Crossing the Andes – Chile to Argentina

Driving back to Santiago, from the Chilean coast, we made good time on the divided freeway, left the car at the airport and took a taxi to the bus station in time for a bite to eat before we boarded a bus to Mendoza, Argentina. Originally we had planned to rent a car for the duration of our trip but decided not to based on what we understood to be a time wasting and expensive border crossing from Chile to Argentina. The buses are cheap and comfortable in Chile so other than a man who picked his nose with great concentration and coughed out great whooping clouds of germs, it was quite pleasant. (I had seen him earlier in the restaurant and had jokingly said to Ale that he was probably going to sit beside her in the bus and sure enough….Ale changed her seat!!!) 

This bus trip rivalled one that I had taken in the Colombian Andes both in scope and beauty. The views were spectacular and we climbed to great heights on hair pin turn roads with steep drop offs. The sheer size of the Andes and the shape and contours of the various mountains more than make up for the somber monotony of their granite greyness. 

Finally, after 5 or so hours of steady climbing we reached the border where we were required to leave the bus and file slowly through the customs which turned out to be a nonevent. Passport handed over and stamped….no questions asked and we were on our way once more. As we got further into Argentina the bus started its decent and the valleys below reached up with green hues to meet the bus. Not too far into Argentina our friend with the cold left the bus and took his cough with him. We didn’t miss him. Another young man on the bus was from Mendoza, our destination and he had been away in Texas studying piano tuning. He was very excited about returning after months away from home.

As Mendoza approached the view outside the bus window became a friendlier landscape of rolling hills and pastoral vineyards a perfect harbinger of some wonderful wines to come.

Santiago Chile

There are so many reasons to go to Chile the least of which is the Capital, Santiago. Santiago is encircled by the Andes to the east and the costal mountains to the west. On a breezy day this is a beautful setting but when the wind drops the air is grey with pollution, captured in the bowl of the mountains. I read that Chile is making an effort to clean things up and that they had signed the Paris Accord.

Chileno’s are warm and friendly people and we were very lucky to rent an apartment close to el centro that kept all four of us together. It was high up on the fourteenth floor and we a great view.

Altogether we had four days for wandering around and hitting the highlights including Santa Lucía park. A bit of a climb to the top but well worth the effort for the views. Santiago is easy to explore, a good guide book, google maps on your phone and maps from local tourist booths point the way to the main attractions.

Santiago like other South American cities has been rebuilt many times after devastating earthquakes and so it is a jumble of architectural styles depending on the era, the amount of rebuilding needed and the economía of the day. The oldest building we saw was the Iglesia San Francisco which dates back to the 16th century….a while ago.

I was in Santiago briefly in 2006 or so on my way to Valparaiso to catch a cruise ship bound for Antártica. At that time I had very little time to “see” Santiago so was happy to have a longer stay this time. We weren’t able to see as much as we wanted but we have one more day as we exit South America and return to Mexico.

Food in Santiago was very good and like many places in the world restaurants are using local ingredients to prepare innovative and traditional dishes. Chile is of course no slouch when it comes to wine and we had our share of very good ones. There are lots of wine tours available we did all of our tasting with meals or relaxing in our apartment after a busy day of sightseeing. Fish and shellfish were great as were the asados (barbque) and emanadas, although my friends from Mexico felt that the food lacked spice but they carried small bottles of chile sauce to pica the food.

Our plan is to see the central part of Chile first from the Pacific to the Andes, so after leaving Santiago we took the bus to Valparaiso, a coastal port town.