15 February 2013. Our whistle-stop city break in Santiago is done. We ride the Metro for the first time to find yet another sushi restaurant. Its our first subway ride in S America and a bit of an adventure.
We stop for sushi, grab Starbucks coffee, then back at the hotel to collect luggage but find it’s locked in a room with a sign on the door :
‘Gone to lunch-back in an hour’ !!
The bus to Argentina leaves from the other side of the city in about 45 minutes. It will take at least 20 minutes to get there once we’ve found a cab!
The lady cleaning other rooms and the receptionist are both utterly unhelpful and uninterested. Seriously hot and rather desperate, I think hard what our options are including giving serious consideration to kicking the door down, but miraculously our chap returns …
We grab our bags, look around for a taxi and realise we could be waiting forever so race across town on the Metro again, a real struggle with bags and midday heat, there’s a fair few steps and the strap on Oma’s bag is broken! We somehow arrive at the bus station and find the bus with about 6 minutes to spare, but then we’re told our e-tickets must be printed and for that we must go and find an Internet cafe. Leaving Oma and the kids with the bags by the bus and hoping they can persuade the bus to wait (?!) Martin and I rush off , have one of those crazy surreal squabbles with the guy in the ticket booth , find an internet cafe and I don’t know how but we get them printed and make it back with seconds to spare.
We are all completely sweltering and down the 2L of water I grabbed in the bus station! The bus leaves then sits in traffic then goes a couple of streets then stops at their offices and there we sit and cook for nearly two hours whilst they sort out a problem of overbooked seats – some seats are double booked – luckily not ours! And I manage to jump off and buy some more water and ice lollies and then finally we’re off to Argentina!
We chose this evening bus as you get a few hours of daylight and the views as you cross the Andes are meant to be spectacular! But we spent most of the daylight hours waiting in at the bus offices but we do just catch a few good views as night falls! It gets colder and then we hit ‘The Queue’
We chat to a British couple who are now living in Santiago and they tell me the bus man is a bit of a joker, he says thing like ‘you can get off the bus but if you don’t understand what I’m saying just stay on the bus!’
We get off, wait about in melting snow, freeze, get back on and realise you don’t have to get off, then realise we can walk up to the front of the queue and buy snacks at a wayside cafe just beside border controls. We get some steak sandwiches and the kids get sweets. And by the time our bus finally reaches the border controls… and we’ve all got off to get our passports checked and stamped for immigration …. and emigration … and the lady in front suffers a huge interrogation for having a boy of around 11 with her without the right papers… It’s 2am instead of 9pm and hotel booking in Mendoza is starting to look like a bit of a waste of money…. We could’ve taken the later night bus and probably gotten to Mendoza not much later!
Well anyway, we make it to Mendoza at 5am, only 6 hours late ! Hooray, We finally got across the Andes. Our first stop in Argentina (the seventh country our family gap year), Mendoza gives us a mixed bag of treats and tricks – but that’s the next blog post!