I felt compelled to share my recent travel tale with you, in which my Jimi wallet garnered an unusual amount of attention.
We had just arrived in Puerto Varas, Chile, after 3 long flights and a short cab ride. It was Saturday night, the start of a 10 day adventure in Southern Chile. We were staying in Puerto Varas at a beautiful, wooden hotel on a lake, with a view from our window of three snow-capped volcanoes. After a nice dinner and some delicious Chilean wines, our group went off to bed. At 1:30 AM, we were wakened by the sounds of much commotion inside & outside the hotel, and eventually a frantic knock & shout at our door. The hotel was on fire! My wife opened the door and smelled the smoke, and we quickly threw on some clothes and ran outside…..leaving all of our belongings inside, including our passports, money, and my Jimi wallet.
To make a long story short, I’ll cut to the best news: everyone made it out alive and no one was seriously hurt. The hotel, however, was not so lucky as the smoke turned into an inferno and the 50 foot flames burned it virtually down to the ground. Everyone in our group lost something in the fire, but my wife & I were more fortunate than most as we were on the 2nd floor. Local people, whose names we will never know, ran into the hotel and grabbed our 3 pieces of luggage, which we recovered that night. We were very thankful, as our passports and some cash were in my backpack….plus we now had 80% of our clothes, which is always a bonus! But, alas, my Jimi wallet, her purse, my prescription glasses and other less meaningful stuff were sitting on the table by the big bay window.
The next day, we were on our way to the airport to fly out on a single prop plane to the Patagonian wilderness for a week of whitewater rafting. We stopped at a pharmacy to see if I could buy contact lens (they had none) and also replace some basic sundries that we lost. We were, of course, discussing the fire with the others in our group who were able to fly out that day….some had to stay back to sort out replacing incinerated passports or buy a whole new set of clothes for the trip. A Chilean gentleman approached me (unsolicited) and in broken English told me that some more things were recovered from the hotel and they were piled by the lake. This came as a happy surprise to us, as we were told that the hotel was a total loss and nothing else was saved. I pleaded with our local driver to stop by the hotel on the way to the airport, and he reluctantly agreed. The building was still smoldering when we arrived, as was a very small pile of about 10 suitcases and bags lying near the steps of the casino across the street from the collapsed hotel. Despite my hampered vision, my eyes were immediately drawn to a red Nalgene bottle that shone like a beacon in the night. It was my wife’s water bottle! I hurried to it and inside the sealed bottle, protected against the massive amount of smoke & water that had doubtlessly inundated our room, were my eyeglasses! We were completely floored by the thoughtful actions of that unknown Chilean who, amidst the smoke & chaos, had the wherewithal to place my glasses in the Nalgene. Happy to be able to see again, I quickly put them on and searched through the pile for more. My wife’s leather purse was there, but everything in it was completely water logged and destroyed—including books, her brand new MP-3 player, and other stuff. Nothing else of ours was there, and our driver was anxious to leave so we could make our flight. But, I had faith that if my eyeglasses were there, perhaps my Jimi wallet (with all of my credit cards, my ID, and US cash) also survived, as it sat next to my g lasses on the aforementioned table. Our driver spoke decent English, so I tried to describe my wallet to him, as he slowly shook his head. I said something like, “But, Carlos, it’s a very unique wallet. It’s plastic, see-through, you can see my picture ID through one side.” Then, a gentleman who was slightly outside our circle and watching me use my hands and my voice to describe the wallet, approached me and pulled my Jimi wallet out of his pocket. My eyes widened and I accepted it from him and exclaimed “muchas gracias” as I gave the stranger a hug.
My wallet had not a single scratch on it, and the cash & cards inside were perfectly fine and just required a little drying out. We were so lucky to have experienced such amazing kindness and thoughtful attention from the people of Puerto Varas, but I couldn’t help thinking that the Jimi wallet survived what other wallets would not have….and also the fact that it is so unique made it easily identifiable to this gentleman despite the language barrier.
Everyone on the trip loved this story, and many also asked me where they could find the Jimi. Of course, I was happy to share your web site address with them, but I also wanted to share my story with you as well. I hope that you enjoyed it!