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    South by South America Tour – Chile Part 1

    Wednesday, August 21, 2019
    Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile

    Heading west from Mendoza, Argentina into the Andes mountains.
    Heading west from Mendoza, Argentina into the Andes mountains.

    At 10:00 am, I boarded an Andesmar bus in Mendoza, Argentina bound for Santiago, Chile. I was stoked I got a front seat on the upper level again for maximum viewing pleasure. About 30 minutes or so south of town, we hung a right and proceeded west across some desert scrub land toward the Andes mountain range. For breakfast, we were served a little box containing some crackers and a cookie sandwich. For lunch, I had a bunch of fruit and vegetables I bought the day before, which I had planned to make a sandwich with.

    Proceeding into a tunnel in the Andes mountains, Argentina.
    Proceeding into a tunnel in the Andes mountains, Argentina.

    Spectacular scenery in the Andes mountains, Argentina.
    Spectacular scenery in the Andes mountains, Argentina.

    The only problem was I neglected to buy some bread. So, I just had to eat all of the components—including broccoli, a carrot, a cucumber, a zucchini, a few bananas, two apples, and an orange—separately. Since I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it all, I gave an apple and a banana to an elderly couple seated next to me. The old man graciously accepted the apple. He was nice, but rarely stopped talking to his wife for the whole trip, which got to be really annoying after a while.

    A tunnel / platform for avalanche rocks in the Andes mountains, Argentina.
    A tunnel / platform for avalanche rocks in the Andes mountains, Argentina.

    For lunch, we were served a small ham sandwich, which went well with my vegetables. I had to make sure to eat all of the food I brought, as no one is allowed to take any kind of meat or produce into Chile. The further west we drove into the Andes mountain range, the more dramatic the scenery became. Out there in the truly wild, majestic places, one can easily sense the grandeur of the Earth, how much greater the cosmos is than humanity. A while after we entered a zone of lovely snow-covered peaks, we pulled up to the immigration checkpoint at the border between Argentina and Chile, where we got off the bus to have our passports stamped.

    Welcome to Chile. The immigration checkpoint in the Andes mountains on the border between Argentina and Chile.
    Welcome to Chile. The immigration checkpoint in the Andes mountains on the border between Argentina and Chile.

    Andesmar buses at the immigration checkpoint in the Andes mountains on the border between Argentina and Chile.
    Andesmar buses at the immigration checkpoint in the Andes mountains on the border between Argentina and Chile.

    Then we got back on the bus and waited for an hour or two to pull forward into a building, where we got off again while they removed our checked luggage from under the bus and ran it through an X-ray machine. Then we had to put our carry-on luggage through it. The officials set aside one guy’s large backpack for a thorough search. They really grilled him about the myriad of pills he had squirreled away, even taking some of them into a back room to examine. Oddly enough, we never got patted down or walked though a scanner or x-ray machine.

    A mountain at the immigration checkpoint in the Andes mountains on the border between Argentina and Chile.
    A mountain at the immigration checkpoint in the Andes mountains on the border between Argentina and Chile.

    Finally, after a couple of hours, we were back on the road. After motoring our way though more snow-capped peaks, we proceeded down through a long series of tight switchbacks situated on sheer cliffs with no guard rails. One false move by the driver and we would be toast. Fortunately, we got caught behind some big trailer trucks that were driving super slow, which prohibited our driver from speeding. After proceeding through a few small towns down the slopes of the Andes and across another flat, desert zone, we pulled on into the large metropolis of Santiago at 6:30 pm, around an hour late. Total travel time: eight hours.

    Trailing another bus in the Andes mountains, Chile.
    Trailing another bus in the Andes mountains, Chile.

    Long haul trucks negotiate some switchbacks in the Andes mountains, Chile.
    Long haul trucks negotiate some switchbacks in the Andes mountains, Chile.

    At the super bustling bus terminal, I walked around in circles for a while, dodging people left and right in an unsuccessful search for a moneychanger. I never found one, so, unfortunately, I was forced to extract some Chilean pesos from an ATM, which I hate to do outside of a bank. Consulting my guidebook’s map and my phone’s map app, I tried to find the nearest subway station, with no luck. The book’s map showed a subway line on Calle O’Higgins, the main street just outside, which was fortunately crowded with pedestrians. So, I moseyed on down there.

    Some switchbacks in the Andes mountains, Chile.
    Some switchbacks in the Andes mountains, Chile.

    A small vegetable-covered pizza at the Plaza de Armas in Santiago Chile.
    A small vegetable-covered pizza at the Plaza de Armas in Santiago Chile.

    Luckily, I found a subway stop just a couple of blocks away and, after buying a card, rode it all the way over to the Plaza de Armas. Even with maps, I had a bear of a time–walking back and forth and in circles a million times–locating the Hostel Plaza de Armas, as it is located on the sixth floor of a huge building with no sign out front or in the dilapidated lobby. Most of the building consists of apartments situated around sketchy-looking hallways. When I walked downstairs to eat at a pizza joint, I saw, in addition to regular families, a few sketchy-looking characters. The hostel itself is pretty nice, though.

    Words and photos ©2019 Arcane Candy.

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