One of the things with extended travel is, well, things don't always work out the way you planned them. Well, sometimes you don't even plan them. Ergo, go with the flow, or, better even, get the hell outta there!
So, from San Pedro de Atacama, the plan was to hop across the border to Salta, enjoy the vistas of the mountains there for a few days, and then head down to Mendoza, Santiago after that, and hop on the big bird to Madrid in the end!
But it's winter, and apparently all mountain passes across the Andes between Chile and Argentina were closed. That's not taking into account that there are only 3 busses a week to Salta from SP, and the next one was booked out as well.... so we were faced with the option of waiting and spending another 4(?!?!) nights in this little cold desert town..... NOT an option, in particular at Chilean prices.
So we hopped on the overnight bus to Santiago the Monday (decision made after a pisco sour and a glass of wine the night befor), for a good 23 hour bus ride.
Then, by shear miracle (for S America anyway)
when we got of that bus at 1.50pm, the bus to Mendoza was leaving at 1.55pm, and little man in ticket booth nodded aprovingly that we would make it, and WE DID! So after the first 23 hours in Semi-Cama (half bed literally, but more a comfy reclining seat really) we hopped on for another 6 hours..... the things you do....
Time difference between Chile and Argie is 1 hour as well, so we arrived at 10pm.... in the cold...
We've heard many a story from travellers about 1, 2, and even 3 day bus rides. Some bad, some fun, but all very long. So, we have one to add ourselves now!
Bus one was booked in the morning of departure, so nearly full, leaving 2 sets of 2 seats free; the ones in front of the toilet, and the ones next to it! Both sets would be on top of the engine, so not much to look forward to! Also, the "drop down" lid in the toilet was broken, leaving it open for the whole trip. So anytime that the toilet door opened, we had another Eau de Cringe coming our way, despite the best efforts
of the bus steward to keep the loo sprayed with a can that didn't improve much. Engine tremor and vibrations, and noise too, didn't add much to the enjoyment.
Surprisingly these buses are FAR more comfortable than any cattle class chair in any airplane you might have been in, so sleeping isn't all that hard. Think we've come out of the 23 hour ride a lot better than most 12 hour flights.
Bus 2, better toilet, better seats (2 rows away from the toilet now), and a lovely mountain pass to admire, with lots of snow, and people skiing as well!!..... but the border control is on top of the mountain pass, with a big structure to protect people from snow and ice..... but it's still freezing up there!!! In particular waiting for 2 booths (Chile exit and Argie entry) for half an hour, and having a bag check in the cold, well, it's far from a heart warming entry into any country, so to speak !!
Mendoza might be our last port of call in S America for now, depending on how we go with flights/buses to Santiago airport! But until then, wines, steaks, some shopping,
and who knows, a bit of skiing, will entertain us on our last few days in S America!
We're finishing the Inti Raimi (Cuzco) and Atacama desert stories soon, so stay tuned!
Will also add some pics to this entry soonish.
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