Traveling from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, you have a few options. Two of which are traveling by plane or bus. The main difference between these two options is time. Traveling by bus takes about seven hours longer than traveling by plane. It’s also cheaper.
I did not decide to travel to Chile by bus purely for financial reasons. The main reason was the scenery. When you travel from Argentina to Chile you cross the Andes. You know, that giant mountain range that runs as the dividing border between the two countries. Let’s talk a little about the Andes, okay? (I don't really care if you don't want to. It's my blog. And I like geography. So deal with it.)
Not including underwater mountain ranges (yes, those exist) the Andes are the longest mountain range, at roughly 7,000 km long. That’s about 1,000 miles more than the width of the US. So yeah, they’re pretty long. Its tallest peak, Mt. Aconcagua, at over 6,900 feet is the highest mountain in the Americas. Actually it’s the tallest mountain outside of Asia. It is located in the Mendoza province of Argentina. And if you are seated on the right side of the bus, you are able to see spectacular views of Mt. Aconcagua as you drive to Santiago.
|Well, as it turns out, Mt. Aconcagua is pretty ugly this time of year. So here's a picture of a chicken in a jogging suit instead.|
You may think that 7.5 hours on a bus is a long time. And you’re right, it is. But at least the buses that make this route are incredible. First off, they are double-decker buses. Which, in my book, automatically makes them super cool. I had a window seat (on the right side) and was pleased to find out that half the seats on the bus went unsold, including the one next to mine.
Before the bus even departed from the station, the attendant walked by and gave everyone an alfajor. Soon after departure the first of two movies began to play. My only complaint with the bus was the fact that listening to the movie was not optional. Overhead speakers projected the dialogue. So if you don’t plan on watching the movie, you better hope you packed some headphones or earplugs.
The movie that was chosen to keep the travelers entertained was called “Fireproof.” Once I realized that is was religious propaganda, I decided to tune it out. Though I might add, before I stopped watching I did see the main character break his computer with a baseball bat to eradicate his temptation to watch porn. That Kirk Cameron is one mighty fine actor.
About three hours after leaving Mendoza we arrived at Los Libertadores. This is the where you pass through the Chilean customs. Everyone got off the bus and proceeded inside. I was a little nervous because my Chilean passport had not arrived in time for me to leave. As an American traveling into Chile there is a fee of 140 USD. I had heard this fee was only imposed to those arriving by plane, but I still had my doubts. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay.
After passing through customs, all the luggage was removed from the bus. We moved into another room as we watched our luggage go through xray machines. Any personal bags we had with us were put up onto tables. At first I wondered why this was necessary. Then the dogs were brought in to smell every bag. I’m not sure if the dogs are used to only find drugs, or if perhaps, they are sniffing for any of the numerous items that you are forbidden from bringing into the country. This includes, but is not limited to, dairy products, meat, nuts, seeds, flowers and honey.
¡Bienvendos a la Republica de Chile!
Once the luggage was placed back on the bus, we were able to reboard and continue on our way. The bus attendant came around and handed everyone some snacks and a packet of powdered milk. Then came the fun part. While the drive up to Los Libertadores from Argentina is gradual incline, once you cross into Chile you get to travel down the Los Caracoles pass. This is a steep decline with a series of hairpin curves. To make things more fun, there are no guard rails. It’s crazy to think that truckers make this drive several times each day.
This picture doesn't really do it any justice.
Closer to Santiago we began to pass the Rio Blanco. Interesting choice of names, because while it may be a river, it is definitely not white. Everything was so green. It was a drastic contrast to the Argentine side of the Andes, which was almost completely devoid of color.
The Rio Blanco
So that about sums up my trip from Argentina to Chile. I can’t fully express how happy I am to be in Chile. Especially now, with the miners being rescued. As I’ve been writing this I’ve watched the last five miners being rescued, with number 28 about to surface right now. The vibe in this city, and I suspect all across the country, is one of relief. It’s pretty incredible.