09 October, 2008


Considering that we only had to go from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, it turned out to be quite an adventure. It started off easy enough: we got to the bus stop, got all of our bags and ourselves on the bus, and began the journey. Then it became more complicated.
First of all we had to fill out immigration cards to get into Chile. This wouldn’t have been too difficult if the English translations hadn’t been just as confusing as trying to understand the Spanish. For example, “Address in stady country” was the English translation of “Dirección en el país de destino” (address in destination country). Personally, I have never heard of a stady country and it took some deciphering to figure out what we were being asked. We also realized that we had about 8 mandarins and 4 kiwis to dispose of before we reached the Chilean border because you cannot bring foreign fruits, vegetables, or animal products into Chile. I quickly sat to work on a couple of mandarins and a kiwi while Victoria drifted off to sleep.
As we got closer and closer to the Andes, we began to realize how tall they were. I kept trying to get photos that showed cars at their base so that I could blow it up to show how small the cars were compared to the mountains, but every time I tried, the cars seemed to disappear because I had to zoom so far out to fit the mountain into the picture. And they were BEAUTIFUL. Most of the mountains we could see were snow-capped, and we were told that what we saw was “nieve eterno” (eternal snow) that stayed year-round.
When we finally hit the border with Chile, we had quite a wait. At first we simply sat on the bus and looked at the snow-covered peaks but then we decided we wanted to get out and walk around. Unfortunately, immediately after we left the bus, we were told to go back and get our passports and proceed to the border office to get approved to pass into Chile. And that’s when things got a lot worse...
First of all, it was cold. Not just chilly, COLD! I wasn’t all that surprised, seeing how we were 3,000 meters (9,000 feet) above sea level in the middle of the Andes surrounded by snow. I was alright, but Victoria had decided to wear shorts for the bus ride, so she was freezing. Then someone started smoking near us and it really affected Victoria. First she started complaining about being light-headed, and then she said that her vision kept slipping away. I was getting a bit worried, but we needed to get through customs and we were at the front of the line, so we gave them our passports and they stamped them and everything seemed to be going fine, until Victoria swooned. Fortunately, I was right next to her, so I caught her and some nice people in line with us helped me get her and our passports to the medical center. At the medical center, they put her on oxygen, and laid her down while she recovered, and I ran around getting the rest of the customs things taken care of (more stamps and papers and bag searching). The nurse explained that altitude sickness (“apunamiento”) was a relatively common occurrence at the border because we were so high up and told me to give her lots of fluids and keep her from getting excited. Fortunately, we still had 3 or 4 hours on the bus, so it was pretty easy to keep her from getting too excited; she also immediately went back to sleep once we got through the border.
The rest of the bus ride was relatively uneventful (thankfully) and we got to the Santiago bus station sometime in the afternoon. There started our next adventure.

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