With the Paso de los Libertadores finally open we made our way across the Andes by night bus. Not the vomit comet that was the N87 night bus in London that we would find our way home on. In fact on this night bus there was no vomit, no drunk passengers that whilst snoring missed their stop, resulting in visits to bus stations at both ends of the route (Jamie). Instead it was a double decker coach with a choice of either ‘semi-cami’ or ‘ejecutivo’ seats, one that reclines and the other that reclines into a kind of bed. We chose the kind of bed, I’m not going to over egg this, it wasn’t a cosy fluffy pillowed slumber but for 8.5 hours going over a mountain range it allowed a bit of shut eye without waking up with your ear permanently attached to your shoulder.
We had been aiming to make this journey for four days but the significant snowfall in the mountains had resulted in the pass being closed. Only now do I fully appreciate why the road had become impassable. I’m not sure what I was expecting – a tunnel through the entire mountain range or a Narnia-esque wardrobe with Argentina on the other side but the road literally goes up and over. It is listed as ‘a dangerous road requiring extreme patience and skill’ and reaches 3,207m (10,521ft) above sea level. To give you more of an idea, this is what it looks like:
*Being dark and all I borrowed this picture from http://viajestic.atresmedia.com
It was pitch black when we were on the pass itself although you could still see the outline of the most phenomenal mountains looming over the road. I, (along side the driver if he had any sense) had my eyes closed for some of these bends but on more than one occasion caught myself being truly grateful that I was not hungover.
We left Valparaiso at 9pm and enjoyed the in-bus entertainment before reclining and getting ready for some sleep action. Just as the first snores began (Jamie) we were hauled off the bus and pushed into a very slow moving passport queue at the Argentinian border at the top of a mountain (it was dark I can’t confirm that it was actually the top)… Having returned to the bus and re-assumed ‘sleep-pose’ we were once again ejected to form another queue in what was now -5 degrees to watch bags (not ours worryingly) being taken off the bus and put through a scanner. There are definitely better things to be doing at 2am on a Saturday night! Job done we arrived in Mendoza at 5.30am bleary eyed and ready to get that famous Argentinian Malbec tasted, after just a little bit more sleep…