Santiago de Chile is about 20 hours away by bus from Buenos Aires, but thankfully in Latin America bus companies provide several options besides just a regular coach bus seat. Many offer options called ´semi-cama´ (semi-bed) or ´cama suite´ (bed suite) which basically means that your chair will bend almost 90 degrees so that you can sleep comfortably (especially important for stomach sleepers like me).
Along the way, they showed lots of American movies (The Departed, Knowing, etc.) and we even played bus Bingo (you might want to brush up on your numbers in Español first though). The food wasn´t that great, but it was still better than most airline food. They also give you with a glass of red wine after dinner “to help you sleep.” Finally, they do provide blankets and pillows, but you can always bring your own.
As luck would have it, I ended up traveling alone because my
friend got really sick. However, the guy who sat next to me was a world
traveler himself, even though he was originally from Chile. Only in his 40s, he
had traveled to every continent in the world (except Antarctica), and had lived
in Canada, the US, and many Latin American countries for years at a time. (He
showed me his passport book, which bore stamps from all over the world, and
said he was always applying for new ones!)
His English was much better than my Spanish, so he told me
all about his hometown of Santiago, and his family’s history in that area. He
said that his family’s land had actually been redistributed in the 1970s by the
government in an effort to spread the land more equally among the upper and
lower classes. Although he was still somewhat bitter about the incident, he
said he always ends up back in Chile after all of his adventures. He clearly
still loves his country, and was a really sincere and intelligent man overall. I
probably would not have met him if I had been traveling with my friend.
After customs and filling out some other paperwork on the
border of Chile, we traveled through
and it was one of the most spectacular sights I´ve ever seen. I
tried to take a lot of pictures out of the bus window and while we were stopped
at customs, but really even my best ones couldn´t capture the massive aspect of
the mountains, or catch the sparkling white and blue hues that seemed to glow
from the edges of the snow-covered mountains. At times I felt like I was in a
Some of the mountains were more of a clay-red, and some were
the richer shades of brown. Others still were surrounded by streams, caverns
that used to be lakes, or even small towns, where you would find crudely-made
structures and fences constructed of sticks next to sprawling haciendas. The
sky behind was sometimes a soothing cobalt blue and at other times a piercing
but ethereal light blue. The clouds interspersed with the mountains, sometimes
appearing like a fog.
No matter where you traveled, it was a feast for the eyes. It’s also amazing that they were able to create roads through this long stretch of mountains; to this day, many people do not drive on the winding and oftentimes treacherous roads, but rather use pack animals like donkeys and horses. It’s also much easier to just fly over the terrain, but experiencing the mountains from the ground is something you’ll never be able to replicate from an airplane.
Before I knew it, we had arrived in Santiago.
Keep your eye out for more of Ashley’s adventures in Chile and the rest of Latin America.