Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crossing the Andes by bus...

It's actually fairly easy to catch the bus from Mendoza to Santiago, Chile although I was a little apprehensive since we had to cross the Andes Mountains (aka the mountains where the Uruguayan soccer team crashed and had to eat each other, aka the movie Alive).

You leave Mendoza from the bus terminal (there are plenty of companies offering this trip and you can buy tickets the day of but get there before 10 a.m. because the buses only leave once a day in the morning).

The Argentinian part of the trip is a fairly gradual ascent and you pass by vineyards on the way up the mountains. I went in early November (the beginning of summer there) but I think they close the pass in their winter.

After about 3 hours, you get to the Los Libertadores border crossing. There are tons of cars, buses and trucks all waiting to cross the border (having grown up crossing the Detroit/Windsor crossing to Canada it was nothing new to me but a lot of people seemed bored/annoyed/in urgent need of a restroom.

You have to go through the exit visa line from Argentina, then go to the enter Chile line and then get everything searched and then they put everything back on the bus (BTW, the people who load your bags back on to the bus expect/demand a tip (una propina). They don't work for the bus companies so I guess this is free enterprise at it's purest.

It reminds me of Danielle's story about the guys in Brazil who, for a tip, watch your parked car and "guard" it against thieves. Yeah, right like they're going to risk getting jacked up from some car thieves for a $1-2 tip!

The Chilean side is much steeper and there were a few times I actively cringed but it wasn't as scary as I thought...a few hairpin turns and tipping to one side worries.

You arrive in the downtown Santiago bus station which is a bit dodgy so definitely take a cab.

All in all, it was much preferable to flying (again with the Alive scenario) and I'm actually not sure if there are flights?

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