Friday, October 23, 2009

(old) It’s chilly in Chile

GOOD MORNING ADRIAN! I tested the severity of his hangover but was disappointed that he was fine this morning. I guess passing out at 9pm will do that. That meant we could get going because we’d seen everything Mendoza had to offer. Adrian whinged that he wanted to do another wine tour but I ignored him. Why the hurry? Well, despite the discount we’d asked for the hostel was still one of the most expensive ones and the prices didn’t look much better for the rest of South America. Plus, we wanted to do the NaviMag Patagonia ferry and November 1st the prices went up for high season. So we were going to have to move it, if we wanted to save those pennies. We checked out and told Molly we’d be back if we couldn’t get a seat on a bus to Santiago. But at the bus station we easily got tickets, quickly picked up some food at the station for the ride and were on the bus and on our way out of Argentina. Don’t worry, we’d be back.

The bus took us through the flat wine country and then began the trip up and up and up and up into the Andes. Soon we were surrounded by snow and rocky mountain tops. The landscape reminded me of that movie Alive! and I realized that we weren’t too far from here that those Uruguayans had survived the plane crash by eating each other. Luckily, our bus driver was a huge improvement on his Bolivian counterparts so there was no fear of a remote crash. Plus we had our food supplies just in case. Although the food wasn’t really necessary. I’d forgotten that they fed you on buses down here. Besides food, the ayudante also passed out immigration forms to everyone and even helped us to fill them up. Soon we were passing ski lifts just closed for the season. Although it was warm on the bus, I was glad I’d wisely worn pants. We’d gone from 30º to 0º in just a few hours and we’d go back to 30º when we got to Santiago. So I had pants on but a t-shirt and sandals not a problem on the bus but when we got to the border post I noticed lots of people in front of us milling around outside in the windy mountain pass. I dug out our Bolivian woolly hats and mitts But we sat in the line up of buses and waited. It was Friday and there were two full buses ahead of us and two behind us waiting to be processed. To the right was another line up of fancy cars that were taking part in some sort of cross border rally. Between all the bus passengers, their luggage and all the paperwork for the cars, the border was severely backlogged. Not that I was in a hurry to stand outside in the cold. After an hour, the ayudante led us into the hanger-like border post where we stood in line for another hour. Now it was cold, freezing even, and I stamped my feet to try and keep warm. Two little girls in front of me were very bored and driving their mother crazy. But they held still when they saw me and then started giggling. It was my silly Bolivian hat – they thought it was the most amusing thing ever, probably because it looked like something a child should wear. So I let them play with the dangly bits which kept both of us amused while waiting. We eventually passed through the Argentinean exit and on to the Chilean entrance. Then it was another hour wait while all our luggage was examined. After three hours we were finally back on the bus. And in Chile.

Despite the long wait it was one of the easier borders. We didn't need to change money since we still had some Chilean pesos left over from our time in Iquique and would need our Argentinean when we returned. But now it was time to get back down the mountains. This proved to be tougher than the trip up as the road wound its way down the precarious road. It twisted and turned but that barely slowed the convoy of huge trucks carted goods across the border. The bus had to hug the road to make room for them as they made their way up giving us all a good look of the sheer drop down (photo above). We survived and were soon in the lush green vineyard and farm land of Chile. Thanks to the border delay it was getting late in the day and by the time we finished with the suburban stops it was late by the time we got into Santiago. We were given a light dinner on the bus. Now we didn’t have to worry about finding dinner and could just concentrate on getting to the hostel.

We were definitely in downtown Santiago but I didn’t recognize any of the surrounding street names from the guide book map. We looked around for a subway station but in the chaos of dozens of buses and hundreds of people (and just as many taxi drivers) we couldn’t find it.So we gave up and grabbed a taxi. I gave him the address and the cross streets and even then he overshot the location and had to double back a couple of blocks. Of course he then asked for more money but I refused and despite my basic Spanish I understood a couple of the epithets he muttered under his breath. Hmm, not quite as friendly as the Argentinean taxi driver. But who cares we had arrived at the Moai Viejero Hostel. We didn’t have a reservation and they didn’t have a private room so we grabbed two dorm beds and crashed. Discovering the charms of Santiago would wait until tomorrow.

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