We caught the bus from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina a few days ago, after hearing that the journey was one of, if not “the best ride in all of South America.”
The bus left at 7.45am from Terminal De Santiago. We caught the El Rapido double decker bus, sitting on the top left so we could get the best views. Only a handful of people were making the journey that day, maybe around eight people, including a Dutch pilot named Gerard, who had flown over the Andes Mountains on multiple occasions over the last four months, and now “wanted to see it from the ground.”
The road twists and curls around the Andes, most of which is devoid of safety barriers. Looking out at the huge drop below does little to settle the nerves, but the journey is ultimately worth it, and we hate to think of how robbed we would feel if we had decided to catch the plane.
The rugged, harsh terrain of the Andes makes one feel as though they are riding in the valleys of the moon. There are caves, tunnels, wild dogs, scattered houses and stables, and a gushing river throughout the journey. We also passed by a bright blue lake which was gigantic – large enough to be mistaken for the ocean. We were taken back by how clean and clear the water was, and how bright the blue water sparkled under the sun.
When the bus arrived at the Argentinian border, we all hopped off and made our way over to a small, square booth. Inside the booth were two customs officers: one Chilean, and one Argentinian. Nonsensically, we had to line up to have our passports exit-stamped by the Chilean, who was seated right beside the Argentinian customs officer, and then line up again to have our passports entry-stamped for Argentina. All up, it only took twenty minutes. I hurried over to the bathroom once I was cleared to enter Argentina, and when I came out the bus had taken off without me. Luckily they stopped not too far out, so I could get back on with the couple of others who were also wondering what was going on.
We highly recommend the journey through the Andes Mountains, from Chile to Argentina, as it gives you a seven hour spectacle of the South American outdoors. Barren and dusty, the environment is home to an alarming amount of large boulders, perched atop steep mountain slopes that look like they could give way to a rocky avalanche at any moment.
Now that we have arrived in Mendoza, we can see the polarity between the rich, European-inspired Chile, and the less affluent, but equally attractive Argentina. Mendoza is home to plenty of world-famous wineries (most of which produce the acclaimed Malbec), tapas bars, parillas (outdoor Argentinian BBQ restaurants), and outdoor activities (such as whitewater rafting, horse riding, and mountaneering).
We will write more about Mendoza soon. Tonight, we are going horse riding up the mountains to watch the sunset, and then making our way to an Argentinian ranch in the countryside, for an outdoor BBQ!