Day 32. The Awe-Inspiring Andes Mountains
7:35am. Got up and starting getting ready for our departure. After eating some breakfast, we checked out of our hostel and headed for the bus station. Our bus was to leave at 9am on the bus line El Rapido and we were scheduled to arrive in Santiago at 4pm.
About an hour after the scheduled time, we finally started heading west, straight for the Andes Mountains. The landscapes and scenic views were amazing. There was such a variety of rocks and mountain types and sizes all within a small area. Every once and while we would see the glacier lakes and the rivers that flowed down the mountains. Portions of the two-way highway turned into one-ways which met pulling over and taking turns for the oncoming traffic to pass. Dropping from high elevations in a vehicle met going through some extensive switch-backs and driving extra cautious. With no guard rails present, you put a lot of faith in your driver not to be careless.
When we reached the Argentina and Chile border, we were stopped for about four hours. It was a very inefficient process of passport stamping and baggage checkage but I can’t complain. Because we went via bus to Chile and not an airplane, we were able to bypass the $160 visa-country-entry fee for Chile. Finally, we were on the bus again for about two hours more.
Arriving in Santiago, we had already placed a reservation with the Andes Hostel for two nights (Google map: Andes Hostel). As we needed a taxi, we needed to get some get Chilean pesos. The Chilean peso is a bit crazy because you’re constantly dealing with thousands—like a sandwich is 2,500 Chilean pesos. The exchange rate is something like one U$D equals 500 Chilean pesos. After pulling Chilean pesos from the ATM, we purchased our tickets for Antofagasta, Chile to leave on Tuesday at 11:45pm. It’s a 22 hour bus ride but we do have full beds…should be interesting. Next we grabbed a taxi and arrived to our hostel.
Overall the city of Santiago is in good condition after the earthquake; however, there are apparently two newer buildings (one of them was at least 15 stories high) that fell/collapsed. We do see sections of the sidewalk blocked off as windows shattered or parts of the building structures broke off.
Checking in, we found out their internet was still down due to the earthquake. The rooms and staff are nice though and there’s an internet café close by. We put our stuff in our rooms and hopped on the internet for a bit to get caught up on life and the blog.
After that, we cleaned up and walked to a popping district nearby us. The city seems to be a bit quiet with all the recent earthquake/tsunami events. It was a Sunday as well. We ate some great food at the Backstage Experience Restaurant. After that, we headed back to the hostel.