One year honeymoon around the world...17th April 2007 to 9th March 2008! Yes we're home!!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Mendoza to Santiago across the Andes

Most treacherous bus ride ever...Mendoza (Argentina) to Santiago (Chile)

By Ben

The bus left Mendoza bus station an hour late but the sun was shining and it had warmed up. The trip across the Andes started well and for 3 hours we climbed up through the Andes. The scenery got wilder as we approached the border with Chile. The bus driver was driving like a maniac and each time we exceeded 100kmh an annoying buzzer went off above our heads. 100kmh may not sound that fast but on a narrow mountain road with large drops to the left it felt pretty fast! As we approached the top of the pass and and the tunnel leading us into Chile the snow started to fall. We reached the border and now the flakes were really coming down. We waited ages at Chilean customs..we were made to stand in line whilst the sniffer dogs went up and down searching for illicit items such as apples!

Eventually we all got back in the bus and started the long descent into Chile. The bus driver asked a trucker about the conditions on the way down. The trucker waived his hand and indicated treacherous conditions ahead and that we should go ultra slow. The road down passed under several chairlifts from the local ski resort and I'm not kidding when I say there must have been 100 hairpin bends to negotiate down the mountainside. After a few bends we encountered a jack-knifed tanker on a bend. The we stopped to let a truck come up the hill. He could not get an traction and put on his brakes but then started to slide backwards into the tunnel. The snow got worse and we saw several trucks that had jack-knifed or slid off the road. The bus driver decided that it was no longer safe to continue without snow chains.

For those of you who have ever had to fit snow chains to a car you can appreciate how difficult this task is! now imagine how long it takes to fit chains to bus wheels front and rear! Anyway the driver somehow managed to get them on after much to-ing and fro-ing. and we set off down the hill at snails took over 4 hours to cover a few miles - it literally would have been quicker to walk. We finally dropped below the snow line and the driver took off the snow chains and re-adopted his Michael Schumacher pace for the rest of the journey to Santiago.

We checked into a really superb hostel in Santiago overlooking the main Plaza de Armas. If you're ever in Santiago I can recommend it! That evening we went for a super Thai meal in Bella Vista and reflected on the 6 hour journey which ended up taking closer to 11!

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