The route from Argentina over the Andes into Chile is the main trade route between the two Countries. Hundreds of goods trucks travel in both directions on very twisty winding roads. Our bus journey from Mendoza to Chile was supposed to take 5 hours but it turned out to be a 7 hour trip because of the delays at the Custom Post.
All luggage had to be removed from the bus and scanned in an airport type operation which was in fact a large shed, similar to an aircraft hanger, where everyone had to wait around. Then the bus was searched with sniffer dogs……they sniffed out our Stevie and found apples which were apparently illegal to bring from Argentina to Chile so they were confiscated.
We continued on our journey through the Andes with breathtaking views and sheer drops on either side of the road. Our bus driver took it upon himself to pass out any vehicle in front of him on the downhill run in perilous conditions which kept everyone in a continuous state of anxiety…..huge acceleration and massive braking was the norm for the rest of the journey until we arrived into a very overcrowded bus station in Valparaiso, which is the second largest City in Chile on the Pacific coast.
As we had no Chilean pesos on arrival Caleb and Stevie looked after the bags while I went in search of an ATM. I had a small back pack with my wallet and passports etc and as I tried to battle my way through the crowds someone bumped into me and nearly knocked me down. I recovered and continued on to find the ATM only to find my wallet gone when I got there. All my bank cards, some Argentinian money and lots of personal bits and bobs were in it. Thank God passports and drivers licences were in my bag. We reported it to a Policeman who didn’t seem too interested in solving the problem. In fairness to him there were thousands of people milling around this bus station. Fortunately Caleb had his cards on him and we were able to get a taxi to our Hotel and immediately reported stolen cards. We later found that they were not used.
We moved from Valparaiso north along the coast to a beautiful seaside town called Concon where we found a really nice apartment which we have rented for a few weeks. There is a seismic fault line running along the west coast of Chile and earthquakes are very frequent in this Country. From our apartment we have to walk down about 150 steps to the beach. There are signs at the bottom directing you back up the steps in case of a tsunami. In the three weeks we have been here we have experienced lots of tremors the two last night being the worst so far. They were 5.6 on the Richter scale! The house shook and the electric wires on the poles outside were like skipping ropes! When the tremors start here the locals make for the outdoors…..we just crack open a bottle….we’re here for a good time not a long time.
We met a Chilean couple Marcelo and Elisa who speak very good English and have taken us under their wing, giving us tours of the area and telling us the history of the coastline. We went out with them last Sunday morning and toured up along the coast for about 80 miles stopping at some nice fishing villages and even met an artist named McAuliff who told us his Grandfather was Irish and he had 6 wives and 9 sons. Obviously a small jockey with a big whip!
There is a lot more to Chile….not as third world as we thought, nontheless there is a big divide between the haves and the have nots. Again as we have seen all over South America the people are so friendly, helpful and kind and I think this is what we will take away with us when we leave, the warmth of the people.
Buenos Noches until next time
Sheila Caleb and Stevie