Crossing the Andes by bus
When the combined Argentinian and Chilean armies crossed the Andes mountain range into Chile into 1817, it would lead to the downfall of Spanish control and independence for the country. When I did it, it would just lead to another stamp in my passport.
Oh, and a bunch of nice photos of the scenery.
I bet the guys in the army didn’t get any nice photos! (Partly because they were probably too busy worrying about that whole war thing… and partly because portable cameras had yet to be invented… but still.)
I’ve been on a lot of long bus rides during my time in South America but none has been as scenic and stunning as the one from Mendoza in Argentina to Chile’s capital, Santiago.
You see the mountains in the distance before you reach them. They’re imposing enough on the horizon.
When the ascent begins, though, you start to appreciate the scale of what you’re about to traverse.
Normally I might fall asleep on a bus trip, or watch the movie. In this case the scenery is enough to keep you awake. And the movie was a terrible Nicolas Cage one.
It’s amazing to see the small houses dotted through the mountains. How anyone could live in such remote and difficult conditions is unfathomable.
Then again, they would have some of the best views in the world – the ochre of the earth, the white of the snow, and the blue of the sky.
The highway winds through the natural contours of the landscapes, past rivers and lakes, and through canyons. At one point we drive under an awning built to protect vehicles from landslides.
Another time we drive through a tunnel through a mountain, where man has rebelled against nature and created an artificial shortcut.
Argentina Chile border crossing
As we cross from Argentine in Chile there are no shortcuts, though. The border crossing is notoriously slow but I was still surprised at the three hour wait we had while officials stamped passports and checked bags for any contraband food.
Chile is an island in some senses – a desert to the north, a sea to the west, the end of the world to the south and the Andes to the east.
Their agriculture is protected by these natural boundaries and they are very strict about what people can bring in with them.
The descent from the border into Chile is a somewhat dizzying affair. Maybe it’s the high altitude, the winding roads, or just the excitement to be in a new country, but I get a bit light-headed the closer we get to Santiago.
There’s a new adventure waiting ahead in Chile. What away to start it!