Feeling like experienced veterans crossing the Andes we approached the journey/adventure a little differently. This time we knew what to expect, had figured out how to track ourselves with the GPS function of the cellular mini iPad and offline maps. This alone gave us much more peace of mind, knowing where we were on “the longest ride”. We bade farewell to Mendoza and the Malbec wine country and a full tank of gas in our little Chevy Spark.
It took us 8-1/2 hours to complete the journey. Thinking that we’d experienced the customs and immigration confusion we felt prepared, but in reality, we weren’t. Certainly it was different during the light of day, but that meant more, and I mean loads more people and cars at the border crossing process. Photos are the only way to journal this experience/chaos.
We sat in our car waiting patiently for about 45 minutes without moving, observing the people, trying to figure out the process that we needed to follow. Finally, fed up with watching people scurry about butting in line and maneuvering their cars around the cars in line, I grabbed the stack of papers and went on the attack at a booth that had the least number of people (mostly women) shoving their papers through the hole in the window for processing. I got to the front and when I had half of it shoved back I spoke english and shrugged and the person took which papers they needed and stamped them.
Back I went to the car to have us move forward to the next “station” which I wasn’t sure what was happening other than the emptying of all the contents on a bench infront of uniformed officials. When we emptied the car and the official angrily indicated I was missing a stamp on one of the multitude of papers and pointed back in the direction of the glass booths, I did what any red-blooded woman would do in my situation… I started to cry. As is the custom world-wide, the official shrugged his shoulders, shoved the papers back in my hand nervously and signaled us impatiently through.
Oh, as an aside, one might consider this whole experience a good opportunity to use the “facilities”. Only one problem… There weren’t any!!!!
We drove down the mountain pass and through the multiple snow tunnels built in to the sides to the one hour construction delay.
We were very glad to arrive in Santiago that evening and drop the rental car off at the Sheraton. More than enough driving for us in South America.
Now, back at home reviewing the photos we took over the pass we are struck by the unique beauty of the Andes that many people will never experience.