried meat is okay."
He was a nice man. We had a good laugh about my distress and I complimented his bitch on a job well done.