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Published: March 26th 2018
The journey to Mendoza
It was always going to be a long day, starting in Pisco Elqui at the top of the Elqui Valley in Chile and (hopefully) finishing in Mendoza in Argentina sometime the next morning. We struck camp, heaved on our rucksacks and set about climbing the hill out of our riverside campsite to the bus stop in the centre of the village which was at the top of the hill. We had climbed this hill any number of times since we arrived in Pisco Elqui and each time I (guess who) was quick to point out to anyone who would listen (guess who wouldn’t) that there was no way that we would be able to get up that hill carrying all our worldly goods. Well who would have thought it, we made it up the hill quite easily despite my gloomy prediction and just as we staggered into the village square, a Bus appeared. Not just any old bus but a Bus with La Serena on the front. We thought we would have to get to La Serena in two goes, stopping in Vicuna so this was an ecstatic start to our journey!
The dream journey continued
when, instead of going directly to the rural bus station, some 1km walk from the big bus station, where we needed to be for our big bus, our funny little bus stopped right outside the Big Bus station hooray! Add to this amazing journey a left luggage office where we left our rucksacks for £1 EACH for the day, and you would find us loose in La Serena, without rucksacks, barely 3 hours since pulling the last peg from Tiny Tim. What a brilliant public service. Imagine trying to get from our house in Little Kingshill to Victoria Bus Station and then finding somewhere to leave your luggage! And the cost of the ticket? £4 each. Not bad eh?
The night bus for Mendoza left at 1730 and was due to arrive in Mendoza at 0645hrs the following morning. As it was our wedding anniversary we had booked first class and had a bottle of wine and various nibbles to chomp through during our evening ride, before reclining our seats and waking refreshed in Mendoza for a (SLIGHTLY) early breakfast. All was going to plan.....the wine was drunk, the nibbles had been nibbled, and the bus was weaving up
the Andes. We reclined our seats and settled down......
Unfortunately we had forgotten that getting out of Chile and into Argentina is a long protracted process that involves being x-rayed, searched, getting your bags out of the bus and getting them x-rayed, queuing up to get your passport unstamped from Chile and then queuing up in a different queue to get your passport stamped in Argentina. The only difference when this happens in the middle of the night is that there are even fewer immigration/passport control/customs staff around than normal. But we got through in a couple of hours and about 2am were back in the bus, looking forward to nearly 5 hours of kip until we reached Mendoza and breakfast.
But at 0400hrs we were awakened and told that we had arrived in Mendoza! Now have you EVER known a Bus to arrive nearly 3 hours early? No, I didn't think you would have. But there we were, in Mendoza bus station at 0400hrs oh joy. There were other unfortunate people there too and they probably looked no rougher than we did but we looked at them suspiciously and they looked at us suspiciously. They also had empty wine bottles in their carrier bags so we were in good company. We decided that getting our sleeping bags out was a step too far and we couldn't go and sleep in a park until dawn at the earliest so we settled down for An Interesting and Stimulating Conversation. Good luck with that at 0400hrs in a Bus station.....Pete was neither interesting or stimulating I can tell you.....I, on the other hand was as you would expect. But hey, we made it to 0715 when the cafe opened and life became jolly again.
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