The bus from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile was 15 hours long. This included a two hour border crossing between the two countries. The landscape changed from rolling vistas of grape vines to mountains of snow. We saw abandoned train tracks and closed for the season ski resorts. We listened to hours of podcasts and watched a couple movies in Spanish. We played Bingo on the bus and someone won a bottle of wine.
We booked all our bus tickets on busbud. The bus is the best way to get around South America. Flying in South America is a headache of disorganization and expensive. Bus rides are also long and not very cheap but it is the better choice of the two. Most backpackers in South America travel the bus and enjoy talking about their long rides at the hostels.
The road once you enter Chile has 29 hairpin turns of 180 degrees down 3,200 meters of mountain.
At the border crossing we all had to get off the bus and go through border security. I took the opportunity to use the restroom while we we waited. Inside the restroom was a line of women, Chile flags everywhere and two bathroom attendants listening to cumbia on the radio while loudly laughing and talking. Looking back on this event I realize now what was going on. We arrived in Chile right after the Chilean Independence Day. On this day the Chileans party hard, drink terremotos and party some more. Next time I go to Chile, I will be sure not to miss this!
Before entering the security line we all had to fill out the usual paperwork. Some traveling motorcyclists asked to borrow my pen. I never got that pen back but I did steal a nice shot of them by the mountains with the Chilean flag in the foreground.
The line to check our passport and paperwork moved relatively quickly for how many of us that were on the bus. While we were off the bus the border patrol was busy bringing to dogs on the bus and taking our luggage all off the bus to be x-rayed. Jordan and I went through this crossing at the beginning of winter, so we were in a basic building in the fresh winter breeze.
Most of the people traveling on the bus were Chileans traveling back home from Argentina with hordes of shopping boxes. Chile has one of the best economies in South America. It is compared a lot to the USA down there, and I can see why. The Chileans often go to Argentina to do big shopping trips because Argentina’s crumbling economy makes for a Chileans shopping bargain bonanza.It seemed to me it was not the wealthy Chileans who were taking advantage of the exchange rate. Jordan and I watched box after box of clothing, house hold appliances and shoes be opened, riffled through and sorted. One particular tiny old lady was running around under the sorting tables to make sure her boxes were packed up again just right before being put back on the bus.
A quick two hours later and everyone was back on the bus and ready to hit the road again.