09.03.2012 - 09.03.2012 20 °C
Today is another big day, since the whole reason why we used a travel agency for this part of the trip was not to get stuck in San pedro because something might not workout with th bus transfer to salta.
The public bus is crossing the mountains, 3 times a week, for which one is in need of a ticket in advance. The hotel reception had handed us a letter with the reservations codes, which we were supposed to exchange into tickets on the day in their office. No problem, the reception said, since it's a five minute walk... Now, we didn't plan to walk to the office in the morning with all our luggage, an then searching the bus, so I was agreed we were taken to the office, fetching the tickets, and then driven to the bus. Now, on the day, the office when we arrived their was closed, and opened not earlier than 15min before the bus was supposed to arrive, somewhere else in the village. Now, the driver got nervous and us as well, when the lady arrived who opened the office, switched in th computer, and couldn't print the tickets. She also tried to make some calls, but only managed to deconstruct her mobile, but was also nicely telling us, tranquillo ... Tranquillo, will get the bus, as the bus will stop by the office anyway !?!, and then she will tell the driver. The hotel had sent meanwhile another driver to the busstop, to hold the bus, since they really wanted to have us leaving, no doubt. Even the hotel manager came to the office to manage the situation, very kind, we were kind of famous at that time, keeping half the hotel stuff busy with driving, translating, or searching the Internet for information on the buscompany (Pullman). But all went well, the bus came, and we headed of to the official passenger collection point, where we arrived, the chauffeur driven couple, among 20 or more people with backpacks only.
We were the last to board, since we were getting off earlier than the rest in purmamarca, after allegedly 5 hours drive, ... We saw us already in the pool by 5pm...
The bus left, with us, and we were happy, sitting upstairs, first row, panoramic view, not much space for neither legs, or bags, but it's only a short drive....
The bus stopped 5 min later at the border control, the chilenean boarder itself is 200 km away, but the control is in San Pedro. All deboarding, queuing, getting a stamp, and then we drive on, finally leaving San Pedro behind us.
It goes steep up the mountains, gorgeous views, snow capped mountains, reddish earth, nearly no vegetation, and within an hour we're on 4000 m. The pictures tell what we see, the road goes meander like through the high plateau for nearly 2 hours up to the Argentinian border, where the bus stops first.
We are not the only one in the bus queue, and later than probably expected, since we left a little late. It takes 2 hours, the control at the Entrada, first the stamp, and then the whole luggage scanned, the bus emptied completely, it's an ordeal, we experience it now for the second time, some other travellers for the n-th time, but everybody quite kind and calm, aside from some French who didn't understand to take their handluggage out, and suddenly saw it thrown out on the street in the sand.
We board again, hopefully last time, and drive on. It's another 4 hours to Purmamarca, and we're unlikely there before 8pm, which makes this a 12 hours travelday.
But the views are still amazing, we pass through more valleys, see higher mountains, and finally reach the highest spot of the pass at 4800m, from which I goes down within 20km to the village at 2500m. The serpentines wont end, it starts above the clouds, goes through them, and at around. 3500m we're below the again. It really pays sitting in the front on a double decker bus, left side, so to say in each curve, we're above the cliff. Slobodan tries to make some movies on the iPhone, but gets so dizzy, that he stops ... It's an experience ... Sometimes the hairneedle bends are covers in wet pebbles, which adds to our excitement, but we trust the driver, there is anyway nothing else to be down, then shaking...
After another hour, we had earlier wondered why the last 20km as indicated on the road should take 60 min, but now we know, anyway we reach the village, jump off the bus, with our our luggage, and unexpectedly, a driver pops up out of nowhere greeting us and taking us to the hotel, 1min back the main road from Purmamarca.
We inspect the room, since we're in the cheap section of the hotel, the is only a little window to be opened, but a nice view into the mountains, and we get feeling of having reached a different, not that touristic, more by locals driven hotel. To our delight, they don't speak English, and our marginal English skills get us to their diner tables, as well around the hotel, since they were supposed to have a lovely pool.
We try Tamal as a starter, which is a mix of quinoa, corn flour, wrapped in a corn plants leaf and some lamb grilled on rice. Slobodan has the natural vegetarian dish, some noodles, but our verdict isn't too good, so we plan to go into the village the next evening, after our planned excursion.