Bus Over the Andes Mountains Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile

posted Mar 18, 2011, 2:58 PM by Darren Cannell   [ updated Mar 24, 2011, 5:34 AM ]

We took a taxi from our hotel to the bus station.  We had to separate because the driver would not take all of our luggage so Darren had to find a cab after we left.  I was a bit nervous because our family has never been separated on this whole world tour and it felt strange.  I made sure that Darren knew where he was going and what country he was going to.  Darren usually does not know where he is so I gave him money and crossed myself and said goodbye.  For example when we were flying to Mendoza, he woke up and asked if we were gong to Mumbai.  Dax and I got to the bus station first and the taxi driver tried to drop us off just anywhere but I know that South American bus stations are huge because everyone takes the bus so I said “Senore, Satiago de Chile”.  He said “non” and we drove away around the large building and he dropped us off.  It was only 15 pesos.  We waited for 10 minutes and then found my sisters and found our platform to catch the bus.  We waited and waited but still no Darren, he finally showed up at 8:45 am and the bus was scheduled to leave at 9:00am.  He said that he could not get a cab and there were 3 Argentinean guys helping him to flag down a cab during rush hour.  Mendoza has 1.2 million people so it is a rather large city.  He made it and Dax and I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally saw him.

The bus pulled in to the platform and we loaded up our 3 bags.  On the Andesmar bus site it states that you are only allowed 20 kilos and all of ours were overweight so we were expecting to pay extra but they did not make us.  We also had more that one carryon.  We found our numbered seats on the second level and made our selves comfortable for the long journey over the mountains.   As soon as we were out of the city limits you could see the snow capped mountains of the Andes.
One of the bus guys came and gave us a cup of coffee which I was not expecting on a bus and a cookie full of Dulce de Leche of course.  We slowly gained in elevation and the different mountain levels gave us something new to look at each few miles.  You really did not want to close your eyes because it was quite beautiful.  The colors in the rocks alone were quite striking and the rugged would turn to polished and the polished would turn back to a landslide and the ever present snow was on the highest mountains and we were heading towards them.  We drove through rock tunnels and along an ever present river of rushing water which was sometimes red in color or brown.  We drove past a beautiful mountain lake and small towns and one town that was in a valley with a million planted trees and it was quite beautiful.  It was a single lane highway but really there was not much traffic evident.  We drove by many flood plains and passed many cars and trucks along the way.

The landscape and scenery was breathtaking and Deidre my princess sister started to calm down a bit.  She was not looking forward to this bus ride, it scared her.  But I had done my research and the Argentinean bus system track record was excellent and it was a smooth ride and we had a great driver.  The scenery on the Argentine side was breathtaking and then we came to the Chilean border crossing which took roughly 1 and ½ hours to get processed and through into Chile.  We were feeling lucky because if you fly into Santiago Canadians have to pay $130.00 dollars per person to enter Chile and crossing into Chile by bus you don’t pay this steep visa price.  We are not sure if they are going to ding us a departure tax yet, because we avoided this money grab, we shall wait to see.
The border crossing was uneventful and everything was going fine until we had to debark again with all of our hand luggage for inspection.  There are huge posters of all of the food items that you cannot bring into Chile and all countries for that matter.  The normal foods are fruits, meats, cheeses, nuts veggies, animal skins, things like this.  You sign an affidavit and then your cargo and hand luggage goes through an ex-ray.  Well, Princess, I mean Deidre forgot that she had 5 limes in her luggage which she was keeping so she could have them with her Chilean Cervesa.  She totally forgot and was so embarrassed and anxious and scared when they yelled “whose luggage is this?”  She quickly remembered that she not only had the limes in there but the shelled almonds too.  She realistically should have been fined the 10,000 pesos that they warn you about but she blinked allot with her big blue eyes and looked sufficiently shocked enough that all the border guards made her do was fill out her form again but correctly this time.  Once they found out that she was Canadian they were more pleasant to her.  Personally I was a bit anxious for her too, I whispered to my other sisters the question “is this where they take her out back and shoot her?”  We all had a good laugh except Deidre and we were making ' L' shaped letters on our head at her.  She eventually got back on the bus and then had a good laugh but more out of relief than anything.  It does pay to be pretty some times, she got off lucky very lucky because they did not even find the nuts which she was too scared to tell them about. 
After the comic relief we bussed on through Chile.  Directly after the immigration experience we waited another 20 minutes in a standstill and we could not figure out what the delay was.  We found out really quickly because they let only one lane of traffic through at a time either going up or going down due to construction.  We were going down the mountain and there was an array of about 17 back to back switch backs that were layed out for you to see going downhill  and it looked like a race track. 
Let me tell you it was frightening when the bus went around the curves because there is not an inch to spare.  I was sitting in the front right top seat and you are surrounded by glass and you can look straight down into nothingness and your stomach just flips, so after the first 6 I was worn out from not breathing and I stopped looking.  My sisters were pestering me to take pictures so I had to relive the experience many times over much to their glee.  Other than this the trip was not scary at all.  We survived the switchbacks (I have never seen anything like this in my entire life and hope not to repeat it again, ever) and then continued on into Chile.  Chile had many vineyards and cedar trees and brooks and mountains just like Argentina but I would have to say the more beautiful is the Argentina side going through the Andes Mountains.   I would highly recommend this trip to anyone.  It is a beautiful breathtaking exhilarating experience and the 3 of us only paid a grand total of $88.00 Canadian dollars  for this trip.  We booked ahead to get the seats that we wanted when we were in Buenos Aires.

Bus over the Andes Mountains into Chile