Friday, 15 April 2011

If it's Friday we must be in Mendoza.

We don’t enjoy waking up before sunrise.  So, last night we did a reverse calculation of when we had to wake up in time to catch the bus to Mendoza.  What we didn’t take into account is that at 7:30 a.m. half of Valparaíso’s school children catch the trolley bus, just as we were.  We managed to get to the bus terminal at 7:55 for our 8:00 bus but still had to show our passports.
Something we were unaware of until last week is that when you arrive in Chile you are given a flimsy piece of paper, which serves as your tourist visa.  You need this visa to exit the country.  So if you’re coming to Chile, make sure you retain your tourist visa.  We’re glad we did.
I get motion sickness on rocking chairs and I wasn’t looking forward to the eight hour bus trip to Mendoza.  The international buses are first class with most serving some sort of light meal and drink as well as seats that are give support from head to toe.  However, the Chileans seem to have a phobia of being cold.  On the days that we’re wearing just a jumper we’ll see people rugged up ready for an arctic expedition. 

The bus’ air-conditioning was set higher than we would like and the girls ended up taking off their shirts to try to cool down.  The bloke across from me removed his coat but kept his woollen jumper on over his long sleeve shirt.  With the heat, the constant cornering while we climbed the Andes, and the entertainment being a DVD of the greatest hits from 1992.  Michael Bolton, Roxette, Sinead O’Conner et al, unfortunately for Indy she misread the customs notice and didn’t bring her breakfast across the border.

Half way into the journey is the border to Argentina.  This involves getting out in a huge shed in the middle of the Andes and having your passport stamped at one window to exit Chile and then stamped at the next window to enter Argentina.  This is very unusual for us island dwellers.  In total we stood around for forty-five minutes while the bus was given a quick search and our luggage X-rayed.  It’s not winter yet but it’s easy to imagine how cold it would get in the Andes. 

It was recommended to us to sit at the front of the bus for the best view but after watching one too many oncoming trucks Talluah decided it was time to move back a row.  I’m sure the drivers have some sort of unwritten rules of overtaking with approaching traffic but from where we were sitting, two lanes wasn’t quite enough.

The tree lined streets of Mendoza are easy to navigate with a very distinct grid pattern.  We chose to walk from the bus terminal to our hostel.  We walked past our first South American McDonalds but didn’t venture in.  The girls ran around the plaza with the usual amount of enthusiasm.  I’m not sure if there is a name for it but they seem to have their own, “we’re in another country” dance.

One distinction between Chile and Argentina is that the latter still uses fresh milk.  Tomorrow we’re off to buy an ice-cream and see if we can notice the difference. 

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