This morning I rode out of the lovely tourist town of Cefalù — which unlike yesterday evening, was now gorgeous and sunny — and headed west along the coast, towards the city of Términi Imerese. And all I can say is that — despite lovely weather — it was an evil morning, and I'll remember Términi as an evil city. It ended up being twice the distance that I thought it was, from Cefalù (I guess the map wasn't 100% accurate), and the journey took twice as long as I thought it would (over 2 hours, instead of 1 hour). When I got there, I had to make use of the local post office — and as I expected, dealing with the Italian postal service was hardly a fun experience. I went into several cafes and asked for a hot chocolate — but all anyone had was cappuccino, so I had to subsist on that. The city's roads were the worst I've encountered so far on my trip: they're steep; they wind uphill; they're narrow and cobbled; they're poorly signposted; they're largely one-way; and they're utterly traffic-jammed. Plus, I had great difficulty finding my way out of the damn place: the road south, into the mountains and towards the town of Caccamo, proved most elusive indeed. Thus it is that I dub Términi Imerese a place of great woes — not a place about which I hold any fond memories.
I wanted to send a New York postcard to my old host family back in Cusco, Peru, before I left for Boston. So this morning, I went to the Central Post Office, near Penn Station in Manhattan, to send off the postcard. Well, it turns out that going to the post office on Columbus Day is a Really Bad Idea™. The Central Post Office was, apparently, the only post office in all of Greater New York that was open today. I walked inside, and there was one service desk open (with the other 25 or so roller-doored shut), and nobody at the information booth, and a queue that was literally about 100 feet long (that's over 30 metres!). And all I wanted to do was buy a stamp. Stuff that — I'm not waiting 3 hours to buy a daym stamp — I'll send the bloody thing in Boston.
Today I took a whole lot of the souvenirs that I bought last weekend in Otavalo to the Santiago central post office, and I mailed them back to Oz. I lugged the souvenirs down from Ecuador, becuase I was hoping that unlike PEB (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia), Chile would have surface mail available to Australia. Sadly, no luck here either: Chile also offers airmail service only. So mailing stuff home from here is just as expensive as it is further north. Ah, well: at least they're more professional down here, and they put your items in a box and seal them up for you, if you need them to.
I've accumulated a lot of junk lately, and I've been lugging it around for far too long. So this morning, I did a big sort through my overstuffed backpack, and took out everything that I don't need to take with me anymore, or that I can throw away. All of the former, I packed into a cardboard box, and took to the local post office in Miraflores. Included in this box was a bottle of fine, semi-prepared pisco, that I'd bought at the winery in Ica, and that I wanted to send home as a souvenir. However, the post office staff wouldn't let me mail the pisco: apparently, it's prohibited to mail alcohol out of Peru. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to drink it, then!
Well, now I've mailed stuff from the post office in Mexico, and I've mailed stuff from the post office here in the USA. The verdict: USPS is cheaper, easier, and more efficient. I just mailed my Mexican hammock and my runners back home, from here in San Francisco. About double the weight of the package that I mailed from San Cristóbal, and about 80% of the price (yes, mail-by-ship is an option here). And none of the box-and-packing rubbish that I had to go through in Mexico, either. I take my hat off to you, USPS.
My first experience of mailing stuff home from overseas wasn't as difficult as I was dreading; but then again, it also wasn't without its hurdles. There was no way I was going to cart around all the shmontses and shmutters that I bought this morning, so I quickly made my way to the San Cristóbal oficina de correos (i.e. "post office"), and arranged for it all to be sent Down Under.