BLOG & PHOTOS: Across the Andes by road
Mendoza Travel Blog› entry 9 of 10 › view all entries
We boarded a direct bus service from Viña to the Chile-Argentina border and onwards to Mendoza. After passing through kilometres of vineyards, the landscape became barren and rocky before rising into majestic peaks.
We were then awestruck by the stack of hairpin turns that had been built to overcome what was virtually a cliff! While cars slowed down to negotiate these turns, our young driver cruised through with a cigarette in one hand and a cup of leafy maté herb tea in the other, sipped through a silver straw. Many Chileans and Argentines rely on this herbal infusion for energy and to overcome fatigue.
Our esteem for the driver quickly subsided when a car transporter came into view on the same stack of hairpins, fully-laden with Peugeots from a nearby factory.
The journey continued to the highest point of the road, crossing the border near Mt Aconcagua before descending to the Argentine checkpoint at 2800m (9200ft) above sea level. One customs officer was keen to show off samples of female intimate apparel as he checked passenger baggage. Surprisingly, this was taken in good humour by all present.
The remainder of the ride to Mendoza felt unbearably long but that wasn’t due to a lack of interesting scenery. Ghost towns and rift valleys just didn’t seem as imposing compared to the mighty peaks or the stack of hairpins. The thrill of exploring Valparaiso from the previous day felt like a distant memory. Quite simply, we were ill-prepared for the splendour of the Andes crossing and it had left us overwhelmed.