Long bus rides are an inevitable part of travelling around South America. You get used to them; you eat the plastic tasting food, drink the tepid coffee, watch the often inappropriately violent movie and you try not to whinge when you end up in a cramped seat that forces your knees up under your chin. The less said about the contortionist/balancing act that goes on in the bathrooms the better. Yes, bus rides are something to be endured – with gritted teeth, earplugs and sleeping tablets – they are never to be enjoyed.
But then there is always an exception and the bus ride from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, is one. The seven-hour bus journey take a route through the Andes mountain range, providing passengers breath-taking views of the landscape. After speaking to some fellow travellers A and I decided that we might aim for front row seats so we would have the best view. We had no idea how good a view that would be.
As soon as we left Mendoza and headed west on the Trans-Andean Highway, a gorgeous panorama of wineries, snow-capped mountains and a cloudless blue sky unfolded before us. It was stunning. As we travelled closer, and eventually through, the mountains their grandeur became ever more apparent. For the first three hours of the bus ride we did nothing but stare out of the window, transfixed at the scenery. Books, crosswords, ipods were all forgotten – they were unnecessary.
The actual border crossing in the middle of the mountains was he most scenis I’ve ever passed through. The fact that we had to wait nearly an hour to cross was actually a welcome delay; it gave us time to tramp about in the snow and take pictures.
The scenery on the other side was just as beautiful, until the fields gave way to the streets of Santiago. It was the most memorable bus journey I’ve ever had and I really don’t expect it to be topped anytime soon. It was as good as any organised tour and, actually, we found out that some people run organised tours that follow an almost identical route,at least up the to base of the Andes. I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who ended up paying the tour prices for this.