Tuesday, April 26

South America, Day Four: The Andes and Beyond

In what was becoming a bit of a theme for our time in Chile, we had yet another early bus ride to catch. This was a big one though, as we were going on a ride over the Andes into Argentina and on to Mendoza, in a journey that would take at least seven hours door to door. Coming from the UK and the coaches we have there seven hours may sound like a lot but in places like South America, where the distances are massive and bus the only option for many, it's actually a very comfortable way to travel - I got a lot of sleep in my semi-reclining seat for sure.

That said, we didn't pick the bus for cost purposes. In fact we didn't really feel a need to go to Mendoza (famous for its wine more than anything else) at all; the most time efficient plan would have been to fly directly to Buenos Aires from Santiago. No, this was by design purely to drive though the mighty Andes and crossing an international border while we did so. Luckily we had packed lunch for the journey.

It took four hours to reach the border. I was treated to some fascinating views of the Andes on the way, although I have to admit they seemed to be views I had already seen in other parts of the world. Still, I did get a glimpse of Mount Aconcagua, the tallest peak in South America (and yet one that is not a patch on those in Asia). Crossing the border itself took time but was relatively painless. We were now in Argentina and on our way to Mendoza.

Mendoza itself was nice enough, if only for the few hours that we were there. After leaving our suitcases with left luggage at the bus terminal, we spent the bulk of our time in the main plaza where there were many others just lazing around, watching passing entertainers and acrobats. I noted once again the excess of couples everywhere I looked, just as I noticed how the women in Argentina were an order hotter than they were in Chile. It felt like I was in South America at last.

Eventually we headed back to get our luggage and then on to the airport to catch our late flight to Buenos Aires. Amusingly enough I met an Argentine Muslim at the bus station - a classic example of practical ummahship as we attempted to communicate and pass salaams and blessings of peace, despite sharing no common language.

The flight to Buenos Aires was pretty uneventful, but seeing the city at night did spark some excitement in me. And indeed it took only two hours to fall for Buenos Aires; or at the very least fall for Palermo, the area in which we were staying. It was clean, cosmopolitan and hella sexy; all things which had nothing to do with the waitress who served us dinner at 1am in her funky American drive in cinema themed diner.

Even our hotel was classy. I guess it was more boutique than otherwise, but Jam Suites was most certainly a nice enough place to stay. I suddenly had a good feeling about the next three nights, and it finally felt like my trip to South America was about to finally begin proper.

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