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Traveling Through the Andes Mountains

Posted by Ashley Atkinson-Leon on 21st Apr 2016

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 the Andes 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 snowy desert.

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.