Home > Argentina > Bus to the top of the world

Bus to the top of the world

October 29, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

The bus from Mendoza to Santiago is a must. It only needs to be done once, but it is pretty special.

The day started badly, because as well as the banging headache and parched throat, the Mendoza bus station had a wildcat strike and all busses were empounded. As I went around the bus kiosks, they told me that the Santiago bus was going to travel, but we needed to go and wait on a square in town, and that the bus would arrive there well away from the blockades and the protestors.


escape on the blacked out bus - weird

We wait, sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently for an hour and a half before the bus arrives. We are just pleased it arrives as most companies, the busses are simply cancelled. We get on, and the conductor comes round and closes all the curtains so that we can “escape” the blockades without the protestors  realising that there were passengers on board and stoning the bus. It was all very 1930’s!

road out from Mendoza

nearing the top

the queue's to the border went on and on

Soon after leaving Mendoza the road rises quickly and continues to rise, and rise and rise, hairpin after hairpin until at around 3,500m it starts to level out and we follow the high altitude valley. As we pass Aconcongua at 6900m on our right, we get closer to the border, eventually reaching the border after3 hours or so. And then we stopped. We were warned that the Chile border was a pain, and they certainly were. Hour after hour we waited, first immigration, then the agriculture ministry checks (no fruit, meat etc – the couple behind us were even hauled aside for having peanuts!). Then sniffed over by sniffer dogs, then bags off the bus through scanners, and eventually after several hours, lots of passport stamps later, we were back on the bus and off down the hill.

at the front of the double decker we were right over the edge

The journey down was a dramatic as the one up, and eventually we rolled up into Santiago at about 8pm as opposed to the 4.30 it should have been. We had been assured that our connection to Valparaiso went every 20 minutes, so it was no problem to get on the next bus – the reality was that unbeknown to us, it was a 4 day weekend in Chile, and ALL the buses were full. Every last one! With panic rising fast, no money, no internet connection, no bus and no hotel, I left Jo and the kids on the platform to search for a place to stay.

Outside the station is an Ibis – FULLY BOOKED. Kindly they let me use the internet, but “hostelworld” out hostel search engine no longer recognised the date, it was too late in the day, so after a quick search around Google I found a hostal (Los Andes) in town, and asked the kind lady on reception to call through, which  she and from nowhere we had somewhere to stay. Holiday weekends are a backpackers nightmare.

We got to the hostal around 10pm, popped out for a quick bite, then put the kids to bed before logging onto the internet – TOP NEWS STORY – Quantas Flight shut due to strikes. We are meant to be flying to Auckland in 3 days with Quantas – whole fleet is grounded. Sometimes travelling is easy, sometimes it conspires against you.


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